Taylor Phinney (EF Education First), who announced his retirement at 29 years old, left a mark in the peloton. For those close to him, he is an “inspirational” and “intelligent” rider to be around.
The American had suffered to return to his best since breaking his leg in 2014 at the US National Championships road race. This year, he was held back by knee issues in the Classics, but his palmarès includes the Under-23 Paris-Roubaix win twice, world track titles, a stage and a stint in the pink jersey at the Giro d’Italia .
“We properly became friends in some French 2.1 race, we had the leader’s jersey on my team and he was still at BMC, and I was getting dropped uphill and he gave me a push,” Ryan Mullen (Trek-Segafredo) told Cycling Weekly.
“It was cool because I grew up looking up to him because he came from a track background like me and gave me hope that big guys can make it. At team Cannondale, we got on really well, we roomed together a lot, did a Classics campaign together.”
The two had met having a beer together in the Tour of Britain after the race. Mullen, knowing Phinney well, saw first-hand the suffering required to come back from the 2014 leg injury.
“The sacrifice was inspirational,” he added. “I don’t blame him for retiring.”
“This year, we knew what was coming,” EF Education First sports director Tom Southam said. “Taylor was considering it before Paris-Roubaix 2018, but his result there kept him going for a while. But based on a few chats, it’s not surprising he retires.”
Phinney raced with BMC and for the last three years, EF Education First.
“I think many people think that he doesn’t pay attention to what is gong on,” said Southam. “I remember once in the Tour of California being in Taylor’s room with another team-mate, the rider asked me, ‘What time do we leave tomorrow?’ Taylor was dancing in his underpants with his headphones and he knew exactly to the minute what time we left. So even though he was dicking around, doing this and that, he was serious about his bike racing. He loves cycling.”
Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) embraced the young talented rider whose parents were Davis, the first US rider to win a stage at the Tour de France, and Connie, the gold medal winner at the 1984 Olympics. When Phinney rode in the pink jersey at the Giro, Cavendish celebrated with him in his rainbow jersey.
“Some people have a smile that is massively contagious. An infectious laugh that brightens the mood of everyone around. A personality that people are drawn to,” Cavendish wrote on Twitter.
“One of the most talented bike riders I’ve ever ridden with, your impressive results and achievements are irrelevant when talking about how happy you make people. Enjoy your retirement. @taylorphinney Love you mate x.”
Most of the Americans in the peloton moved to Boulder, Colorado, to try to become a professional. Phinney was one of the few who was born there.
“In Boulder, I crossed paths with him, we did a lot of training rides together, had a lot of fun,” Kiel Reijnen (Trek-Segafredo) said.
“Forget the races, the training rides impressed me, for sure. We would always sprint for the town lines. It would start with Taylor whacking it with 2km to go.”