Phinney's effort to keep pursuit falls short

BY foxsports • December 10, 2009

Taylor Phinney still wants an Olympic cycling gold medal in 2012. Having his specialty event taken off the program for the London Games only made that desire stronger. The news Phinney dreaded for weeks finally arrived Thursday when, as expected, the International Olympic Committee approved changes that cycling's worldwide governing body recommended for the London Games. Among those off the Olympic lineup is individual pursuit, the event in which Phinney is the reigning world champion. "It's too bad," Phinney told The Associated Press. "There are a lot of people out there feeling sorry for me, so I want to change my focus and redeem myself and win that gold medal for them in something else." His best chance could be in the newly added omnium, an multi-pronged event that involves a 3-kilometer individual pursuit, 200-meter sprint, 1-kilometer time trial, 15-kilometer points race and 5-kilometer scratch race. Still unclear, though, is whether the entire omnium will be held on the same day or stretched out over multiple days, which most cyclists likely would prefer. "The thing about today is, fortunately it wasn't a surprise," Phinney said. "We've had ample time to think about this decision and fight this decision. But it definitely is a disappointing day. There were little gleams of hope every once in a while, but the decision is the decision. When I think about it, it's a weight off my chest. I'm not waiting for this day to come anymore. It's passed. I can move on." Besides eliminating pursuit for men and women, the IOC also accepted the International Cycling Union's plan to cut the men's and women's points races and men's madison from the Olympics. Individual sprints, team sprints, a team pursuit, the omnium and the keirin will be offered for both men and women at the London Games, instead of the seven-for-men, three-for-women split at Beijing. "I wasn't surprised," said Phinney's mother, 1984 Olympic gold medalist Connie Carpenter-Phinney. "Just really disappointed." Taylor Phinney has been tagged as the heir apparent to the U.S. cycling throne for years, in part because of his rapid ascent in pursuit. He tried pursuit for the first time at age 17. It's an iconic event in track cycling, where two racers line up on opposite sides of the banked track known as a velodrome and spend the next 3,000 to 4,000 kilometers pedaling as hard as they can in an effort to catch the other. Less than a year later, he finished seventh in the Beijing Olympics. Less than a year after that, he was the world champion. Plus, he comes from one of cycling's best-known families. Davis Phinney won more than 300 races and is believed to have prevailed more than any American cyclist. Connie Carpenter-Phinney won gold at the Los Angeles Games, and if that wasn't enough, even seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong has made Phinney a protege of sorts. "Eddy Merckx, Chris Boardman, Lance, the biggest names of the sport were very against the proposal and of the people I've talked to, nobody thought this was a good idea," Taylor Phinney said. "I have a great support structure around me, my parents are very well respected in the sport, and we did what we could." More than 4,400 people signed a petition that was presented to the IOC this week to try to save the pursuit, and plenty of racers around the world also spoke out in an effort to keep the event in the Olympics. All to no avail. "There is a general shift as you know from endurance events more to sprint events," IOC president Jacques Rogge said. "That is a consideration being made by the experts of cycling, not the IOC." Phinney said he hasn't yet thought of his backup plan for the 2012 Games, not wanting to take his mind off pursuit before the news became official. Now that it has, he'll soon start figuring out if he'll commit to a track or road program for the London Olympics. "Today's the first day I can sit back and say, 'What are my options,"' Phinney said. "Before today, I was planning on going for the gold in the individual pursuit. Now I can think about what I want to do."


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