Photography by Mr Nicola Carignani | Styling by Mr Tony Cook
Taylor Phinney was 17 when we first met back in 2007. A documentary was being made for the launch of our team, based in Boulder and built around the vision of Denver born-and-bred Jonathan Vaughters. Our colours were even those of the Denver Broncos, blue and orange, only with Jonathan's typical sartorial flare we were covered in argyle because it was "different" and he "liked it".
I was the seasoned campaigner, ex-doper no less, and Taylor was the new generation wunderkind, although to be honest we didn't know he had the wonder stuff at that point. OK, I lie, we had an inkling, mainly due to the fact that he came from good stock; his mother Connie Carpenter-Phinney remains the youngest-ever American woman to have competed in the Winter Olympics, where she was a speed skater, before moving over to cycling and winning the road race gold medal in the Los Angeles Olympics. As one does. His father, Davis Phinney, is no couch potato either: the second American to win a stage in the Tour de France, in which he won two, and a legend in American cycling. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2000 and has since established the Davis Phinney Foundation.
I've spent time with Lance Armstrong and his family. I think people who believed in him have had their doubts and with the recent revelations it feels like Santa Claus - you sort of know that it's too good to be true
Considering Taylor's breeding it's surprising to me that he's always been so wonderfully at ease with himself. He never seems to have anything to prove and appears to take everything in his stride, or pedal stroke, or both I suppose. It's a rare trait in a top athlete; almost all I've known have been dysfunctional in one way or another - especially cyclists.
This year was only his second year pro, yet his results would have satisfied the best in the world, from winning the Giro d'Italia prologue and wearing the leader's pink jersey to coming fourth in both the Olympic road race and time trial, before finishing the year with a stupendously close second place in the Time Trial World Championships (he's a five-time world champion as it is). None of these are results expected of a 22-year-old in professional cycling.
Mr Millar: When it comes to style, have you bought into the Italian look, where you spent your teenage years, or do you like to keep a middle ground with your Colorado roots?
Mr Phinney: I am from Boulder, which is where Crocs are based. It's not known for style. So for years I wore cargo shorts and baggy T-shirts and New Balance tennis shoes and stuff like that. When we moved to Italy our neighbour owned this big clothing store and consequently my dad started to really get into the Italian fashion. The way the clothes actually really fit you and are not made for a generic size was refreshing and I've loved clothes ever since, particularly shoes. I have a very large shoe collection.
Mr Millar: I know Boulder quite well thanks to my team's annual visits. To me it seems as if it's the home of US cycling. Do you think growing up there gave you an advantage?
Mr Phinney: Boulder is a really special town because in the US it is kind of its own mini state. There is this whole group of athletes, triathletes, cyclists and runners that have moved to Boulder and turned it into this sporting wonder place. Then at the same time you also have the University of Colorado, so you have this mix of all these young people going to school and then you have these beautiful athletes that have moved there. It's a mix of people you cannot really find anywhere else.
UCI ROAD WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Mr Phinney on his way to second place in the Elite Men's Time Trial on day four in Valkenburg, Netherlands, September 2012
INTERBIKE INTERNATIONAL BICYCLE EXPO
From left: Mr Lance Armstrong and Mr Phinney at a news conference at the annual trade show, Las Vegas, September 2008
THE OLYMPIC GAMES
Mr Phinney racing to the finish line during the men's road cycling Individual Time Trial on day five, London, August 2012
I know how much you love training in Tuscany, but what would be your favourite ride in Colorado that you can recommend to other riders?
Mr Phinney: I love to ride up Flagstaff, a climb that starts from Boulder - the top gives a great view of the city and the university. You can either go halfway up to this lookout point or go all the way up, the easy route or the hard route. We had a stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge this year (which is basically the Tour of Colorado) that finished up there and there were 50,000 people on the road. It's a road I've cycled since I was a kid so it was really special.
Mr Millar: You were a protégé of Lance Armstrong. In light of recent events, how do you feel to live through the regurgitation and rectification of another generation's mistakes?
There have been times when I was really close with Lance over the past couple of years; when I was on his development team and he invited me in his house and I got to spend time with him and his family, train with him and saw how generous he was with me. At the same time, I think all people who believed in him have had their doubts and with the recent revelations, for me it feels like Santa Claus - you sort of know that it's too good to be true. I feel as if anything that is too good to be true usually is.
Mr Millar: Do you have your doubts?
Mr Phinney: Other friends of mine have raced with Lance, people including George Hincapie, Dave Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde. Having them come out and talk about it definitely erased any doubt in my mind concerning what went on in the past. I think it's good to talk about it because we can't keep sweeping things under the carpet - something I feel has been done a lot the past 15 years. I think that it is good for us to see that, it's good for the fans to see that and it is vital for us in order to move on.
Mr Millar: So what does the future of cycling look like?
Mr Phinney: Right now, I'm a guy who got second place at the World Championships and I am somebody who doesn't even touch painkillers and doesn't take any sort of caffeine pills in a race. I might have a caffeine gel every once in a while but I am the closest thing to riding on nutrition and hydration and that's it. That's the direction that our sport is going. I think we have an incredible opportunity to make this sport cleaner than any other sport. Cycling is incredibly human and incredibly difficult at the same time, and if I can keep promoting the fact that I can do what I do against some of the best guys in the world on bread and water then that is a great sign going forward.