Beer in Boulder or Espresso in Italy? 30 Mins with Taylor Phinney
BMC Racing Team’s Taylor Phinney is one of the most interesting characters in today’s peloton. He is the son of 1984 Olympic medalist Connie Carpenter Phinney, and multiple Tour de France stage winner Davis Phinney. At the mere age of 23 he had already won a stage of the Giro d’Italia and took the overall honors at the Tour of Dubai in February this year. An up and coming star? No. He’s already a star. But not just for his incredible potential, but because he breathes a new, fresh, and colorful personality into the sport of professional cycling.
Its 6:30 PM in Switzerland and Taylor Phinney answers the phone with a drawling “yo-o…” sounding like he is sprawled out on a sofa, utterly relaxed, with his legs up. It’s a week after the Tour of Flanders where he spent most of the race in the break-away group before being caught with 45km to go. All part of the plan; “I’m living the dream” he says “I’ve just been chillin’ all afternoon since training this morning. Some of the guys are racing today but I’m not. I’m taking it easy before Paris Roubaix this weekend”.
Taylor, you mentioned before that it’s a dream of yours to win Paris Roubaix, what would it take?
Looking at my physical ability and the massive trajectory of the event, this year perhaps but certainly by next year I can be a key factor in the final of the race, and one of the riders affecting its outcome. But it’s a very difficult race to predict or win. It’s a very entertaining race - that’s why it is so popular, but also why it is so difficult. There are 28 sections of cobbled roads that beat the crap out of you. But it’s always been a race I’ve had a passion for. But you need to avoid any misfortune, when the big guys go you need to be there with them and be smart to go with the right moves and not to expend energy when it’s not necessary. Being successful would require whole bunch of factors to come together, but I would love to be the first American to win the Paris Roubaix and I definitely think it’s an achievable goal. But I take it one year at a time. I would love to be the first American to win the Paris Roubaix and I definitely think it’s an achievable goal
Why did you choose the BMC Racing Team above other professional teams?
Being able to work with a bike company that’s a little smaller but able to make a high-end product was really attractive. The company is owned by Andy Rhis who is also the title sponsor of the team, so everything we need is just a phone call away. The last 3 years have been really nice, and I’d like to stay on board for another 3 if I can. I’m one of the BMC Racing Team riders that rides the impec and I just love the Swissness of the brand. It matches my style, you know, Swiss quality and engineering -I’m also a big fan of Swiss watches.
You’re one of the younger riders in the peloton, what are the advantages and disadvantages?
I don’t feel very young, it’s already my fourth season. But I do have realistic expectations. I’m not saying that professional cycling is an old man’s sport, but you hit your prime in your late twenties early thirties - just to be able to cope with the distances. The younger riders are mentally fresh and excited; I approach every race with a certain confidence and naivety. There are some older riders in the peloton who are a bit older and jaded, who have slot into the role of cycling as a job. I still see it as my passion and I’ll try to keep that passion on fire for as long as I can.
What do you think is the secret to staying motivated?
I’m always hungry to win and better myself or my results from previous races. That keeps me motivated and young in a way, and passionate about what I’m trying to achieve. It definitely becomes more difficult if you slot into a domestique role, then it becomes more of a job. Having said that, it’s still better than a desk job in the sense that when the team wins, you win too because you have been part of it. And there’s always the thrill of racing that never goes away. But essentially I just try to keep my goals in sight and ensure that I’m still making progress. Patience is definitely rewarded in this sport.
Do you have a mentor? Have you used sports psychologists or do you use your parents?
Both of my parents were overjoyed when I took up cycling but they don’t get involved, only when I ask. Having said that - I sought their advice more when I was younger. My Dad is a really uplifting guy and has helped to keep things into perspective. But, I learned at a young age that the most important person, who really needed to be there to motivate me, was actually myself. I’ve always been interested in psychology but because I went straight into professional cycling straight out of high school I never had the chance to study it formally but I began to read lots of sports psychology books to educate myself. In a way, I act as my own personal sports psychologist. There are times when it is super difficult of course, but I just take a step back and look at the state of things. I’m lucky I have a good head on my shoulders; I’m able to handle pressure and put things into perspective.
Taylor, you have been called ‘the tastemaker’ for your appreciation for fashion. If you had to bring some style into the peloton what would introduce? Would it be something entirely new or would you go for retro?
Ha…I’m already trying to bring my own style into the peloton. I collaborated with Giro a few years ago when I had the idea to make some swanky new shoes. They look a lot like football cleats. They are lace-ups. So, I say, start from the feet first! Now…the current aero helmet trend, that’s not really my thing – that needs some work in my opinion. But the style of the peloton is getting better; it’s more retro again, with more black in the shorts. There are less crazy colors and things on the jerseys, except for a couple of teams.
If I were a cycle tourist, and I didn’t have to wear the BMC Racing Team uniform I would go for a retro look, that’s the direction I would go in. I do like brands that are emulating a 60’s and 70’s style of cycling, sort of Eddie Merxx style. If it were up to me, I’d pretty much ride around in black the whole time. There are enough people who think that cyclists are super weird because of what we wear, so why contribute to that perception! If it were up to me, I’d pretty much ride around in black the whole time
If you were to ride some Alpine Passes what gear ratio would you use?
It would depend on what Alpine pass. If it were the Mortirolo for example, then I would ride a compact because it’s so steep. For the most part I’d ride a 38 in the front and a 28 on the rear in case it was over 8%, because I like to tap it out.
Would you choose a Rolex or a Cartier watch?
Definitely Rolex, all the way. Ford, YSL or Pierre Cardin? Saint-Laurent. Its Saint Laurent now though – you do know that right? You can never really go wrong with Tom Ford but SL is more my style, leather jackets, tight pants, I dig that for some reason. But you could dress me in Tom Ford any day and I wouldn’t complain. But for the vibe I’m trying to put out there then SL is my top choice. As well as being somewhat a fashion victim, you are also really into music. Do you use iTunes or Spotify? I use iTunes, because I prefer to buy music and support artists rather than stream. But I get a lot of my music from various blogs on the internet, so, mixes and collaborations that are not already on iTunes. I don’t use Spotify too much but I do have another app on my phone called the Hypemachine. What kind of music do you listen to? Indie? Techno or electronic? I listen to a lot of stuff. A lot of dance and house music. That can range from chilled house or lounge beats, to a little more energetic dance. Stuff you might hear in a club with a really good DJ. I like things I can dance or vibe to. But sometimes I like Rap or acoustic or alternative tunes. Essentially I like music that has a good beat to it – which I can vibe to. Would you prefer to drink espresso in Italy or beer in Boulder? Oh man. It’s very dependent on the time of year. If it were between August and January then I would go for beer in Boulder. It’s also the time of the year when I would enjoy a very large beer in Boulder, or anywhere for that matter – guilt free. But otherwise, it would be an espresso in Italy.