Taylor Phinney had a simple plan. The budding American cycling star was going to spend four years working toward four minutes, which was about how long his final race would have taken at the 2012 London Games.
His wanted an Olympic gold.
And now, the chance might already be gone.
Article continues below ...
Phinney said on Wednesday he’s “devastated” by a proposal the International Olympic Committee is expected to adopt next month that would remove some cycling events from the London program, including individual pursuit – the event where the 19-year-old is the reigning world champion.
The International Cycling Union decided several weeks ago to ask the IOC to add other events, part of a gender parity plan. To allow for those, individual pursuit and points races – two track endurance events – were targeted for removal, and Phinney fears it’s already rubber-stamped.
“Not going to lie to you: I have actually cried myself to sleep over this,” Phinney told The Associated Press. “Just once, but I did it.”
Individual pursuit is an iconic event in track cycling: It’s four kilometers (usually 16 laps around the banked wooden indoor tracks) for men, three kilometers (12 laps) for women, with only two competitors on the track, starting exactly opposite one another. The starter’s gun sounds, and the next four minutes or so are pure torture, racers pedaling as fast as they can without stopping.
Phinney won the world title last spring in Poland, and Alison Shanks of New Zealand won the women’s race.
“It’s the real true crossover event for a road cyclist to come to the track and prove not only their power, but their fluidity,” Phinney’s mother, Connie Carpenter-Phinney, said. “It’s a pure discipline.”
Obviously, Carpenter-Phinney won’t argue when it comes to gender parity.
She was a world-class speedskater, switched to cycling and benefited greatly when women’s events were added to the Olympics, winning a gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Her husband and Taylor’s father, Davis Phinney, is an American cycling icon, a winner of more than 300 races and a stage winner at the Tour de France.
Their kid has drawn rave reviews from cycling’s biggest names, including and especially Lance Armstrong, who is a mentor of sorts to Phinney.
Armstrong has gone as far as to personally appeal to the UCI with hopes of changing its mind before it’s too late. He apparently had little success, and the UCI did not return a request for comment on Wednesday.
USA Cycling is considering lobbying further, but no one – not even the Phinneys – seems to have much hope.
“To find out that a dream you had is basically being pulverized, it was tough,” Taylor Phinney said. “It’s still hard for me to think about it. It’s an Olympic gold medal that is potentially being taken away from me. Three years from now, I’m going to be better than I am now, and right now I’m the world champion.”
Team pursuit would stay in the Olympics, according to the current proposal. That’s another strike for Phinney: Most of the other elite individual pursuers in the world have strong team pursuit squads to fall back on. Phinney really doesn’t.