ESPN’s Bonnie Ford was in the Tour de France press room when a 14-year-old Taylor Phinney walked in with his father Davis. Attending the Tour as a young teen provided Phinney with a framework for the career that would follow — and follow quickly for someone who had only started riding that year. Three years after his Tour trip, Phinney won his first major title at the junior world championships.
Ford has followed Phinney closely throughout it all: the Olympics, the track world titles, the crash that nearly ended his career. Naturally, she got the first sit-down with Phinney about his Tour de France call-up.
Taylor Phinney turns 27 next week, having lived three-times-nine lives as a rider. He earned his first major title at the junior world championships a decade ago, competed in three summer Olympic Games, wore the 2012 Giro d’Italia leader’s pink maglia rosa for three days, and has won multiple world and national championship medals. His presence in the collective cycling consciousness is so entrenched that it seems impossible he has never started the biggest bike race in the world.
Or that he has never been to the heart of Paris, where the Tour de France (July 1-23) finishes every year.
“I always wanted to save that,” he told me this week after he was informed he’d been named to Cannondale-Drapac’s nine-man Tour team.
Phinney will aim to do his first sightseeing on two wheels and on his own terms. At the moment, however, he’s focused on the opening time trial on the banks of the Rhine River in Dusseldorf, Germany. July 1 has been circled on his calendar for months now. The flat, 8.7-mile course with its long finishing straightaway suits him, and the winner will wear the overall leader’s yellow jersey.