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Davis Phinney

Fathers and sons

By:
Cycling News
Published:
July 21, 2005, 1:00 BST,
Updated:
April 21, 2009, 11:57 BST

Hi my friends of Cyclingnews, The Col d'Aubisque wil always be a special stretch of road for me....

Tour de France - July 20, 2005

Hi my friends of Cyclingnews,

The Col d'Aubisque wil always be a special stretch of road for me. Along with Alex Stieda's Tour group, I rode the pass yesterday, bringing back a flood of memories. The last time I was atop l'Aubisque was 1990, the final year that I raced the Tour De France. That year, my father Damon came to see me in France for the first and only time during my Tour years. And he'd also ridden up to the top of the famous Pyrenees climb of the Col d'Aubisque to await my passing.

During the 1990 Tour, I had especially struggled in the mountains, as I just wasn't well prepared for the race, nor scheduled to ride it, due to the impending mid-July birth of our first child. But when Taylor, my son, was born two weeks early, I flew at the last minute to France to take the start of Le Tour to help the team. Of course, part of the motivation to go to Le Tour came from knowing that my Dad was going to France and I wanted to be in the race for his sake.

The Col d' Aubisque had always been part of our family lore. When Dad first got out of college in the early 1950's, he found a job in Lima, Ohio and one of his co-workers, named Tony, was a cyclist. They became good friends and Tony regaled dad with stories from the cycling he'd done in France. They started riding together but because the roads were relatively flat in that part of the state, they sufficed with the Interstate overpasses as climbs, giving them names from the famous passes of the Tour. And the one they always pushed the hardest for, the last overpass on their ride back to town, was the Col d'Aubisque.

So on that day in 1990, I dug deep, seriously deep, to stay in touch with the bunch up the Aubisque. And despite being dropped early, I struggled mightily and got back towards the top (coming up from the backside over the Souloir). Sprinting up the side and wiping my face, I casually gave dad a wave - from the front of the pack, as he enthusiastically yelled to me "way to go Dave, way to go!" in his distinctive voice. On that day I made my father proud. I felt it resonate in his voice - and it was one of the most valid gratifying moments of our father/son relationship.

This is what I thought about riding the Aubisque hill some 15 years later. And in a poetic twist, my own son Taylor, now 15 years old himself, big and strong and becoming a good rider in his own right, was on the road too. He took off at the bottom and motored up the climb, arriving at the top some 20 minutes ahead of us - where he waited patiently. And as I rolled towards Taylor, he smiled broadly and said simply "way to go dad, way to go."

Davis
davisphinneyfoundation.com

Check out photos of Davis in our 'Phinney Photo Files'

Pain of quitting the Tour

By:
Cycling News
Published:
July 17, 2005, 1:00 BST,
Updated:
April 21, 2009, 11:57 BST

At the stage start in Miramas yesterday morning, South African sprinter Robbie Hunter was noticeably...

Tour de France - July 15, 2005

At the stage start in Miramas yesterday morning, South African sprinter Robbie Hunter was noticeably absent from the morning coffee clatch in the Tour village depart. He preferred to stay on the Phonak team bus and out of sight, due to his imminent departure back to Italy following yesterday's abandon from the race due to tendonitis. Robbie, who has a big personality and is popular in the peloton was bitterly disappointed at having to climb off the bike and out of the Tour on the road to Digne-les-Bains.

A result in the race would have been highly gratifying for Robbie, but what bothers him most is the thought of letting down all his followers in South Africa. As a contingent of one from South Africa, Robbie's every Tour move is covered and chronicled by South Africa broadcast outlet M-net Super Sport here and thus he feels tremendous pressure and a responsibility to make good in France. Alas, for Robbie, he and his country will have to wait for another year.

And this is a facet of modern sport that is so different from not-so-long-ago. In the pre-internet, pre-instant media era of say, 20 years ago, if you were a rider from a non-European country, you were, for the most part, "off the radar" when racing the Tour unless your name was Lemond, Anderson or Bauer and wearing the maillot jaune.

In our first few forays at the Tour, my 7-Eleven team and I benefited from not having the constant glare and microscopic focus that is ever-present today. Between the occasional highlight, there were numerous days during the Tour where we struggled mightily just to hang on. Stages too, where we did foolish things, like Doug Shapiro, crashing Pedro Delgado and putting the great Spaniard out of the Tour, because Shapiro was distracted by a TV motor-bike. Or Alexi Grewal forgetting his cycling shoes on one stage and having to ride the first 30km of the stage in running shoes.

Disappointment as well for CSC with the elimination of ever aggressive Jens Voigt, the German missing the time-cut on Bastille Day while suffering from a stomach virus. This is a harsh feature that the Tour will occasionally serve up, going from best to worst, from maillot jaune to street clothes. Jens was ecstatic to capture the jersey in Mulhouse, but that must have seemed like ages ago, as first he clawed his way up the climb to Courchevel and then the next day missing the time cut altogether. But he had his moment and that day, his seccond career day in the maillot jaune, will be his forever.

I was speaking with my friend Axel Merckx, and we disccused that there are a few results in a rider's career that loom large, that put everything else in the shadows, that last a lifetime. In Axel's case, it was getting an Olympic medal. As he said, it's one of the few races where third place means something. And it's a result his famous dad Eddy does not have. A tour stage win is another "career" result and of course, wearing the yellow jersey, not to mention winning the the Tour itself.

So we'll miss the riders that as always fall by the wayside through this 2005 Tour de France but they've had an impact, they've played a part and we applaud their efforts, first to last.

Thanks For Reading!
Davis Phinney
davisphinneyfoundation.com

Check out photos of Davis in our 'Phinney Photo Files'

McEwen's hardest Tour

By:
Cycling News
Published:
July 17, 2005, 1:00 BST,
Updated:
April 21, 2009, 11:57 BST

Sitting casually while catching up on news from a L'Equipe newspaper, Robbie McEwen looked a little...

Tour de France - July 16, 2005

Sitting casually while catching up on news from a L'Equipe newspaper, Robbie McEwen looked a little tired before his stage win in Montpellier. In his view, this has been the hardest Tour of the seven going on eight that he's ridden, stating that this was the first time, since he'd been a part of the Grande Boucle, that the course will traverse all four major mountain ranges of France, from the Vosges, through the Alps, down into the Pyrennes and finally over the Massif Central.

The fact that the riders endured two hard climbing days - even before hitting the Alps, is evident in subtle (or not so subtle) ways. Some of the crashes, like Boonen's and Beltran's, are in part due to the kind of mental fatigue that stems from the additional effort of so many hills, ridden at flat-out pace. The preponderance of over-use injuries like Valverde's, which are becoming more evident in the ever diminishing peloton, are a result of this stress as well.

McEwen, who suffered a string of health problems for much of the early spring season, said he planned on hitting peak form for the first week of the Tour.

He's nailed it perfectly, winning three stages so far, but unfortunately, he had already been DQ'ed on Stage 2 in Tour for some rough riding which cost him 27 points in the green jersey competition. This penalty dropping him far off the points race pace, and so Robbie Mac relaxed somewhat, knowing he had several wins in the bag and subsequently sat out most of the proceeding inter-race sprints.

There is a cost to sprinting for all the available points, as McEwen well knows. Several years ago, he went all out for every point available, in a tight battle with Baden Cooke - a fight that wasn't decided till the smoke cleared after the last hectic sprint up the Champs Elysees in Paris. But in the end of that one, Robbie came up empty-handed, with no green jersey and no stage wins. Flexing that little bit extra muscle in the inter-race sprints can frequently see a sprinter come up just short at the finish line.

Reflecting on his team before Stage 13, Robbie had anticipated correctly that a break would go early but likely, Davitamon-Lotto wouldn't ride it back, as they too are feeling beat-up and he wanted them to preserve something for the final week. And sure enough the break went-but instead of hanging back, Lotto worked like dogs to keep the escapees in check. Still, going into the final kilometre it looked like their efforts might have gone to waste. Only in the last 200 metres did Robbie vault past the last breakaway final holdout on the wheel of teammate Fast Freddy Rodriguez. It was a valiant Chris Horner he passed and McEwen took his third win of this years Tour, with Rodriguez third. And happily for him-and Davitamon-Lotto, he's now back in the points race mix.

Such is the sprinters lot. And what makes it so great to have that fast twitch in your muscles. On any given day it can, unexpectedly, all go right. As Robbie has said to me, using a classic sports cliché, 'I'm just taking it one day at a time mate' and in his case, that tactic may well see him in green when the Tour brakes to a stop in Paris.

Davis,
davisphinneyfoundation.com

Check out photos of Davis in our 'Phinney Photo Files'

Suffering sprinters

By:
Cycling News
Published:
July 15, 2005, 1:00 BST,
Updated:
April 21, 2009, 11:57 BST

There were some fireworks today in Dignes-le-Bains on Stage 12. So far, this 2005 Tour, perhaps more...

Tour de France - July 14, 2005

There were some fireworks today in Dignes-le-Bains on Stage 12. So far, this 2005 Tour, perhaps more than ever before, is proving hard on the sprinters. The first week was nearly ideal for the fast men; instead of long breaks going away and staying away, we were treated to some great full speed dashing and bashing (except the rain soaked run in on Stage 5). The Boonen/McEwen sprinter's show was superb, with both riders showing why they are simply the best at what they do.

But then, along came the mountains and a virtual firestorm has ensued on each and every rise, wreaking havoc on many of the already tiring legs. While it is a general rule that sprinters can hold back on the hardest days and ride in to the finish in the autobus, in this year's super fast Tour De France, that rule is changing too.

Now we see riders like Stuart O'Grady and Thor Hushovd hanging on to the lead group, suffering the climbs and picking up any points for the green jersey along the way. While this is a different dynamic in the competition for the vaunted Maillot Vert points jersey, it certainly makes the race no less exciting. And thus it was somewhat fitting that on today's stage to Dignes-le-Bains, after a thwarted breakaway attempt yesterday out of Courchevel and the abandon by Boonen, Hushovd would pull on the green jersey after a long hot breakaway ride from Briancon.

The big dissapointment of course was Boonen's non-start after his last of too many falls yesterday. Best comment came from a conversation between Robbie Hunter and Matt White I overheard yesterday at the start line village in Courchevel, when Hunter pondered out loud if they might be in for a more relaxed start. "Are you kidding?" Whitey exclaimed, "you gotta be sure some freaking idiot is gonna attack straight away!" And of course, Whitey was right. Vive Le Tour.

As for me, I'm joining the race finally after running two of our Bike Camp groups, one in the Dolomites in Italy and one in the Italian/French Alps. Many of you have written asking after my health. And I can tell you it's good. I've been riding more this year and feeling better on the bike than for the last several years.

In fact, last week I rode the Colle della Finestre, a fantastic 20km climb in the Piemonte region of Italy, a wickedly steep road that features 8km of dirt. The Finestre was used for the first time during the penultimate stage of this year's Giro and word is, the Tour is looking to put it into their routing as soon as next year. And unlike last year where I struggled so much up hills, I went well up the 10-12 grades, despite rain turning to snow by the top. Practically a Gavia day. Yes!

Thanks for reading,
Davis Phinney

Davis,
davisphinneyfoundation.com

Check out photos of Davis in our 'Phinney Photo Files'

Homage A Lance

By:
Cycling News
Published:
May 18, 2005, 1:00 BST,
Updated:
April 21, 2009, 11:57 BST

Hello my friends at Cyclingnews . Last time I wrote my occasional column, before a long winter's...

USA, April 22, 2005

Hello my friends at Cyclingnews. Last time I wrote my occasional column, before a long winter's hiatus, it had sentiments about Lance Armstrong, his work with the LAF and the Cancer communtiy. Lance's recent announcement to end his pro cycling career got me thinking full circle and I'm compelled to initiate my 2005 entries for Cyclingnews with a few reflections on Lance's early days.

In The Beginning

The first I heard of Lance Armstrong was probably from my wife Connie Carpenter. She, of Olympic gold medal fame, did a stint as US junior womens coach in the late '80s and came to know Lance somewhat during the 1989 Junior World Championships. As the Junior Women's coach, Connie had not only Dede Demet but also Jessica Grieco under her wing. Dede won the road race in a solo break-away while Jessie took the field sprint for 2nd. It was Gold and Silver for Connie's girls in Moscow.

Connie returned from Russia with numerous colorful tales. She relived Dede's race with relish and then related some anecdotes about the Junior men. "There were these two 16 year olds from Texas, both triathletes (Lance and Chan McCrae), and no matter what the coaches said, they would still head out for a run each morning."Whoa running? You gotta be kidding me!" I interjected, "a cyclist running mid season - unbelievable!", parroting the party line about suppleness of the muscles and all.

She related how, "one day, as was my custom, I rode my bike to the course - with the team - and this kid, Lance Armstrong got right in my face, 'why are you still riding?'.

"Cause I love to ride my bike" she answered, "it beats sitting in the car". "He smirked and said 'I can't imagine riding just for fun. When I'm done racing in a couple years - that's it, I'll never ride', his teenage arrogance coating every word".

Connie continued, "then during his race, he wore his impatience like a flag. He had no time for tactics but approached the race like it was a triathlon - hammer from start to finish. He spent the whole race either pulling the pack along or attacking and riding just off the front. Of course, in the final lap, the peloton predictably went right past him, so while Lance was clearly the strongest rider in the race, he got nothing from his efforts". "But", she emphasized, "he reminds me of LeMond when he was young - incredible engine, dynamic energy, and if this Armstrong kid gets some tactical savvy - look out".

Look out indeed. Lance was a quick study and when my former 7-Eleven teammate Chris Carmichael took over as USCF national team coach, Armstrong had his first true mentor and the ascendance began.

Lance Unbound

I raced with Lance numerous times during my final years as a pro. When 7-Eleven folded in the end of 1990, instead of continuing with Jim Ochowicz and his new team Motorola, where I would have eventually ended up as Lance's teammate, I chose to stay closer to home, family and business back in the States, taking Len Pettyjohn's offer to ride with Coors Light.

Racing against Lance, as predicted by Connie, was reminiscent of being in the pack with Greg a generation before. As with Greg, everybody in the field knew that Lance was a breed apart. The guy was just better and we knew it. But being competitive, I didn't want to sit back and simply watch the victory ride away. Still, while Coors Light, the dominant domestic team of that era, could occasionally overwhelm Lance with our numbers, there were some days (OK, a lot of days) where nothing could be done.

One such day was the summer before he turned pro, a couple of weeks before the Barcelona Olympics.

We were racing at the Fitchburg Memorial stage race in Massachusetts, and while I had won the overall title in Fitchburg in 1991, the '92 season hadn't gone that well for me. But my form was finally coming around and during the longest, hardest stage, a ride that finishes up top Mount Wachusset, I set out to rectify my poor spring results and really blow the race apart for Coors Light. At least that was the intention.

So we cruised out of Fitchburg and after a flurry of attacks, five of us finally broke free. Working well together we gained two plus minutes on the pack and it felt great - we were rolling - en bloc, as they say. This was before anyone, save Motorola and the US national team, had radios. Old School racing. So I thought we were gone for good and didn't give proper attention when Darrin Baker, a classy rider with the USA team, stopped pulling. No car had come up, not a word had been said. Hmmmm. But through the heavy forest we would glance back, around the team cars and there was nothing to see, no one was coming. So we stopped looking, and we didn't even hassle Darrin, we just kept up the pressure, kept up the pace.

Suddenly though, as we struggled up a short climb, my plans for the race went south. Antarctica south. I heard Andrej Bek, our DS back in the Coors Light team car, honking, then yelling in his deep, polish accented voice; 'Davis … he's coming … GO!'. Seconds later, there was Lance, off the saddle, sprinting past - and he was just crushing the pedals. He'd closed the gap solo, caught us on the hill and without a word, without a pause, kept right on going - as if we didn't exist.

Darrin, with advance notice of the LA cruise missile bearing down, was the only one to respond and kicked hard to get on his wheel. By the time we crested the hill, they were simply … gone. We were all kind of stunned, 'Dude, what just happened?'. It could've been a prequel to the movie 'Dazed and Confused'. 'Damn, that guy is good'. Paul McCormack finally verbalized. 'Uh huh', I dumbly nodded, as Lance just rode off, eventually taking over four minutes out of us by the finish.

There's good and then there's other-worldly. Lance has always been the latter. That cocksure teenager in Moscow progressed at such an astounding rate, quickly figuring out the pieces of road cycling's complex puzzle. By the time I retired the following year he had been crowned world champion.

At that point the future looked blindingly bright for Lance. Tour stage wins, World Cup victories, Tour Dupont titles all followed for him. But then, of course, everything changed. And Lance almost died. Yet incredibly, it turned out to be post-cancer, that Lance coalesced into cycling's version of the perfect storm; a culmination of forces that when harmonized become indomitable, unbeatable. And that is the man we see today. The six and soon to be seven times winner of the greatest test in sport, the Tour de France.

Lance, enjoy your last miles of this long fantastical road - and we'll be there to enjoy them with you.

Oh and by the way, Connie was thrilled to hear that after all these years, you've grown to love riding your bike too. It beats sitting in the car.

Anything but dull

By:
Cycling News
Published:
May 18, 2005, 1:00 BST,
Updated:
April 21, 2009, 11:57 BST

This 88th running of the Giro d'Italia is proving, at least for we tifosi, to be anything but dull....

May 13, 2005

This 88th running of the Giro d'Italia is proving, at least for we tifosi, to be anything but dull. On all but one stage thus far the race course has put a twist (literally) into the final run-in, causing all manner of havoc to the bunch. Since departing Calabria, there has been only one straightforward finale, the long direct run into the finish on Stage 2, where Robbie McEwen artfully crafted an impressive win.

The sprinters are sure to be unhappy otherwise. This first week hasn't given them much opportunity to shine, as is customary in a Grand Tour. One has to suspect this is a direct result of last year's over-abundance of field sprint finishes. "Petacchi all the time" is boring, even for the Italians. In contrast, we've seen a different stage winner everyday during this Giro and the stages have proven to be showcases for other Italian stars like Bettini and Di Luca.

And every day, the final kilometer seemingly gets more surreal; stage one had the 15 percent grade, stage three looked like an uphill criterium, while stage four featured a switchback descent. Still, that's not to say there haven't been hard-fought sprint finishes. In fact, despite to the difficult run-ins, those surviving at the front are truly showing their teeth.

The sight of Paolo Bettini going WWF on Baden Cooke, hooking him into the fencing on stage four was the topper. Thankfully Baden pulled off a near perfect 'tuck and roll' to stave off serous injury. And while Cooke ostensibly might have backed off, stayed upright and gained the stage win on protest, you just knew that wasn't going to happen.

The day before, Bettini had lost a sure win after Di Luca pinched him against the fence coming out of the final turn. And Bettini, who could've leaned into Danilo, braked instead, finishing sixth. But backing off isn't Cooke's style. He's more pure sprinter than Bettini and Australian to boot. Expecting an Aussie sprinter to back off when he can almost taste the victory spumante is like asking an Mike Tyson to walk away from a bar fight. Ain't gonna happen.

There are better ways to 'close the door' on a rider during a sprint. Kirsipuu's slight 'adjustment' on Stage 2, that squeezed out Petacchi, was an example. Perfect. Bettini could have done the same Wednesday. Coming into the finish in Frosinone, Paolo jumped early but with good speed and drifted left over the next 150 meters, controlling the sprint. Now Bettini claims at that point, his gear skipped while shifting, causing the overt swerve, or hook, into Cooke. Likely we'll never know, but had Bettini held fast to his line, closing the door with more subtlety, and holding Baden on the fence instead of forcing him into it - he still might have staved off the Cooke Express. While there surely still would have been a protest, it's less likely the final result would have been altered.

But that is pure conjecture from the sidelines. One thing that's certain is this; Paolo Bettini is lucky that he wasn't punched out by Cooke when he tried to approach him after Baden was forced to walk the last hundred meters, swearing a blue streak no doubt - frustrated and angry beyond reason at what might have been.

Davis,
davisphinneyfoundation.com

Author
Davis Phinney

With over 300 national and international victories in a career that spanned two decades, Davis Phinney is still the winningest cyclist in U.S. history. In 1986, he was the first American ever to win a road stage in the Tour de France; five years later, he won the coveted USPRO road title in Philadelphia. In 2000, when Davis was just 40 years old, he was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson's disease. But that hasn't kept him down. Since retiring from professional cycling, Davis has been a cycling sports commentator, public speaker and journalist. He brings his passion for those two-wheeled machines to Cyclingnews.