Q&A with Davis Phinney

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Friday, November 03, 2006
By Michael

Today's Q&A is with Davis Phinney, winnigest cyclist in American history to date. Please visit the Davis Phinney Foundation's website and consider making a donation to support Parkinson's Research.

Davis Phinney (right) with Race Announcer Dave Towle at the VeloNews Davis Phinney Fundraiser in June 2005.

What first introduced you to the world of cycling?

My introduction to bike racing was seeing the first Red Zinger Classic (later to become the Coors Classic) in my hometown of Boulder, CO. My father had done some riding in the early 50's and even competed in a couple of races, but that had no relationship to my interest in the sport.

Can you remember your first bike?

The first racing bike that I actually owned was a used italian Masi (10 speed of course), that I bought from a friend for $350 in 1976. I ended up using that bike off and on for the next 5 years.

Who were your idols growing up that you aspired to be?

My idol was a Belgian legend named Freddy Maertens. Freddy was an incredible sprinter, who once won 56 pro races in a season! For a time he was virtually unbeatable.

Can you remember your first win as a cyclist?

My first win was in a Jr/Sr Cat. 3 criterium around Larimer Square in downtown Denver in April of '76. I had yet to own a proper jersey, and was wearing a wool longsleeve undershirt that was tucked into my shorts. The course was very short; one block, turn, one block, turn, etc. and somehow I held position coming into the final corner and just beat a senior rider to the line. It was great.

What has been your best memory as a professional cyclist?

That is nearly an impossible question to answer. I have so many wonderful memories... Being part of the first N. American team to ride in the Tour (and winning a stage) in '86. Riding with Andy Hampsten when he won the Giro in '88. Winning stages at the Coors through all those years (22 stage wins in all), as well as claiming the overall GC title in '88. Winning the Bordeaux stage in the '87 TDF. And many more... Mostly the thing that stays with me is how fortunate I was to be able to do what I loved and travel the world, meeting so many amazing people. And of course, being from Boulder and having a platform like the Coors Classic to strut my stuff could not have been better.

What was your favorite team to ride for? Did you have a favorite teammate?

Riding for the 7-Eleven cycling team was an unbelievably good experience. I had many great teammates but if I were forced to pick, then it would have to be Ron Kiefel.

Do you have a favorite race in Europe that you raced in? Why that one

The biggest and best race in Europe is the Tour, and that was always a primary focus for us -- so that would have o be considered a favorite race. But I also enjoyed the Giro D'Italia, as it was lower key and the people, as well as the food were special.

Do you have a favorite race in the US that you raced in? Why that one?

Nothing in the US will ever surpass the Coors Classic for me, in terms of vision and energy; it was the perfect race for its place in history, with the ideal race director in Michael Aisner.

How do you feel the current state of professional cycling is (drug accusations, the ProTour)?

This is a low-point in the history of the sport, there is no doubt. The roots to doping in cycling run deep however. The origin of the sport was never one of athletic purity. In the beginning (at the turn of the century), cycling was simply a test of what man and machine were capable of, and however the rider coaxed themselves to the finish line was their business. Unfortunately that ethos has stuck with European cycling throughout the generations since, it has become endemic within certain circles (not all but some). And the most recent scandals have shed light on how extreme doping practice has become -- and what riders are willing to risk to achieve results. One can only hope that these revelations will truly force the sport (UCI, ProTour, teams, and riders) to own up and appreciate that they are destroying cycling by continuing down this road.

Do you think youth cycling has grown over the past few years?

I don't really know. When I was a junior there seemed to be more riders at the national level than now. But thanks to the exposure that Lance has given road cycling, the number of juniors is on the rise.

How has fundraising been going for the DPF? Any big events planned over the next few months that our readers should know about?

The DPF is building at a managible pace. We have lot's of little events that are on our plate for '07. Big ones are a spinning fundraiser in NYC in February, the Copper Triangle in Colorado in August and the Drafting for Davis Stanford event in September.

You're the winningest cyclist in American history, do you think your record will ever be beat?

Well it's a loose record of sorts. I can no longer name each and every win, but the total number (328) is solid. Someone like Scott Moniger. if he keeps going could get close. We'll see...

How did it feel to be inducted into the US Bicycling Hall of Fame?

A nice honor.

You are based out of Boulder, Colorado. Do you think it's becoming a cycling epicenter these days?

Boulder was the epicenter for cycling in the 1980's and '90's but has cooled significantly since. Lacking the Coors race as a drawing point, Boulder is just one of many nice places to ride. But the roads are appreciably busier than they used to be (with traffic), so the area is not as cycling friendly as it once was.

    IMPORTANT: Please post comments for this article at the new CYCLELICIOUS 2.0 version of this page.
Yep. Boulder is a victim of its own success. With the open space zoning in effect, which prohibits sprawl, trying to put more motor vehicles into a given fixed amount of real estate has gotta give somewhere. Maybe their City Council could do something like a car-free zone to save itself. Last time I was there, 1991, I felt claustophobic. The weekly ride north outta the Bust Stop on 36 must be a whole lot hairier than it used to be.
You noticed of course that his first bike was a Masi. Masi. Masi. Masi.

Do I need to repeat myself?

Davis is a "hero" of mine. I am so happy to see that he is still living his life and still involved with cycling.
He responded with Masi and I thought to myself, "Hmmmm...wonder who will pick up on that first...".

I could always ask if he has another Masi :-P
Too bad he didn't mention he has a Bike Friday.
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