They say the measure of someone is how they deal with adversity. Consider 22 year old Taylor Phinney. He is one of America’s most promising young cyclists. He was competing in the 209 mile Italian Tirreno-Adiatico stage race. But nothing was going right. The weather was dreadful, windy and cold. The race organizers had charted a course up a mountain stage with a climb so steep even world class athletes were forced to get off and push their bikes up the mountain. Then his chain broke. He had to stop for a replacement. He found himself at the rear in a group of 30 cyclists. The group convinced themselves they should just quit, and they did. They dropped out. But not Taylor. He was determined to finish this stage within a set time limit in order to compete in the time trial stage the next day. He forged on alone in the wind and cold. It was “probably the most trying day I’ve had on a bike,” he would later say.
Taylor finished the race… in last place. The race had been pure agony. He was 15 minutes behind the next to the last racer and 37 minutes behind the leaders, an eternity in cycling. Worst of all, he failed to finish in time to compete in the trials the next day. He was exhausted, emotionally spent and he was out of the race. He was so zonked he cried through his post-race massage.
So why didn’t he just quit when things were bleak and the rest of the trailing group he was with decided to throw in the towel that day? What made him suffer through the remaining miles alone? Was it his highly refined competitive drive or desire to support his team?
It was more personal. For more than half of Taylor’s life his father has suffered with Parkinson’s disease. A former Olympian and Tour de France stage winner, everything his dad now does is difficult. Taylor knew that if it was possible his dad would have willingly changed places with his son that day. Taylor could not get his father off his mind. Motivated by his father’s struggles, Taylor fought on when others simply gave up.
His father later emailed his son:
“You make me so happy and beyond proud -and that is better than any medicine and can defeat any disease.”
You won’t find Taylor’s name listed as a winner on the race results that day. Neither will you find anyone more deserving of our admiration.