Phinney, 17, likely on way to Beijing in individual pursuit

Updated: March 26, 2008, 8:13 PM ET
Associated Press

MANCHESTER, England -- Cycling runs in Taylor Phinney's family.

Just six months after making his track debut, the 17-year-old prodigy from an American cycling dynasty is likely off to the Beijing Olympics.

The son of American road star Davis Phinney and 1984 Olympic gold medalist Connie Carpenter-Phinney was quick to express his disappointment after clocking 4:22.358 in the individual pursuit at the world track championships on Wednesday.

Still, that time would be good enough to get Phinney into the Olympics -- if USA Cycling, as expected, officially secures a starting spot in the pursuit. Even after he finished eighth Wednesday, USA Cycling officials believe Phinney's ranking in the world standings will be good enough to get him into the Beijing field.

"I'm somewhat happy with the time -- it's a personal record for me -- but it's still not what I wanted to do," Phinney told The Associated Press. "It's a bit disappointing not finishing where I wanted to, but I didn't expect to rise so quickly. I just have to keep in check that eighth place out of the 17 in the world championships is not that bad."

Especially considering that Phinney would only have been found on a soccer pitch two years ago.

That changed with an inspirational trip in 2005 to the Tour de France, where his father became the first American to win a stage in 1986. Within his first year of competitive cycling, he won 23 races. And despite only pedaling in a velodrome for the first time in September, he has already set the sport alight.

Taylor feels a virus hindered his performance, but vows to be in peak shape after returning to Colorado before participating in junior races in Europe. Then, more than likely, it's off to China, where he is determined to return with a medal and like his mom.

"I go to races to win," said Phinney, who turns 18 a month before the games. "I have a pretty high expectation of myself and I think I can do that with the right legs. For me, it'll be cool to be part of the Olympic experience -- the opening ceremony and all that."

He doesn't want his opportunity taken away by a possible boycott over China's human rights record and its crackdown in Tibet.

"If it comes to a boycott situation that will be really disappointing," he said. "I hope it doesn't, it is just unnecessary to involve Olympics with political problems, because the Olympics is about the joining together of greatest athletes in the world."

Reaching Beijing will also be a challenge for his father, who undergoes brain surgery on April 4 -- eight years after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

"This disease is definitely a challenge, but it's made much easier by being able to use the distraction of Taylor and his results," Davis said. "He recognizes what I've lost with this disease and it gives him a great appreciation for what he's got and he doesn't want to fritter it away.

"He wants to flex his muscle -- and that shows me and everyone else he doesn't take it for granted."

Davis Phinney sees the day when his son is an Olympic and Tour de France champion -- combining the feats of his parents.

"You have to be careful about imposing your dreams on wishes on your kids," Davis said. "But I know that's what he would like and he's going to surpass my footsteps -- or wheel marks -- and in many cases he already has.

"I'm biased but what's phenomenal about the kid is his range, he can ride anywhere from 200 meters in a velodrome to 100 miles on the road with equal ease, strength and aplomb."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE