Culture

Day in the life: Kasia Niewiadoma and Taylor Phinney

Ten questions with the Canyon-SRAM rider and the WorldTour retiree about their life in locked-down Spain.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought professional cycling to a halt. In the coming weeks we will be reaching out to pro riders and other personalities from the sport to understand how their lives are continuing amidst the shutdown.

Kasia Niewiadoma and Taylor Phinney were on a bikepacking trip in the Spanish countryside when everything changed.

“We left and the world was one way and came back and everything was being shut down,” said Phinney, who retired from professional cycling at the end of 2019. 

Like many other foreign nationals based in Spain, the couple initially thought that the quarantine would be short-lived. Initially, Niewiadoma, who rides for Canyon-SRAM, hadn’t heard from her team regarding the upcoming spring classics, and the couple figured that they could ride out the lockdown in Spain until it was time for Niewiadoma to race again in April. They also wanted to go bikepacking again.

“Then two weeks became four, and it was like, this is where we are. And after another extension, I felt like we were going to crack a little bit,” Niewiadoma said.

Location: Girona, Spain

What are the current regulations for where you live about going outside?

Taylor Phinney: We can’t go out. If you have a job or you work for Uber Eats you can. If you’re going to supermarket and you can prove you’re going to supermarket, or you have a piece of paper that officially states you’re going to supermarket, then you can ride your bike there. Or, if you’re going to work, you can ride.  

We rent this warehouse north of town, and the first couple of weeks I was going out there to paint but then my partner got a ticket when he was riding back home from the warehouse. I think the police have given [out] 500,000 fines total. 

On a bike you’re more visible. And what do you look like on your bike?  If you’re wearing spandex, they’re coming for you. 

Kasia Niewiadoma: I have a PDF that I signed on my phone, but I never carry it. When I go to get groceries, it’s a one minute walk. Depending on the time of the day, in the morning there are more people out, going to get groceries. As the day goes by, there are fewer and fewer people. 

TP: The only people you see outside are people with dogs. You’re allowed to walk your dogs but you can’t take your kids outside. 

What races were you planning to do that have been canceled or postponed?

KN: I was meant to start with Binda. Then fly to Belgium for the three classics. Then back to Girona and back to Belgium for Ardennes. My spring would end with Yorkshire. 

TP: I was gonna have an art show in Boulder on May 7, but that will be postponed. It’s actually gonna work out for the better — it’ll happen in the fall at some point. I was planning to DJ the show, but I wasn’t quite up to the level that I wanted to be, but I am now. 

What are you doing today?

TP: Well, we were woken up by the mailman at 10:00, but he was delivering a vinyl record, so it’s ok. We’ve been waking up at noon most days.

KN: Sleeping like little babies.

TP: It’s a surefire way to burn the day away. I meditate, Kasia prays and makes cappuccinos.

KN: Then we have bananas and nut butter and pour-over coffee.

Taylor Phinney
Niewiadoma says she’s lucky to share her life “with a big guy who’s always down to eat what I make.”

TP: Kasia will go ride the trainer after breakfast, and I’ll go to YouTube university. Making music with Ableton Live.

KN: Maybe a little yoga.

TP: Shower.

KN: Go to get groceries.

TP: Then we have lunch/dinner at 6 PM. Then, some reading here and there. Kasia reads the Bible every night. I finished reading the Odyssey.

KN: Sometimes I do a little race on Zwift. [It] would be nice to do gym [work] as well, but we have no equipment.

Are you doing a workout? If so, what specifically?

KN: Usually core and yoga or jump rope. Very rarely am I doing a specific workout.

TP: I just do yoga.

KN: He’s very tempted [to use the trainer], but I don’t let him.

TP: I don’t have any desire.

At the beginning, Kas was doing more structured training on the trainer, but now [we’re] into week seven. It’s a bit fragile psychologically. Now she rides when she feels inspired or if her team is doing a Zwift race.

What indoor gear are you using?

KN: Tacx, jump rope, exercise ball, and some elastic bands and yoga mats. 

Today I was trying to do some squats with Taylor on my back. 

What is your motivation for training right now?

KN: My teammate Omi [Omer Shapira] motivates me to get on the trainer every day. She’s a hard worker and very motivated and inspired and passionate about cycling. She sends me messages to join her on Zwift. 

I felt motivated for the first three weeks. At that point, I thought I could see the end of the quarantine. Whenever we’re coming closer to the end of quarantine, it gets extended, and that puts you down.

TP: They’re gonna roll de-escalation out super slowly. In Andorra, people are allowed out of their house, but they’re only allowed within a 2-kilometer radius. First it was just 1 km.

The first thing the Spanish authorities are allowing is that only kids under 14 are allowed out with a parent for two hours at a time. 

I think I will take my friend’s son out, for a cornering clinic on his bike. 

Kasia Niewiadoma and Taylor Phinney
Making art in the time of a pandemic.

How are you communicating with friends and family?

KN: Video calls. We FaceTime with our families. We also do not spend that much time on our phones. It’s like, of course we think about our family and friends but we aren’t seeking them out every day. 

How have you stayed grounded? Have you received any helpful advice? 

KN: I think Taylor is better at it than me. His meditation, it’s his safe-place that he goes to. I, as a woman, still struggle to find a grounding activity. It hasn’t been that bad so far.

TP: You find a lot of peace in cooking. 

KN: It’s true, when I feel the demons start to creep into my mind, I go into the kitchen. 

TP: I feel like I’m resting for the first time in my adult life, because we have to. We can’t do anything else. The beauty of this — other than not stressing — is that we’re resting and recalibrating and doing a lot of reprogramming as well in terms of habits. 

KN: I wouldn’t say that I divide my day into important and unimportant things. Everything has the same value to me. Everything that I do I love, and I’ve made the decision to do. As much as I love cooking and baking, I have the same love for my bike. I love the start of the day when I can jump on the rollers and go hard, then I feel more mentally stable after that.

To be honest, if I didn’t have a bike with me, I would go crazy.

TP: There’s not really anyone who’s been like, ‘oh I went through something like that.’ Everyone is going through a similar thing, at different levels, all over the place. When I talk to people in Boulder, their feeling of being trapped is also real and is as real as ours. There’s a sense of communal experience across the world. We try not to read the news too much, but we’re always trying to figure out when we’re gonna get out of here.

Kasia Niewiadoma in her kitchen
La reina de la cocina.

When do you think you’ll race again?

KN: Maybe at the end of August. But it’s really hard to tell. Maybe September.

TP: All public events, like concerts, have been canceled ’til September. In Spain, they’re saying they’re not even going open hotels til the end of the year.

It’s a delicate balance because sponsors need the Tour to happen to justify investment in teams. Everybody knows that, but there’s a force that’s working at a much deeper level than anyone can really comprehend. 

And, the most important question: are you driving each other crazy? 

TP: We’ve definitely been able to connect on a different and much deeper level. We have no choice. 

KN: It’s been seven weeks of living in this weird reality. Having Taylor by my side is super helpful because he’s full of ideas and energy. 

Kasia Niewiadoma and Taylor Phinney at home
Sometimes, an iPhone image is worth a thousand words.