Taylor Phinney's solo ride during the Tirreno-Adriatico on Monday.
This is a story about a guy who finished last. Which is technically true. You can look up the results of the race, and you'll see his name, right there, lonely at the bottom. Taylor Phinney. USA. Finishing time of six hours, twenty-two minutes, fifty-four seconds. One hundred-and-ninth place. Last.
But this story is better than that.
First, about Taylor Phinney. Remember that name. You might already know it. Bike racer from Boulder, Colo., 22 years old. The son of two cycling legends, Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter. A big dude on the bike, at 6 feet 5 inches, 180 pounds, Taylor Phinney is one of the most promising young cyclists in the world. He's already been to the Olympics twice. Won a stage of the prestigious Giro d'Italia last year. He is expected to have many great days in the sport.
Monday didn't begin like one of those days. Phinney was competing in Italy's Tirreno-Adriatico stage race, and this penultimate stage was a doozy. Up and down, down and up, 209 kilometers of punishment, including a 27% climb so comically steep that some riders got off their bikes and pushed them uphill. Many riders quit. Later the race organizer would admit that the stage was too difficult, even for elite pros.
Phinney didn't expect to win this stage. He just wanted to hang around, because the next day brought a time trial against the clock, and Phinney had a chance for a good result in that event. But the day soon unraveled. His legs weren't feeling great, and then his bike busted its chain. He had to get a replacement and chase his way back to the pack.
"I just was dangling," Phinney said on the phone, from his home in Tuscany. "We kept going over these really difficult climbs. I'd get back to the group and I would get dropped. I'd get back again, then get dropped."