Taylor Phinney, Tour of Oman 2011, stage one

It certainly can't be considered a bad pro debut when you finish 16th in your first race.

Still, BMC's Taylor Phinney was a little disappointed all the same, less with his place than the fact that he'd been unable to better lead out his team-mates in the sprint finish of the first stage of the Tour of Oman - won by Rabobank's Theo Bos - after having been impeded by some spectators in the road.

Eagle-eyed readers will remember Phinney having held his own in the bunch sprints at last year's Tour of Qatar while riding for the Trek-Livestrong U23 team, as well as a stagiaire spell with RadioShack at the end of last year. But this season is his first as a fully-fledged pro with ProTeam BMC.

"I was a little nervous beforehand," the 20 year old admitted to Cycling Weekly, "but not so much now that we're actually at the race - it just feels like any other race."

Phinney had intended to begin his season at the Tour of Qatar last week, but a knee injury kept the individual pursuit world champion at home a week longer than he'd hoped.

"I'm hoping that my knee is OK now," he said. "It feels good, so hopefully I'll be able to get through this race. I've felt confident this past week in training, so fingers crossed."

The American explained that he had pulled his hamstring at the top of the back of his knee, and time off the bike was all that was needed. "I had to rest, and then build up again slowly, but the team isn't putting any pressure on me for results here, which is good."

Instead, the team will work for Greg Van Avermaet and Marcus Burghardt for the overall. "And then for the sprints we have Alexander Kristoff, John Murphy and myself," said Phinney. "We all get along really well, and are willing to work for each other, so we'll see how it goes.

"But I must say I'm just excited about getting up there and fighting with the other guys, as that's what I love about sprinting. It becomes like a video game for me in the last 15km, and then it's all about trying to hold it the last 5km - the power you need just to stay up at the front, fighting with all my childhood idols," Phinney enthused. "There are a few days which could end up in a sprint here, and I'll try to be up there, but I haven't ridden a race since last October, so I may well take a couple of days to get back into it."

Phinney's prowess against the clock might normally make him one of the favourites for Saturday's time trial on the penultimate stage. Not here in Oman, however, according to Phinney.

"I'm more of a pure time triallist, and that course is going to be really difficult - really up and down - and ridden on road bikes, too. If it were up to me it would be flat, almost downhill and on a TT bike. You have to take what you can get, but it's going to be hard."

Friday's stage four with the summit finish on Green Mountain is also a day Phinney knows is going to be tough.

"I think it's going to be brutal!" he laughed. "I was asking our mechanics if we had any 27-or 28-tooth sprockets, but they looked at me and were, like, [affects his best Schwarzenegger-esque accent] 'You are a professional now, Taylor.'"

After riding only the Tour of Qatar and missing the Tour of Oman last year, Phinney says his team-mates suspect him of trying to get himself a beach holiday by doing the reverse this year.

"A couple of them were making fun of me, saying that I missed Qatar on purpose, and came to 'the vacation race' in Oman instead," he grinned. "Looking at the route map, though, I don't think this race is going to be much of a vacation..."

Tour of Oman 2011: Related links

Tour of Oman 2011: Cycling Weekly's coverage index

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