Life Cycles (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday April 1, 2008 11:11AM; Updated: Tuesday April 1, 2008 2:45PM
"Dad, give me the scissors," says Taylor, intent on averting a Sweeney Todd moment. "You're gonna kill me."
The fates have a sense of humor.
It's just been a part of our lives, so we accept it," says Taylor of his father's Parkinson's. "He used to be much more energetic than he is now, but he's still pretty impressive."
Taylor is the older of the two children of Davis and Connie Carpenter-Phinney, the First Couple of American cycling. (Kelsey, 13, is in Utah this weekend for a cross-country ski race. She will come in fourth out of 40-odd skiers and be furious to have missed the podium.) Davis won 328 races in his 18-year career, more than any other American. Connie won 12 national championships, on road and track. In her final competition she took the gold medal in the road race at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
But just because he hit a kind of genetic jackpot -- Dad's top-end speed, Mom's bottomless endurance -- doesn't mean Taylor was in any hurry to race bikes. Yes, he'd caused jaws to drop at the cycling camps his parents run in Italy. But he wasn't smitten by the sport until the summer of 2005, when the family attended the Tour de France. Between the pageantry of the Grande Boucle and a private audience with an old friend of his father's (a guy by the name of Armstrong) Taylor decided he wanted in. He won 23 times the following year, mostly local and regional amateur races. Then, a year later, he crushed all comers in the time trial at the junior worlds.
His first season on the track ended last week at the UCI world championships in Manchester, England. Trailing former world champ Sergi Escobar of Spain with two laps to go, the Boulder (Colo.) High senior hit warp drive, smoking the Spaniard by two seconds, setting a new junior world record and lopping two seconds off his personal best. While his 4:22.358 time slotted him into eighth place in Manchester, Phinney finished the season ranked third in the world, good for a berth at the Beijing Olympics, where his elders will do well to be wary of him. Newbie though he may be, Phinney's times keep tumbling. And he is lit from within by a supreme, if quiet, confidence. As he said in Manchester, "I go to races to win."
Careful not to be overbearing, Davis wants to make sure his son reaps the benefits of his own experience. Lacking such a mentor early in his career, Phinney the elder was forced to find his own way in a sport that is as brutal as it is beautiful.
GO, DAVIS! With the peloton whooshing past at the 1976 junior national road race in Louisville, Damon Phinney shouted encouragement to his 16-year-old son -- whom, truth be told, he never saw.
Five minutes later a lone rider came into view. Young Davis was standing on his pedals, pumping frantically to catch the pack, weeping with frustration and disappointment.
He'd flatted a hundred meters into the race. No one had told him that it wasn't a good idea to race on the same tubes and tires he'd been training on for the last three months. By the time he'd scared up a spare and gotten back on the road, his race, for all practical purposes, was over.
"It was going to be this great bonding experience with my father," recalls Davis, still pained by the memory. (Damon died in 2001 of prostate cancer.) "He said about five words during the thousand-mile drive back to Colorado."
In the ensuing years Davis learned to take care of his bike, to pace himself and to hold his ground in the cutthroat world of the peloton. He also learned this: Husbanded properly and applied judiciously, his greatest gift -- unalloyed, explosive speed -- could make him a handsome living.