RICHMOND, Va. (AP) Taylor Phinney roared to the front for BMC Racing as the team headed toward the finish line, thousands of fans lining both sides of the downtown boulevard created a tunnel of noise.
All that cheering for an American rider leading a U.S.-based team to time trial victory in the first road cycling world championships to be held on U.S. soil in nearly three decades.
”It’s kind of hard to process this for me, personally,” Phinney said.
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The reigning team time trial champions, BMC Racing covered the undulating, 24-mile course in 42 minutes, 7 seconds, beating Belgian rival Etixx-QuickStep by 12 seconds Sunday.
Spanish team Movistar finished in 42:38 to capture the bronze medal.
”It’s been kind of a whirlwind the last couple of years,” said Phinney, who missed worlds last year while recovering from a career-threatening crash at the U.S. road championships. ”We came here with a really strong team, guys that won the race last year. To win is fantastic.”
In the women’s race, Velocio-SRAM won its fourth consecutive championship earlier in the day by rallying over the final miles to upstage Dutch rival Boels-Dolmans and its American rider, Evelyn Stevens, by just 6 seconds. The Rabo-Liv team finished in third.
”It’s a really nice feeling. We had a bit of a hard year,” said Trixi Worrack, a member of all four gold medal-winning teams. ”We’ve improved a lot and we’re really happy.”
In the men’s race, BMC Racing was labeled the early favorite after snagging gold last year in Spain. In fact, it was so strong that a member of that team, Peter Velits, was left off the six-man lineup for this year’s race. Phinney was instead joined by Australian star Rohan Dennis, Silvan Dillier, Stefan Kueng, Daniel Oss and Manuel Quinziato.
They were fast right from the start at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, posting the quickest time at each of the three intermediate checkpoints. But their advantage was a scant 6 seconds over Etixx-QuickStep as the red-and-black train made the tough climb to the finishing straight.
”We had our split times, the official ones and the ones from the team,” said Etixx-QuickStep’s Tony Martin, ”so throughout the race we knew it was going to come down to us and BMC.”
With the finish line in sight, Phinney took to the front for BMC Racing, leading the top American team to victory in the first world championships in the U.S. since 1986.
”This was a huge goal for us as a team,” Phinney said. ”You could have asked me a month ago if I was going to be here, the team trial world champion – it’s surreal, man.”
Phinney’s work isn’t done, either. He gives the U.S. team its best shot in the individual time trial this week, then will line up for his home nation in next weekend’s road race.
”I’m excited to put on the USA kit and get out there and represent my country,” he said.
Team Sky, one of the medal contenders, made the start after a training crash Saturday left three riders with injuries. Danny Pate had heavy bandages on his right elbow and knee, while Elia Viviani dropped off the pace line early with an ailing knee. The team finished ninth.
Tinkoff-Saxo’s podium hopes were dashed when Michael Rogers and Michael Valgren touched wheels and went down hard. They eventually remounted and finished last among the 27 teams.
In the women’s event, Velocio-SRAM proved its mettle in its last major competition before it shutters after the season. Led by Worrack and individual time trial champion Lisa Brennauer, the team overcame a several-second deficit in the closing stretch to claim gold.
”I think this was really important for the whole team. The staff, the riders put their focus into this one,” Brennauer said. ”We knew the course perfectly.”
Stevens, who rode for Velocio-SRAM team during its three previous championships, called the silver she won with Boels-Dolmans ”a bit bittersweet,” but she was proud of her team’s performance.
”I loved being on their team,” she said, ”but it was pretty special to be on this team.”