Cyclist Taylor Phinney solidifies comeback with first-stage win at USA Pro Challenge

Taylor Phinney

Taylor Phinney, 25, celebrates a sprint-finish win at Stage 1 of the USA Pro Challenge, which finished in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Road cyclist Taylor Phinney pulled off an epic sprint win Monday in the first stage of the USA Pro Challenge in downtown Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The feat was an emotional one for the 25-year-old BMC Racing Team member, son of Olympic cyclists Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter-Phinney, because it comes 15 months after a crash that shattered his left leg so badly that several doctors told him it was possible he'd never race again.

After two 49-mile laps in the first stage of the 2015 Pro Challenge, now one of the largest cycling events in the U.S., Phinney made a surprising last-minute call to go for the win when teammate Rohan Dennis didn't look like he had the muscle to hang on to the win as the peloton streamed by the leader.

Riding a downhill tailwind, Phinney snuck up the right-hand side and cranked on the pedals to secure his spot in history.

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The comeback moment was clearly unexpected.

While Phinney had shown his legs were securely under him with a podium stage finish at this summer's Tour of Utah, the rider was still experiencing pain, a defeating feeling that he'd been grappling with for well over a year.

Taylor Phinney

Cyclist Taylor Phinney found a new form of self-expression during his 15-month recovery from a horrific leg injury that doctors thought might end his pro cycling career. Photo: Courtesy of Lululemon

During the long stretch and long days of physical therapy, Phinney had turned to art as a way of potentially redefining his life, especially one that medical advisors said might not include riding at a professional level ever again.

At home in Boulder, Colorado, painting (some impressive abstracts, we might add) provided Phinney with a new form of escape and self-expression, according to Lululemon, a brand for which the cyclist is an elite ambassador.

Taylor Phinney

Phinney’s home studio in Boulder, Colorado, captures the tension of talents during the cyclist’s recovery. Photo: Courtesy of Lululemon

Time away from racing at an elite, all-consuming level allowed Phinney to reflect on life while also giving him time with his famous cycling father, who has Parkinson's disease. BMC Racing stuck with Phinney through the process, one that teammates told the Denver Post this week has helped the athlete mature, ultimately helping him relate better and making him a stronger teammate overall.

For now, Phinney is a portrait of the comeback kid, a man finding his way on the bike — and in life. Can't wait to see what the big picture holds for this emergent cyclist.

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