18 August 2015

Taylor Phinney's Big Win

And we were all there to witness it

Here I am, below, on Stage 1 of the Pro Challenge (blue vest, center) the first and solo photographer to be right where Taylor Phinney finally stopped his bike to meet his soigneur after winning the first stage of the 2015 USA Pro Challenge. How this day ended was pretty nice, getting there was a total unknown.

We never know what to expect from a day, but we know we can always expect a good story from sport.

As you may remember, I have my dog, Jack, here with me in Steamboat Springs. It was all quite  unexpected, when he was diagnosed (yet again) with Mast Cell Cancer. He had surgery last week and is healing well. Between taking photographs and meeting people associated with the race, Jack and I have been spending quality time frolicking on the shore of the local Yampa River. Yesterday I was with Jack on and off between shooting at the start and finish of the race.

I'll say it, I was was nervous: not knowing how to manage Jack and moving around the race, plus hoping the outcome of the stage would be good for this race in general.

The stage start was fun. Lots of smiles and fresh energy to get the week started. Nobody is yet fatigued, as groupings of driver meetings and police coordination meetings were held in the street in the early morning. Photographers met their moto drivers on day 1 and teams showed up an eager ten minutes early to sign-in. The general mood was let's get this thing going.

Riders lined up, the national anthem was sung, and the swoosh of color stretched out as pedals were pressed and cranked - the racers and team cars were off. They raced slightly faster than expected. Kiel Reignen later stated that the three climbs and altitude were too much for many, but still there was a sizable, yet quite unorganized group heading for the line in the last 1 kilomtere of the final lap.

That is when it happened.

Taylor Phinney sped down the right side of the open finishing course with such speed he cleared the pack and crossed the line in solo amazement. The roar of the crowd was huge. All the talk before the race, never matters. This was the perfect win for Taylor, and for this race.

And then I ran after him.

Not wanting to be where everyone else is (as usual). I had studied the set up of the course and the finishing straight the day before. I had told the Media Coordinator I want to be back near the Carers. What? "I want a bib, I want to be behind the pods of photographers, in the back." Now even though I usually have a plan, I always have to fight for what I want on race day. Always. But I knew how the race would unfold and I knew where I wanted to be.

I got my - wide shot of the scene at the finish line (with cowboy hat and tiers of fans) to convey what it felt like being there.

And I got my - thrill when the post race five seconds of pain rush subsides and the winner just realized what he did. Typically that moment comes when he gets the care from his soigneur, and hugs of handshakes from his teammates. 

Greeting Trudy his BMC team soigneur (Carer)
That moment when pain and joy mix. This is the racer's high.
Care and joy and thrill all in one moment of recognizing this is what team racing is about.

I am thrilled for Taylor Phinney and his very meaningful win(s). Yellow!, Green!, Best Coloradan!

Let me share with you what I observed yesterday: this racer now races from pure fun and joy. From the love of being able to participate at the highest level and compete with the very best. He plays on the bike, just like Peter Sagan plays. This trait is a stand out. This young man is back to becoming and being great.

Brent Bookwalter said of Taylor Phinney yesterday in the post race press conference:

“He really grew a lot emotionally and mentally. Before that, I valued his friendship and I valued his respect as a team mate, but I felt like we were not always on the same wavelength. He felt like the young crazy guy, he made me feel really old.”

“His experience the past 15 months went a long way to help him relate and appreciate everyone, as well as value them and vocalize it.“

Signing autographs for a happy family of BMC Racing.
With his teammates before the stage start.
With Peter Stetina (right) at the call-up.
Being celebrated on the top step of the podium with Brent Bookwalter (2nd) and Kiel Reijnen (3rd)
Congratulations on a glorious recovery and big win.

You might notice Taylor's proud parents (Connie Carpenter Phinney and Davis Phinney) around at the race this week. Talk about two people who know bike racing very well. 

My day ended with a hug smile at overhearing Kiel Reijnen talk about what really went down on course with Davis. After riding up to the post race press conference in the elevator with Brent Bookwalter, I rode down in the elevator, after, with Kiel. It was a nice. After the stage I sat by the cool flowing river with my dog to unwind and reflect. 

One thing I know is how to move around at a bike race. Yesterday that learned skill afforded me many small adventures that make for great stories. Thanks to all the wonderful fans I met yesterday, you were the biggest part of the day.  I can't wait to see what happens today.

Stage 2 Guide by Pedal Dancer®: How to see Stage 2 of USA Pro Challenge 2015

And thanks to Anthony, a reader and now friend, who alerted me to my helicopter inclusion in the race (top photo). Fun.