Taylor Phinney is an unusual figure in cycling, known as much for his personality as his accomplishments on the bike. He's the son of two Olympians, including the first American to win a road stage at the Tour de France, and he got into the sport with big expectations. He lived up to those expectations early on in his career, becoming an Olympian himself at age 18 in Beijing. Later a crash -- at 60 miles an hour during a race -- left him with a fractured leg that required surgery. A doctor told Phinney he might never run again. After a lot of rehabilitation, Phinney finally finished his first Tour de France last month.
He came in near the bottom, but just finishing one of the world's most grueling sporting events was a big accomplishment in Phinney's comeback, and he briefly captured the jersey for the race's best mountain climber. But Phinney's personality really shone off the bike, on Instagram and in tour diaries he recorded for NBC. In one, he walks down the team bus naked and introduces each of his teammates with a funny anecdote or nickname, like when he calls the Tour's second place finisher, Rigoberto Uran, the "Colombian Justin Bieber."
Finishing the Tour was a dream come true for Phinney, who says he realized he wanted to be a professional cyclist after visiting the Tour de France with his dad 12 years ago. Phinney is also passionate about reading and painting -- a hobby he took up after the accident.
Phinney is now back home in Boulder, preparing for next week's Colorado Classic, which replaces the USA Pro Challenge. Phinney won the first stage of the Pro Challenge in Steamboat Springs in 2015, and next week he'll race against teammate Uran.
Interview Highlights With Taylor Phinney
On How The 2014 Crash Changed Him:
"Once I broke my leg, you know, that planted me back in Boulder, and planted me physicially in my body. My mobility was limited. And that left me a lot of time to start to go a little bit -- feel like I was going a little bit crazy in my brain. I didn't have the physical expression that I was used to. I wasn't able to expand my physical radius by jumping on a bike and explore different parts of my surroundings. I found painting, which was and is, continues to be, a really important part of my life. Kind of an emotional digesting of sorts."
On How Riding Down The Champs Elysees Compared To His Expectations:
"I had actually never been to downtown Paris before. I'd saved it for, ideally just for this moment of being in the Tour de France... There are these fighter jets that are flying towards you that are timed to fly the opposite direction that we're moving. And behind them they have, you know when planes can put out different colors. They have basically the French flag, the colors of the French flag coming out behind them. And they're coming straight towards you."
On What He Thinks About For Hours On End On His Bike:
"There was one stage of the Tour de France where it was really long, it was over 120 miles... I was riding along and I can tell you honestly I was bored. I had, like, there were probably five hours left of the race and nothing was really happening... So I was thinking, how can I entertain myself? And I ended up onto the topic of time and movement as it correlates with time and whether or not me spending my life, at least my early adult life, as a bike racer, the amount of movement that my physical body undergoes, what that effect has on my aging process, on my personal experience of time."
On How His Dad's Battle With Parkinson's Disease Has Affected Phinney:
"The most positive ways it's affected us as a family is it's really allowed us to rally around him and around the family in general. And our appreciation for the good days that he has, the good days that we have as a group, is much higher than I think it would be without this, without him battling this disease."