Max Sciandri switched from training the British Cycling Academy riders to training American cyclist and current Giro d'Italia leader, Taylor Phinney. Phinney won the opening time trial stage yesterday in Herning, Denmark; Sciandri, as BMC Racing sports director, was in the car behind.
"I'm just happy to be in the centre of a bunch of young riders," Sciandri told Cycling Weekly this morning. "A lot of these guys love the Italian way of living, Geraint Thomas is one of them, [Mark] Cavendish loves Italy as well. Taylor is more Italian than most."
Phinney spent his middle school years with mother and father, Davis and Connie, near Bassano del Grappa. The former professionals, Davis a two-time Tour de France stage winner, organised bike tours in the area.
He learnt Italian and even picked up the local Veneto dialect. Now, though, he's under the Tuscan sun and is sometimes found in Quarrata's square sipping cappuccinos.
Quarrata also used to be GB's Academy base. Former pro, Sciandri helped guide some of the current crop, including both Cavendish and Thomas.
"The academy guys," said Sciandri, "were different because we picked them up at a younger age, even if he [Phinney] still kind of young."
Phinney moved from Lucca to Quarrata when he joined BMC Racing at the start of last year, the same time that Sciandri switched from the Academy to BMC sports director. He wanted his young charge to be closer so that they could work on Phinney's goals.
"We live together every day. He comes to my house, we eat together, my wife cooks, we train, motor pace, we ride together on some days... There's not a day where we don't go through touching base," explained Sciandri.
"Over the winter, I was the one that said, 'You need to go to the Giro and aim for this stage.' It's like a puzzle, everything kind of just falls into place. He's an incredible talent, and he just does the rest."
Helping Phinney win yesterday meant beating Thomas by nine seconds into second place.
"I got a big hug from Thomas. He's an Academy boy, so it's nice. It's great to be helping these talents."
Phinney realises Giro d'Italia dream
Giro d'Italia 2012: Coverage index
October 2010: Sciandri leaves British Cycling for BMC team
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