Cycling has been part of Taylor Phinney's life for all of his 18
years. The son of former road racer Davis Phinney and 1984 Olympic
gold medalist Connie Carpenter-Phinney, Taylor - known affectionately
as Mini Phinney - has taken track cycling by storm, qualifying for the
U.S. Olympic team just six months after his first race in a velodrome.
Phinney must have cycling in his blood. His father Davis Phinney was
the first American to win a stage of the Tour de France in 1986. His
mother, Connie Carpenter Phinney, was the road race gold medalist at
the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Within his first year of competitive
cycling, Taylor won 23 races. His first trip around a velodrome, used
for cycling's track events, was in Colorado Springs, Colorado last
Phinney adapted to the 33-degree turns at the
concrete track, but stopping the fixed-gear bike with no brakes proved
a little embarrassing. When he stopped the back wheel of his bike, his
feet accidentally unclipped and he plunged onto the frame. He had to
ride in that awkward position for at least a lap until he could recover.
relatively flat Colorado track is nothing like the tight, steep, wooden
250-meter indoor velodrome in Beijing. But Phinney, who just turned 18
on June 27, has proven his youth and relative inexperience are not a
hindrance to success. In January he earned an Olympic nomination in
the 4,000-meter individual pursuit race at the third round of the
International Cycling Union's Track World Cup Classics series in Los
His time of 4:25.684 earned him an automatic berth in
the Olympics. Not bad for a young man who just graduated high school.
In March, he finished eighth in the individual pursuit at the World
Track Cycling Championships in Manchester, England. In June, Taylor
set a new junior world record in the three-thousand meter individual
pursuit race (3:16.589).
Some say his pedigree is the reason for
his success. Others say it is hard work that is the key. Taylor
Phinney says that a typical day for him involves morning and afternoon
training, and of course time being a teenager.
day, I usually wake up and ride maybe 30 minutes in the morning, just
on a stationary [bike] trainer in my basement," said Taylor Phinney.
"You know, just playing video games or watching TV or whatever, just
riding my bike. And then I will have some breakfast. And I still have
to go to school. And then after school I will come back from school
and I go on another ride from between one to three hours. So it really
depends on the day. And after that I just come home and vedge out
[relax] and recover."
Since Phinney does not live near a
velodrome and had to finish high school this past year in Boulder,
Colorado, he did much of his training at home on specially-designed
rollers that simulate the speed of the track. But his success has
taken a back seat to his family - his father Davis Phinney had to
undergo brain surgery April 4, eight years after being diagnosed with
Parkinson's syndrome, a degenerative disease that attacks the central
The former Tour de France stage winner now has
a pacemaker in his brain attached to a small controller in his chest.
The device reduces the tremors that accompany Parkinson's. Davis
Phinney's doctors say the therapy can turn the clock back five years.
As a tribute to his dad, Taylor uses the same signal for victory - his
arms thrust skyward in a giant "V" shape - that his father did when he
won 328 races in an 18-year career.
Apart from his training
and his father's battle with disease, Taylor Phinney sounds like a
normal teenager. He says that he spends his free time with friends or
just relaxing at home.
"You know, I just like hanging out with
friends, whether it is playing video games or just, um, I have a
trampoline I like to jump on, doing flips and tricks," he said. "And
you. know just hanging out in general. It is nice; it is relaxing."
Phinney says his favorite Olympic moment is one that happened before he
was born - when his mother won her gold medal at the 1984 Olympics. He
says he has seen the race on video. Taylor is under contract with Team
Slipstream. He hopes to expand his competition to road cycling, and
Slipstream team leader Jonathan Vaughters has predicted a career
similar to that of Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara, the reigning
time-trial world champion. Taylor Phinney's first step toward that
career comes at the Beijing Olympics.