Taylor Phinney to debut for BMC in Qatar, amped for Paris-Nice

The American is pumped for Paris-Nice and the spring classics, an undecided on defending his world pursuit title

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Taylor Phinney expects to make his professional debut at the Tours of Qatar and Oman in January 2011. According to Phinney, who returned recently from a 2 1/2-day meet-and-greet camp with his new BMC Racing Team, his neo-pro season will begin in the Middle East before a look at the spring stage races and classics.

In addition to his U23 world time trial title, Phinney is the reigning individual pursuit world champion on the track. But he was uncertain whether he would defend that title. “I think right now we’re looking at skipping worlds on the track, but I haven’t really made a decision,” he said. “I have to look at training and what I’m doing this winter.”

Paris-Nice is one event on the 20-year-old’s radar. “I’m kind of amped about doing that,” he said of the weeklong French tour in March. “It’s had a prologue and a time trial in the past and if it does this year, that would be a really cool opportunity for me to show off my stars and stripes and also try to go for the win in the prologue, because that’s sort of my thing.”

Phinney will wear the U.S. national champion’s skinsuit after edging Levi Leipheimer by 0.14 second in the time trial at the professional championships in September. He showed well at Qatar in 2010 with his Trek-Livestrong development team, finishing in the top 10 in two bunch sprints and making a key split in the crosswinds. The race has opened with a team time trial in previous editions and should give the rookie his first opportunity to run the champion’s colors.

When it comes to the riders he’ll line up with in 2011, Phinney took a good impression away from the meetings in Italy last week. “I had a lot of fun getting to know the riders and the staff and the management at BMC,” he said. “I’m looking forward to tearing it up with them for sure.”

One teammate Phinney could see a lot in the spring is classics rider Allessandro Ballan. The Italian former world champion lives in the region of Italy where Phinney spent part of his childhood and the two hit it off. Phinney said he’s making a pitch to land at the start of the main events of the northern classics.

“The big classics that I’m looking at that I really want to do are obviously Flanders and Roubaix,” said the two-time Paris-Roubaix espoirs winner. “We’ll see if I can make the team for that. (The directors) will make the selection for that, but those are the two big classic goals that I have.”

Phinney will join his teammates again for a January training camp, most likely in Spain, where he expected to learn more about his 2011 schedule.

brianEditor’s Note: Brian Holcombe is a reporter with VeloNews. He covers all things racing in the U.S. and has been accused of attacking too much on the VN lunch ride.

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