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BEIHAI, China (VN) — American Taylor Phinney (EF Education First) is retired, but not forgotten as fellow cyclists recall his “grace and power” in pressure moments.
Phinney won twice the Under 23 Paris-Roubaix, a stage and held the pink jersey in the Giro d’Italia, and time trials around the world. At 29 years old, he decided his professional career had run its course.
“The calm, grace, and power that he had was impressive,” Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo) told VeloNews. “There was never a panic with him even as a young guy.”
Stetina spoke at the 2019 Tour of Guangxi, where the professional peloton heard of the news. Stetina had known him since they were in high school together in Boulder, Colorado.
“To be given that pressure that was hyped on him from a young age with the pedigree of his parents, he had this comedic side that lightened a lot of the load. He perfected it over the years,” continued Stetina.
“For all the cards he’d been dealt with, the media pressure, he actually surpassed them and he was his own person and comfortable in his own skin. He was always the fun part at the dinner table in the races at our BMC days.”
Phinney raced professionally with Team BMC Racing and transferred to EF Education First. A fractured leg in the 2014 road national championships hampered his career.
“You know, our families go way back,” said Stetina. “We both had leg injuries at the same and I had a lot of recovery tips from him, I saw how he progressed though.
“We had our comeback race at the Tour of Utah in 2015 together. That was a cool moment. And it was cool to see how he transitioned and found himself in that process because you have a lot of soul-searching in those moments.”
Tejay van Garderen (EF Education First) added, “I’ve known three different versions of Taylor: when he was a young junior, goofy awkward trying to fit in, then he was morphed into this rock star, into fashion and larger than life figure, then he had his accident, mellowed out, a Yogi artistic, still very funny, but much more mature.”
Van Garderen remembered that time trial silver medal in the 2012 World Championships behind German Tony Martin.
“That was something that made me think, ‘I knew you were good, but I didn’t know you were that good.’ But I’ve seen a bunch of moments like that, in Roubaix or what he did in the Worlds on the track, but I’d say that Valkenburg worlds really stuck out.”
Stetina laughed how he and Phinney were one of the few riders born in Boulder, while others like Kiel Reijnen (Trek-Segafredo) came to live to practice their trade.
“He began the sport really young, he had a lot of pressure and talent, but when you start young you feel the load of racing early in your career,” Reijnen said.
“In Boulder, I crossed paths with him, we did a lot of training rides together, had a lot of fun. I’ll miss playing bikes with him. We were all in that group able to be ourselves.
“What impressed me? Forget the races, the training rides, for sure. We would always sprint for the town lines. It would start with Taylor whacking it with 2km to go. Definitely a lot of amazing memories in the fall time when we’d all start riding again.”