Americans love winners. It’s a cliché, but true. Taylor Phinney’s win in stage 1 of the Giro d’ Italia won’t project him onto the front page of newspaper’s here in the States as that’s reserved for the one bike race Americans know – the Tour de France. However, I’m hoping Phinney’s victory in Henning helps save cycling in the U.S.
Even the most casual follower of professional cycling knows that the sport has taken a beating like a red headed step-child. In the beginning we all cheered for Lance Armstrong, but as the accusations built his popularity took a hit. Sure, if he posts the most innocuous piece of information on Facebook gets hundreds of “likes.” But any chance of an Armstrong movie regarding his life story is gone.
America has also produced some great riders, but let’s face it – they didn’t have that certain je ne sais quoi to capture our hearts. And the Versus network didn’t do other American riders many favors by having their commentators frequently compare them to Armstrong, building up the mythology of the seven time Tour winner.
I’ve been told that certain American riders that I’ve interviewed are, when surrounding by friends, quite entertaining. However, with the press they clam up, for whatever reason.
The first time I interviewed Taylor Phinney he was still part of the U-23 Livestrong-Trek team. I spoke to him in the lobby of his hotel and the topics varied from dreams of winning Paris-Roubaix to being a contestant on “Dancing With the Stars.” He was open, not guarded, and also entertaining – giving me something that I knew the readers would enjoy rather than the usual, “I hope to have a good season and the team is great” bullshit.
With his time trial win the question was raised if he was the next “Lance Armstrong” which shows how one-dimensional some journalists can be, or perhaps that’s all they know.
Phinney responded that he’s a different type of rider than Armstrong, but then he said something else interesting.
“Hopefully I can push the image of the sport for the fan-base, but if you look at the riders that are around my age, whether it’s Tejay Van Garderen, Andrew Talanksy, Peter Stetina, there’s a vast number of US riders coming up who are doing really well.”
Pushing that fan base is what this sport needs here in the U.S. I hope his team allows him to take a couple of chances with that and let his personality shine through.
So I’m hoping that Phinney is able to have a little play on his leash before being jerked back by management. Otherwise we’re going to be left with dull interviews and riders that do little to inspire. This sport can’t afford for that to happen.