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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

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Davis Phinney
Photo: © Davis Phinney

A Sprinter's Tale: The Davis Phinney diary

With over 300 national and international victories in a career that spanned two decades, Davis Phinney is still the winningest cyclist in U.S. history. In 1986, he was the first American ever to win a road stage in the Tour de France; five years later, he won the coveted USPRO road title in Philadelphia.

In 2000, when Davis was just 40 years old, he was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson's disease. But that hasn't kept him down. Since retiring from professional cycling, Davis has been a cycling sports commentator, public speaker and journalist. He brings his passion for those two-wheeled machines to Cyclingnews.

Tour de France - July 20, 2005

Fathers and sons

Hi my friends of Cyclingnews,

Some of the scenery
Photo ©: Jon Devich
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The Col d'Aubisque wil always be a special stretch of road for me. Along with Alex Stieda's Tour group, I rode the pass yesterday, bringing back a flood of memories. The last time I was atop l'Aubisque was 1990, the final year that I raced the Tour De France. That year, my father Damon came to see me in France for the first and only time during my Tour years. And he'd also ridden up to the top of the famous Pyrenees climb of the Col d'Aubisque to await my passing.

During the 1990 Tour, I had especially struggled in the mountains, as I just wasn't well prepared for the race, nor scheduled to ride it, due to the impending mid-July birth of our first child. But when Taylor, my son, was born two weeks early, I flew at the last minute to France to take the start of Le Tour to help the team. Of course, part of the motivation to go to Le Tour came from knowing that my Dad was going to France and I wanted to be in the race for his sake.

The descent
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
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The Col d' Aubisque had always been part of our family lore. When Dad first got out of college in the early 1950's, he found a job in Lima, Ohio and one of his co-workers, named Tony, was a cyclist. They became good friends and Tony regaled dad with stories from the cycling he'd done in France. They started riding together but because the roads were relatively flat in that part of the state, they sufficed with the Interstate overpasses as climbs, giving them names from the famous passes of the Tour. And the one they always pushed the hardest for, the last overpass on their ride back to town, was the Col d'Aubisque.

So on that day in 1990, I dug deep, seriously deep, to stay in touch with the bunch up the Aubisque. And despite being dropped early, I struggled mightily and got back towards the top (coming up from the backside over the Souloir). Sprinting up the side and wiping my face, I casually gave dad a wave - from the front of the pack, as he enthusiastically yelled to me "way to go Dave, way to go!" in his distinctive voice. On that day I made my father proud. I felt it resonate in his voice - and it was one of the most valid gratifying moments of our father/son relationship.

This is what I thought about riding the Aubisque hill some 15 years later. And in a poetic twist, my own son Taylor, now 15 years old himself, big and strong and becoming a good rider in his own right, was on the road too. He took off at the bottom and motored up the climb, arriving at the top some 20 minutes ahead of us - where he waited patiently. And as I rolled towards Taylor, he smiled broadly and said simply "way to go dad, way to go."

Davis
davisphinneyfoundation.com

Check out photos of Davis in our 'Phinney Photo Files'