Surprise visit from Robin Williams highlights event
By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in San Francisco
The Davis Phinney Foundation had one of its biggest fundraising efforts Friday night in downtown San Francisco, when fans and racers joined together to support arguably the best American racer in his battle with Parkinson's Disease. The Tour Baby film-maker Scott Coady and fi'zi:k saddles organized the "toast and roast" evening for the man known to many during his racing days as the "Cash Register" for his ability to clean-up all of the cash at any race he entered.
The evening consisted of a silent auction of many items, from numerous signed professional jerseys like an Eric Zabel Vuelta a España sprint jersey to one of Oscar-winning actor and devoted cycling fan Robin Williams' 60-plus bicycles. In fact, the Griffen bike Williams donated was not auctioned off silently, but live with the owner making a surprise appearance to facilitate the auction in his usual comedic fashion. After just one minute of auctioning the entire room was roaring with laughter as he poked fun at a variety of topics from French drug testing to Bob Roll. The bike earned the foundation $4,500 thanks to the entertaining auction calling by Williams.
Williams is a good friend of Phinney after the two met while riding one of the Ride for the Roses event a few years ago. "I was doing the Ride for the Roses and was cramping bad," Williams explained. "Davis and his wife really saved me." Cyclingnews caught up with Williams after the auction to see what his prediction was for Sunday's race. "Basso and George [Hincapie] but with the travelling it might be tough. There are so many people who can win!" As it turned out, Germany's young talent and Levi Leipheimer's Gerolsteiner team-mate Fabian Wegmann scored the win.
Other VIPs took their turn telling stories of Phinney - from Wayne Stetina talking about how his team passed on a young Phinney racing with them to Bob Roll talking about his racing days on the 7-Eleven squad. Everyone had a funny anecdote to tell, but all finished with similar sentiments - they are behind Phinney and his quest for Parkinson's research 100 percent.
Finishing the evening, Phinney thanked everyone for their generosity and efforts, saying that for him, each day is made up of small victories. But his anecdote was not one of winning, but a story of when he finished last in a race. Always a sprinter, he had to fight to get over the mountain passes during the Tour de France, and during a stage up to Alpe d'Huez, he was convinced he would not make the time cut for the day. But after making it over the first Col, he found it within himself to soldier on and up to the final slopes, well off the back of even the final support vehicles, the crowds still cheered him on as if he was winning.
This gave him enough to make it to the line (even though it was being dismantled as he crossed). Waiting for him was Jim Ochowicz who just whispered to Phinney, "Two minutes. You made it by two minutes." Phinney used this idea to show how he is trying to make a more important time cut in his life, and that even two minutes is enough to make a difference.