It’s an end of an era in American cycling.
Taylor Phinney, one of U.S. cycling’s most popular riders, confirmed he will retire at the end of the 2019 season. Phinney’s final race will be the Japan Cup on Sunday, October 20.
Hailed as a savior for a scandal-ridden sport when he came onto the scene, a string of injuries forced Phinney, 29, to call curtains early on his once-promising career.
“This decision has been something that I’ve been back and forth struggling with for a long time, and by a long time I mean a couple of years, and ultimately, I feel like my body sort of made this choice for me,” said Phinney in a post on the team’s website. “I’ve now been injured longer than I’ve not been injured as a professional athlete.”
A press note posted Wednesday on EF-Education First’s website confirmed rumors that had been flying around the peloton all summer.
After a highly successful junior racing career both on the track and road, Phinney was an immediate star when he turned pro with BMC Racing in 2011. Twice an Olympian on the road and once on the track, Phinney came within a whisker of matching his famous cycling parents — Connie Carpenter and Davis Phinney — of winning Olympic medals, finishing fourth in both the road race and individual time trial in the 2012 Olympic Games.
After wearing the pink jersey in the 2012 Giro d’Italia and claiming the overall at the 2014 Dubai Tour, Phinney seemed poised for superstardom. A horrific crash, however, in the 2014 U.S. nationals changed the narrative. Though he would return to the WorldTour, Phinney was never the same.
Facing pressure to live up to expectations, Phinney admitted he struggled in the wake of his accident. He returned to race the Tour de France and Paris-Roubaix, finishing eighth last year, but his passions were elsewhere.
“Talent is nothing without work ethic, and work ethic comes from genuine passion for what you’re doing,” he said. “And if you are constantly forcing your work ethic because your passion is elsewhere, then potential and talent mean nothing. And if there’s anything that I can take away from the sport of cycling it’s that, you can be as talented as you want, but if you don’t wake up every morning and you don’t want that thing, it doesn’t matter.”
Phinney always seemed bigger than the sport. He was never obsessed with bikes, racing, diet and training like many of his peers. His interests ranged from free-style skiing, to art, music and travel. As he struggled in his comeback, those other interests started to take a bigger hold of his ambitions.
“It’s time to take that energy and put it into something fresh, something new, something unknown,” he said. “I’m stepping away so that I can be more true to myself, which means to make art, to make music, to create and cultivate. I’ve kind of had one foot in the sports pool and then one foot in the art pool, and art just won at some point.”
Phinney won 13 pro races, but his stamp on the sport — and the void he leaves — is much bigger.