Rider updates: Fabian Cancellara, Taylor Phinney and Geraint Thomas

Unlike Tim’s triple-sprint group of riders, the guys I’m following have all been largely quiet for the past few months but with moments of brilliance. I’ve also replaced Robbie McEwen with Taylor Phinney in my trio, as Robbie’s retired now and I need someone to write about! But I’ll still keep an eye on Robbie and report anything noteworthy from his new career as sprint mentor for Orica-GreenEDGE.

Let’s get right to it!

Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan)

Fabian Cancellara at Tour de Suisse 2012 (image courtesy of Danielle Haex)

Results: 2nd in stages 1 and 7 of Tour de Suisse.

WorldTour ranking: 29th, 94 points.

For his legion of fans, the absence of Spartacus in the peloton since his collarbone break in the Tour of Flanders had made April and May a little lonely. So it was with a sigh of relief that we saw Cancellara back on the start line for Bayern-Rundfahrt in late May. Getting back into racing form after two months off was never going to be easy and the German race was more a gauge of how much more work he had to do than a chance for him to win. He only managed 14th in the time trial (which was won by Sky’s Michael Rogers) and abandoned the race on the final stage due to illness.

His performance in the Tour de Suisse was markedly better, with two second places in the time trial stages. Peter Sagan beat him by 4 seconds in stage 1, a tough 7.3km time trial around Lugano. This is what he told Cyclingnews:

I am still getting better and I am feeling better. I will continue to concentrate and focus on what is coming. On the top of the climb I had gone so deep today. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m coming back from injury and so what I did today makes me happy. That’s my little victory.

Of course, why bother with the cycling press when you can plug right into what Fabian says on Twitter? This is what he said after the TT:

Fabian has also just reclaimed the time trial Swiss National Championship (his seventh TT title). The next time we will see him is at next week’s prologue for the Tour de France in Liege, where he took his very first TdF win (and his first maillot jaune) in 2004. He’ll want to win it again this year, as a few days in the yellow jersey will certainly go some way to compensating for the disappointments of the spring. After the Tour, he will be defending his gold medal in the Olympic time trial and hoping to improve on his silver medal in the Olympic road race. It’s a tough course, but if he can get away before they come back into London, he could very well get a double gold (because, of course, I am assuming My Beloved will win the TT gold).

Taylor Phinney (BMC)

Results: Won stage 1 at the Giro d’Italia and spent three days in the maglia rosa.

WorldTour ranking: 91st, 16 pts

Taylor Phinney collected both fans and girls’ phone numbers at the Giro in May (image courtesy of BMC)

After an astonishingly successful under-23 career, Taylor Phinney has always been tipped as a future peloton superstar and the fact that he signed with BMC out of the juniors in 2011 made that prediction just that much more tantalising. BMC however were wise to let him settle in for a year before putting him into some of the biggest races, and that patience paid off. Phinney rode his first Paris-Roubaix (he won the under-23 version in 2009 and 2010) this year and he crossed the line in a very respectable 15th. One of these days he’ll no doubt be crossing the line first. This is what he told Cyclingnews about the race:

Every time I was on the cobbles I felt at home in a sick and twisted way, and if I was too far back I would just move up. Even in the Arenberg I went into it in 30th wheel but then moved up to the front and then gave it a go. With 80km to go I was already having cramps but the team made sure I was eating and drinking.

But it really came together for Phinney in his first Giro d’Italia. A bit of a hometown race for him, as he has lived a lot of his life in Italy and is fluent in Italian – something that went over very well with the Italian press – he went into the race with one objective:

And damn, if he didn’t do it! Geraint Thomas had been sitting in the lead position for a good part of the day and looked like he was going to take the stage until Phinney stormed through the TT a full nine seconds faster, taking his first maglia rosa in the first stage of his first Giro.

Phinney spent three days in pink, losing it in the team time trial on stage four. BMC was 31 seconds off the pace and it certainly didn’t help that he was still nursing an ankle injury from stage three‘s wild sprint crash. He had hoped to top and tail the Giro with the final stage TT win, but he was misdirected on the course by the preceding motorbike and his teammate Marco Pinotti took the honours. However, this Giro will not be the last time we see Phinney in pink, I’m sure. And it wasn’t just his racing that did the talking in May – he spoke frequently and enthusiastically through his many tweets during the Giro, documenting his race with humour and sparkle, winning many new fans and delighting existing ones.

Phinney won’t be riding the Tour de France this year, instead he will be using that time to prepare for the London Olympics. He’s targeting the time trial but I think he’ll have some pretty high level competition from Cancellara and Tony Martin. But no matter what colour medals he may collect, he will be a crowd – and Twitter – pleaser.

Geraint Thomas (Sky)

Results: Won the prologue at the Tour de Romandie. 2nd in stages 1 & 21 of the Giro d’Italia.

Geraint Thomas in yellow at Tour de Romandie, 2012 (image courtesy of Sky)

WorldTour ranking: 75th, 21pts.

Geraint Thomas was back on the road after his medal-winning track racing exploits earlier this year. Riding in the service of Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de Romandie, Thomas won the opening prologue, four seconds clear of RadioShack’s Giacomo Nizzolo, to take the first yellow jersey of the race. Sky went on to dominate that race, with Wiggins at the top of the podium and Richie Porte just missing a podium place.

Thomas also rode the Giro d’Italia in support of Mark Cavendish and topped and tailed the Italian stage race with two second places in the opening and closing time trials. On stage 1 he was pipped at the post by BMC superstar-in-the-making Taylor Phinney and on stage 21 by Phinney’s teammate Marco Pinotti. As Thomas is concentrating on the London Olympics at the end of July as part of the Team GB track team, he will not be riding the Tour de France this year. Hopefully once that is out of the way, we’ll see him back on the road, infusing the race with his hard riding and fierce joy.

Previous updates: April 11thFebruary 21st

Rider profiles: Fabian CancellaraGeraint Thomas

Websites: Fabian Cancellara, Taylor PhinneyGeraint Thomas

Twitter: @f_cancellara, @taylorphinney@GeraintThomas86

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