Taylor Phinney eyes Beijing gold and Tour de France

Son of two cycling stars has big plans

Two-time world junior cycling champion Taylor Phinney hopes to follow in his parents' footsteps and reach the medal podium at the Beijing Olympics.

Phinney will race in the 4km individual pursuit after winning the 3km world junior individual pursuit crown on July 12 at Cape Town, South Africa. Phinney also captured the world junior road race crown in 2007.

The 18-year-old American also dreams of taking a Tour de France title one day, leading a new generation of US hopefuls in the epic race after the record triumphs of Lance Armstrong and the doping disgrace of Floyd Landis.

"I look up to those guys in the Tour and someday I want to be like them. Hopefully I will," Phinney said.

Phinney, likely to make his Tour debut next year, welcomes the Tour doping crackdown that has continued this year and famously nabbed Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 victory after testing positive.

"It's good for the sport because it's bringing us out of the dark hole we've created for ourselves. I'm glad to be at the head of the new clean riders coming into the sport," Phinney said. "Having my mom and dad gave me a positive attitude about the sport. I didn't hear or read a lot about the doping."

Phinney's mother, Connie Carpenter-Phinney, won the 1984 inaugural Olympic women's road race and also competed as a 1,500m speedskater at the 1972 Winter Olympics. Phinney's father, Davis Phinney, took bronze in the 1984 Olympic men's road race and two years later became the first US rider to capture a Tour de France stage.

Davis Phinney was diagnosed in 2000 with Parkinson's Disease, a degenerative affliction of the nervous system, but has responded well after surgery. Taylor says little regarding how the family has coped with the strain of his father's health issues, noting his mother as been inspirational.

"It makes her job as a wife and mother that much harder," he said.

Connie Carpenter-Phinney (C) before the start of the 1984 Olympic road race

Carpenter-Phinney admits she worries like any other mother when she sees the lad once known as "Mini Phinney" zipping around a velodrome.

"There's certainly a lot to be afraid of when people fall at high speeds," she said. "I'm a mother. I'm going to worry no matter what he does."

For many years, she expected that would mean watching football matches, not cycling. But a chance meeting with another cycling star's son set Taylor on a path to pelotons and away from pitches.

"He never really considered cycling until he met Eddy Merckx's son," said Carptener-Phinney. "Taylor thought, 'Wow, I could be like that.' It just wasn't going to be on his radar. We thought he was going to play soccer.

"We had a lot of conversations and he said, 'I think I want to try this.'"

Taylor and his father attended the 2005 Tour de France and last October in his first track cycling event, Taylor won the US title and last January, in only his fourth competition, he won a World Cup event in Los Angeles.

Now he will put off studies at the University of Colorado and follow his Tour de France dream.

"I have my whole life to go back to college," he said. "I'll get so much more experience in Europe and the whole racing thing than I could in the classroom."

© AFP 2008

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