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Can Phinney save cycling in America?

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.

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5 Responses to “Can Phinney save cycling in America?”

  1. tourdecouch (@tourdecouch) May 6, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    no pressure “@neilroad: Can @taylorphinney save American cycling? http://t.co/4IaOCPTd”

  2. Dean Snyder May 6, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    I am very excited that taylor Phinney finally cracked the nut as it were. I had believed he will be the first American to win Paris-Roubaix with his double wins as an under 23 but his entry into the Pro tour was not giving me confidence that he could ratchet up his game to mix it up with the seasoned Euro squads. It would be great to have more lively press coverage as well. Most of the post race press conferences make the riders look lobotomized inpatients.The press talent will also need to think out of the box to make that happen…and rethink how the post race interviews look and feel. The fans want it and the general public will too if the vibe is contagiously lively.

  3. Tonya May 7, 2012 at 12:15 am #

    Saw his interview following stage 2. I noticed he was controlling the interview. He’s very articulate and seems to know how to handle himself in a bike race and in front of a mike. I hope he can help to elevated the sport here in the US.

  4. Robert Barber-Delach (@GeoTechie) May 7, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    Can @TaylorPhinney be the next US cycling hero? He already is mine…
    http://t.co/E00nmg4j

  5. Bobofett3 May 10, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

    Cycling in the US, I think, is in a very critical position. While I do agree that as a country we don’t have that one person to rally behind, I think it is safe to say that its popularity is increasing. I know that, in my area at least, the number of recreational cyclist has really ballooned this past year. And, even though there are many people who are very unhappy about it, race TV coverage is increasing in the US.

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