Taylor Phinney may have hung up his competitive racing wheels in 2019 but the American is still very passionate about cycling and has recently set-up an enduro racing club for junior and female riders in Girona, Spain.
A three-time national time trial champion, and former road and track Olympian, Phinney has kept his Spanish residency since retiring and splits his time between off-road riding for pleasure and his passion for art. A combination of the two projects has led the 30-year-old to give back to the sport with Manifest Butter (opens in new tab) – the name of his art brand – becoming a sponsor for the enduro club that is currently known as Sparracat (opens in new tab) [Catalan for ‘brap’].
“In the last few months I’ve got to know the enduro scene here in Girona and there are a few younger riders and they’re super good,” Phinney told Bike Perfect.
Phinney is the son of US Olympic champions Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter. He burst through the American ranks as a junior and became a successful pro in his own right with stage wins in the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de Pologne. As a junior, Phinney was part of the USA Cycling set-up and his pathway into the elite levels of cycling was backed by both his family and a national federation, but those opportunities aren’t available for every young rider and Phinney has called in the likes of POC, Fox and Oakley to help get his team off the ground. The first shipment of gear for the 13-18-year olds arrived recently.
“I felt like when I was their age, around 15 and upwards, everyone just gave me whatever I needed for free,” he said.
“Everything in my life was streamlined and it was easy for me to just go to races without worrying about anything, but once I met these kids, not only did I enjoy riding with them because they push my level, but I reached out to a couple of sponsors that I’ve had in the past to see if they would be interested in providing product.”
Phinney is also subsidizing the project by selling pieces of the art collection he has created over the last few years.
“At the same time I’ve still got quite a hard time asking for money for my art pieces. I’m in a fortunate position where that doesn’t have to be my form of income so I’ve been taking things like my old racing shoes and painting on them or taking money from previous painting projects and using those funds to help the kids.”
Enduro racing and riding can be expensive. Riders can burn through equipment at a rapid rate, especially with young athletes constantly growing. Phinney is hoping to cover the cost of protective clothing, as well as race fees, mechanical assistance and physiotherapy appointments, which can quickly build up.
“It’s just going on simple things like race entry, licenses, physiotherapy, bike park entries, mechanical help, and covering the stuff that for a kid makes a difference. Some of the kids have to spend 40 Euro on entering a race or 100 Euro on a license and that’s a real hurdle. I wanted to provide a platform for young kids around here to race if that’s what they want to do.”
As well as encouraging 13 to 18-year-olds into the sport, Phinney is also looking to widen the reach of the club to female riders too.
“The other side of the programme is to try and encourage as many women as possible to race enduro. There are two British girls in town and they like to go downhill and if they want to race enduro then we’ll help them,” he said.
“We just got a big order in from POC with full protection kit for the riders. We want to keep it simple and have fun but getting the right gear is super important. I just want to give something back to the sport and make sure that the kids we’re supporting have what they need.”
For now, Phinney doesn’t have any grand ambitions beyond the here and now. His riding these days comes from a love for the sport rather than a regimented grind or a necessity that pro riders have to endure. He simply wants to connect with riders, who like him ride bikes for the enjoyment of it, and give something back.
“There’s no five-year plan, I don’t even have a two-year plan. It’s just about covering the costs to help these kids out as much as possible. I don't know how long I'll be living here but when I do move on I want there to be something to leave behind for young riders to enjoy. Hopefully, they'll keep this going.”