A chip off the old block(s)
By Karen Forman
When it comes to genetic predisposition for the sport, the United States track team's youngest competitor at the Sydney Track World Cup this weekend, Taylor Phinney, could hardly wish for a better deal.
The 19 year old pursuit hopeful is the son of one of America's original pro riders, two times Tour de France stage winner and US pro champion, Davis Phinney, and 1984 women's Olympic road race and 1983 World Cup pursuit champion, Connie Carpenter.
Phinney's mum and 13 year old sister Kelsey (who, for the record, is a soccer player and Nordic skier, not a bike rider), have come Down Under to support him riding in his first major senior event (still as a junior) after winning the individual pursuit at the Junior Worlds last summer. He was also a junior road time trial champion.
Riding with Team Slipstream Chipotle Powered By H30 in Sydney, he will contest the Beijing World Cup with the US team and although both he and his mum concede he has a long way to go to qualify for the Olympics, it is possible.
He ran ninth in qualifying on Friday - not bad considering his age and the fact he only started riding two years ago, after giving up soccer. With such genes, why did it take him so long? Simple answer: "Because it had to be my own decision. I decided I wanted to ride, instead of my parents pushing me into it. It took a while to figure it out."
That said, Phinney is yet to ride a "proper track race", meaning anything involving more than two riders on the track at once. "I think I will start at a lower level in those, eventually," he said.
Meanwhile, Carpenter, who says she uses her maiden name alternatively with her married name, is enjoying her first trip to Australia and reacquainting herself with a sport which she says has changed "massively" since she hung up her bike on the day she won her Olympic gold medal - July 29 1984.
"I had pretty much done all I could in women's cycling at the time," she said. "I had been an elite athlete for 12 years - four as a speed skater and eight as a cyclist. These days, eight years is nothing in a career, but back then, things were different."
Davis retired in 1994, the year their daughter was born, and the couple set up a bike camp business. Phinney is accepting of his heritage, saying it's "definitely nice" to have parents who had achieved so highly in his now chosen sport. "I guess I know what potential I have in cycling, based on my genetics," he said.
See full coverage of the 2007 Sydney Track World Cup here.