Sunday, May 6, 2012

A New Cycling Savior?

If you've been following American cycling for the last 30 years or so you'd know that the storyline arc of the sport read something like a Rocky movie.

It started out as with a rag-tag bunch of cyclists, Team 7-11, going to
A picture of Team 7-11, featuring Davis Phinney and
some guy named Bob Roll...
Europe with no real business being there, to do battle with the giants of the sport of the time. Like Rocky knocking Apollo Creed to the mat, Davis Phinney wins a stage of the Tour de France. Then, like Rocky winning the belt, a break through came with Greg LeMond winning 3 Tours de France (and possibly more had his dumb-ass brother-in-law not shot him while turkey hunting). After LeMond's retirement, it was like Rocky going into seclusion in the wintery woods to train to fight Ivan Drago. Basically, US cycling fell away for 5 or 6 years. Don't get me wrong, there were guys out there doing battle, but no big results to speak of.  In '98 there was a glimmer of hope with Bobby Julich standing on the podium.  Like Rocky coming out and beating Ivan Drago for 8 straight years, we had 7 years of Lance Armstrong winning the Tour and then Floyd Landis winning the next year (only later to be stripped of his title for doping).

Now, not unlike Rocky 6: Hang It the Fuck Up, and Sylvester Stallone getting popped in Australia for having HGH, American cycling has had a lot of doping scandals and has fallen on hard times once again. Oh sure, there are guys like Big George Hincapie, Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer riding in lead roles and many others in domestique roles, but I don't think there is anyone to excite the fan base like LeMond or Armstrong did. Well, not until now.

Taylor on the ITT at the Giro (Image stolen from
Unlike Hollywood's inability to reboot the Rocky franchise, US cycling has a reboot underway. I've been anxiously following Taylor Phinney (yes, the son of Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter-Phinney, US cycling royalty) ever since he's come onto the scene. He's highly decorated in the Junior and the U-23 categories, having World Championship wins on the track and also the Paris-Roubaix. Now, at the ripe old age of 21, he's out there swinging with the big boys and yesterday, he won the opening stage of the Giro di Italia. As Big Jonny says, he's a straight up baller. Taylor has a lot riding on his shoulders. He has a lot of expectations because of his parents. He has a lot of expectations because he's the white knight that will save the reputation of US cycling in the American media. He's in the snake's den with all the temptation of the dark side, and so far so good. And, since I'm SURE Taylor reads this blog on a weekly basis I know he'll take this message to heart. Don't fuck this up. Keep fighting the good fight, hang onto that maglia rosa as long as possible and just know that the future of US cycling is in your slipstream. No pressure, no pressure at all.

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