Choose Your Parents Wisely

Taylor “best parents possible” Phinney

Evelyn Stevens was working on Wall Street four years ago and is now the best American women cyclist. How is that possible? Her parents must be enjoying dinner with pulses of 40 bpm and sky high VO2 maxes. Are they both professional marathon runners? Is that how they met? Maybe they have never attempted aerobic sports. If Evelyn has siblings and they are not professional athletes, I hope they are taking advantage of their superior aerobic thresholds, somehow, like hustling people at the city public lake. It’s easy money.

Hey youth, fifty bucks says I can swim across the lake faster than you, with this cigarette in my mouth.

No way tubby, you are on.

It’s a source of frustration for me as I bump my head against the low ceiling of my genetic limitations. “You can be whatever you want to be!” That is such nonsense. Every professional rider is a genetic freak, they certainly aren’t physiologically normal. It’s not all hard work and desire. It may be all hard work, desire and a better than average cardiovascular system. Training, weight loss, diet will bring one up to one’s own maximum fitness but we are all bracketed by how we chose our parents. Having the perfect amount of dumb may be my only professional qualification. I don’t want to be a pro, I just want to casually crush my friends and I can’t.

Greg LeMond did a fantastic job choosing his parents. As a junior he was beating the best seniors in the country. As a twenty-two year old he was winning the World Championship. LeMond took his natural talent and went out there, got his ass handed to him and kicked some ass too. I admire his jumping into the deep end when Sean Kelly and Bernard Hinault were already in the pool, waiting for him. I like Andy Schleck less because I sense he is relying more on his natural talent than hard work.

The guys I really admire are the ones who are dealt a less generous genetic hand and still make it into the professional ranks and get a little glory. Ludo Dierckxens is my kind of rider. He was working full time painting trucks at the DAF factory yet training after work and racing on the weekends. The selection to become a professional rider in Belgium must be the toughest in the world. At age thirty he signed his first contract for Saxon (?!) in 1994 and strung together professional contracts until he landed on Lampre in 1998. In 1999 he won the Belgian Road Championship and won the 11th stage in the Tour. Most professionals would be happy with those palmares.

Fabian Wegmann is another great rider to watch, he always looks to be on the edge of anaerobic destruction, dying just to stay on a wheel. I can relate to that.

But enough of the professionals, I’m a little sick of them right now. We are the ideal cyclists. We ride for the fun rather than the money. We get all the pleasure and as much pain as we care to endure and then as much as it takes to get back to the house. It is perfect.

Early on as a cyclist I understood I had chosen my parents badly. I wasn’t paying attention. I take that bit of information, fold it up and put it away in a drawer when I go out on the bike. I am still healthy enough to ride myself into the ground. Occasionally I can outsmart someone, or scrub off less speed in the corners or use my awesome mass to distance people on descents. I may get shelled when the road goes up but I’m going to look good when it happens. I take my quiet little victories when I can.

This video is a bit the of 2006 Giro Lombardia.  Wegmann is the last man still with il Grillo as the race gets serious. Wegmann drops his flash light deep in the pain cave. Enjoy.



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73 Replies to “Choose Your Parents Wisely”

  1. @Oli Cipollini wore all white, especially in the rain!

    -Fixed your post

    I’ve always thought of my genetic make-up as being a cross between Kip Dynamite and Bea Arthur. In other words, I have to work for every ounce of fitness I get and any interest in being an athlete I’ve had has come of my own motivation and self-discovery.

    That said, I am coming off perhaps the best season of cycling fitness I’ve ever had. Starting on the trainer last New Years in prep for the KT, riding in France and Belgium just to stay with the group, building fitness through the Almanzo, then being one of the two fastest guys in the Tuesday group all summer, and ending with a happy showing in the Heck I did all right. It’s now the season of RWG (Rapid Weight Gain) and I’m praying for loads of snow quickly so I can carry this form into Nordic ski season. Fuck you dad, and I love you mom but you had absolutely nothing to do with this save for a regrettable night in the 60’s.

  2. BTW, Mini Phinney has cemented his role as the most pro looking of pros. Damn that kid looks good on a bike.

  3. By last night my head was about to essplode as I’ve been too busy to ride much or get on the rollers during the week on account of work, etc.  Plus the spinster aunt was arriving for a Hallowe’en weekend visit, augering little riding this weekend.  Said “fuck it” despite W protests and did a very fun litte rid this AM, taking in my favorite descent, an steep little climb and even a bit of gravel all in 35 km.  Been in a good mood ever since.

  4. Congrats Marko, the first Bea Arthur reference on the site. And I agree about mini Phinney, he is bad ass. He speaks fluent Italian and is a future contender for P-R. What’s not to love?


    A couple beers later and an invite for a night ride was put out. More beers and the promise of “a little, easy loop”… 3 hours later, on no food, water run out, motor senses put to the test on trails I’d never ridden, hammered by climbing gurus and I arrived home at 11pm with the feeling of a best-ever ride.

    Well done! Night MTB rides are so cool. Not that I’ve done many but being out there with a good head light in the woods in the dark. Beauty.

    And the rides with lots of suffering end up being the ones you remember fondly.

  5. @GeeTee

    @tessar . On the subject of VO2Max tests – this older article now looks …. well, interesting to say the least. Evans still holds the Australian Institute of Sport all-time VO2Max record, set when he was 19 years old and just starting out on MTB’s.

    Cadel was racing MTB from pre-teens, and finished 5th in a (Pro) World Cup at 16.

  6. One of the things that keeps me coming back here (other than the tips on how to look fantastic, obviously) is the number of articles that you guys write that make me think about the sport a bit more.

    My mate who I started mountain biking with back in the early 90’s is a prime example of good parentage, as his dad was a pretty successful roadie back in the day. My mate eventually crossed from MTB to road in the late 90s / early 2000s and has been Elite pretty much since then – I think it took him 2 seasons  to make it to the top level, and he’s been in or around top 10 in the national rankings since then. Another ex-MTBer mate (also Elite) rides for the same team and has got there through repeated application of hard work rather than arseing about like the rest of us. I just wish I’d seen the light a bit earlier, as its hard work playing catch up now – good genes or not.

  7. @Gianni


    We are the ideal cyclists. We ride for the fun rather than the money.

    Let me put it that way: We (or at least most of us) are spending money to ride for the fun!

    True, but after the initial bike purchase it starts to get pretty cheap on the cost/fun ratio.


  8. Gianni, nice one! My thoughts in a nut shell on genes vs nurture are that hard work trumps what you are given except for the ones who are born with all the cards in the deck then they still have to do the hard work. If anything I am an example of the former, did not climb, sprint nor T.T. (could have just said rode like shit) until years of doing it full time made me look half way respectable!

    @Rob  – who is this? I am presuming our “badges” distinguish us apart?

  9. @Gianni I don’t think anyone has ever better managed to sum up the entirety of my riding technique that you did with “scrub off less speed in the corners or use my awesome mass to distance people on descents”… Classic!

  10. The Pros

    70% genes

    30% hard work

    +30% EPO


    70% hard work

    30% genes

    -30% BEER

  11. @Gianni


    @wiscot Cipollini wore all white, even in the rain!

    Cipo gets a pass, on everything. He is Cipo.

    He was. He’s not Cipo any longer. Now he’s a parody of Cipo. Sadly.

  12. Nature vs Nurture is an interesting question when analyzing cycling performance. One would look at Taylor Phinney and one is apt to quickly conclude the scales are dramatically tilted towards Mother Nature.

    From personal experience, for the first few years of my road racing career I was a mid packer in the European amateur peloton. But a much more serious approach of 6-7 rides a week, a healthier diet, and copious amounts of time at the V and Dime translated into greatly improved results over many years. That being said, the price for being a successful racing amateur Velominatus can come at costs to family, work, safety and health, along with many other known and unknown opportunity costs. For me Nurture (Rule V) overpowers Nature at amateur levels but at the Pro levels (which for me right now are irrelevant) Nature is also hugely important (and at times Dr. Ferrari’s potions) 

  13. Great article, love the sentiment. Making the most of yourself is at times the hardest thing to remember as your buddies grimp the climbs away from you, part of me dies inside every time I see the soft pedal allowing me to rejoin. And yet I have come so far since beginning the journey. This, and the personal improvement, is what this site has directed the focus towards now.

    Genetics can be fickle, gifted with a genetically slow resting HR on the one hand, and athsma on the other. The Guns write cheques that the vascular system can’t cash, even if the pump can handle it, the pipes aren’t big enough.

    But that doesn’t stop us trying, faster, further, more vert. The dawn, the dusk, the sun, the rain, the wind, the still, the country, the city, the climbs, the downs, the sweat, the grit. Today, we ride..

  14. Just noticed Phinney’s sunnies, what kind of pattern is that, just dots of color?

  15. @DerHoggz pretty sure they’re dots/splashes of the colours that make up the WC bands & I’d dare say that the photo is from a TT at the time when he was the U23 champ. From memory Faboo had a pair in the same pattern that he’d wear during normal road stages when he couldn’t wear his bands.

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