By Tim Simmons, BFishInc
Colorado’s cycling community now has two members in the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame as Boulder native Davis Phinney this year joins his wife Connie Carpenter Phinney among the Centennial State’s most-honored sports figures.
Carpenter Phinney, the women’s road racing gold medalist at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, was inducted into the CSHOF in 1995. She and Phinney both refined their cycling skills in Colorado while riding in the Red Zinger and Coors International Bicycle Classics.
“I’m honored to be included in any Hall of Fame, but especially in Colorado, and even more so, one that has previously inducted my wife,” said Phinney, describing his mate as “one amazing athlete.” (Carpenter Phinney also competed in the 1972 Winter Olympic Games as a speed skater.).
Introduced to bicycle racing after witnessing the 1975 Red Zinger as a 15-year-old in Boulder, Phinney credits his subsequent success to his supportive father Damon; his best friend and teammate Ron Kiefel; 7-11 cycling team manager Jim Ochowicz. Coors Classic promoter Michael Aisner, who created “the ultimate race in which I could showcase my talent,” and, most importantly, his spouse “for setting such a high bar in her expectation of what we were both capable of achieving.”
Named the “winningest racer in United States history” by Velo News, Phinney posted 328 career cycling victories over 18 years. When cycling was at its peak in Colorado in the 1970s and 1980s with the Red Zinger and Coors International, Phinney was THE rider on THE American (7-11) team. But his influence went beyond his wins as he was a major role model for his generation in putting cycling on the U. S. map.
A “blazing” sprinter, Phinney was a member of the first American team to ride in the Tour de France. Known as a “loyal teammate”, he finished one Tour de France stage despite having a 103E fever. In 1986, after winning a Pan-American Gold Medal (1983) and Olympic Bronze Medal (1984), he became the first American ever to win a road stage in the Tour de France, the world’s most prestigious bike race. In fact, the only Americans to win multiple stages of the Tour de France are Phinney and cycling legends Lance Armstrong and Greg Lemond.
Phinney also owns four National Championship titles, including the coveted 1991 US PRO. The most prolific rider in Coors Classic history, he won the overall crown in 1988 and collected a record 22 stage wins.
Since retiring from cycling in 1993, Phinney has remained active as a cycling sports commentator (NBC, CBS, ABC, ESPN, and OLN), public speaker, journalist, and avid Nordic ski racer. Diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease in 2000, he has helped create the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease Research and Wellness (www.davisphinneyfoundation.org).
“Yes, PD has drastically changed my life and slowed me down considerably,” Phinney stated. “But I learned both patience and perseverance as an athlete and those qualities have seen me through the physical decline that Parkinson’s causes.”
His upbeat advice to all is “Follow your dreams!” When he first started racing, there were only five junior contenders, which was “infinitesimal compared to football or soccer,” he said. “Yet three of us went on to win Olympic medals – Ron Kiefel, Alexi Grewal and I.”
Both Phinney (2001) and his wife (1990) have been inducted into the U. S. Cycling Hall of Fame. The couple have two children – Taylor (15) and Kelsey (12).
Follow your dreams!