Olympics: U.S. cyclist Taylor Phinney finishes 4th again, this time in time trial
Hampton Court, England • Wednesday's scene was so totally Olympics, so utterly British and yet so very painful for Taylor Phinney.
He stood near the finish of the Olympic time trial, convincing the media about the positives of not one but two fourth-place Olympic finishes for a 22-year-old from Boulder, Colo.
Then he heard music. He turned around. Not far away, in the shadow of Hampton Court Palace and the former home of King Henry VIII, Phinney saw Great Britain's David Wiggins looking very regal with a gold medal around his neck.
He listened to the music. It was "God Save the Queen." Phinney turned back around.
"I'd like to be the guy atop that little podium in four years," he said.
Yes, it happened again, Colorado.
Four days after Phinney finished fourth in the road race, he finished fourth in the time trial. This one wasn't as heartbreaking. This one wasn't as close. He finished the mostly flat 26.4-mile course around rural Surrey County in 52 minutes, 38.07 seconds more than 50 seconds behind bronze-medal winner Christopher Froome of Great Britain's 51:47.87.
Winning by a cycling equivalent of the 10-run rule, Wiggins cruised in 50:39.54, 42 seconds faster than Germany's silver-medal winner, Tony Martin's 51:21.54.
While Wiggins waved to the exploding crowd, knowing their hero became the first cyclist to win the Tour de France and Olympics time trial in the same summer, Phinney didn't know how far he came from a medal.
He didn't care. He just rattled off all the Olympic medals gathered by the Phinney family: "A first, a third, a fourth, a fifth, a seventh ... well, two fourths now."
The son of Olympic cycling medalists, Phinney was a contender for a medal but not a favorite. Wiggins had to pedal into the RiverThames that snakes through this town to lose gold. Martin is defending world champion and the Swiss Olympic Committee cleared defending Olympic champion Fabian Cancellara to ride after recovering from Saturday's fall in the road race.
To Phinney, fourth remained the worst place to finish in the Olympics. Again.
"I woke up [Wednesday] morning and watched the eight-man rowing, the 2,000 meters," Phinney said. "Great Britain was passing the Germans and the crowd was going wild and I was crying about that. I thought, 'I want a medal so bad!' "
Phinney's plan that went against the grain of traditional Olympics thinking worked. He spent 6Â½ solid weeks in Boulder training specifically for this time trial. He even mapped out a grid between the Colorado towns of Frederick and Erie, perfectly measuring 26.4 miles.
He was pretty strong through the whole race, standing fourth after the first check point, fifth after the second, seventh after the third and closing strong in fourth.
"I'm the kind of a guy who likes time trials under the distance of (six miles)," he said. "It's all in your head, really. It comes down to the amount you're willing to suffer. I knew I was on a good time because I was coming into the last couple of kilometers and Tony Martin hadn't passed me yet."
Yet, when reality hit, he said with a chuckle, "I can't believe I got fourth twice."
He's also only 22 and has been a pro road racer for only three years. He competes in the Tour of Eneco Monday through Aug. 12 in Holland and Belgium then the World Championships in Limburg, Netherlands, Sept. 15-23.
The Phinney home won't make room for a medal, but no one can take away their 22-year-old son finishing fourth in the world twice.
"The main positive is that I'm up there with the best guys in the world in a length of a time trial that I haven't been comfortable with yet," Phinney said. "That's huge for me. A lot of people have been saying I'm the next this, the next that, that I'll win this and that. Getting fourth here is a great confidence booster going forward, especially in the time trial."
Cancellara didn't have it, finishing seventh (2:14.17 behind Wiggins). Canada's Ryder Hesjedal, who rides for Boulder-based Team Garmin-Sharp and was recovering from a crash in the Tour de France, finished 28th.
John Henderson: 303-954-1299, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/johnhendersondp
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