Cycling couple just keeps rolling along after Olympic success
Connie Carpenter Phinney and Davis Phinney have cycled more than 200,000 miles between them -- equivalent to eight times around the equator. They accumulated most of that mileage preparing for one moment, the 1984 Olympics. As the world watched, the cycling couple led the United States team to a nine-medal performance in Los Angeles. After a welcoming parade here and a week-long victory tour of the nation, however, the cheers died down, and the husband and wife team found itself at a standstill.
``After the Olympics, we didn't know what to do,'' said Connie, who started the US medal onslaught with a gold in the first-ever Olympic cycling event for women. ``Nothing was really happening, even though we had lots of ideas and were getting hundreds of phone calls and offers. We just wanted to go away.''
The pair had something magical when they trained and competed together, so they decided to use that quality in their post-Olympic life.
``We were made for each other,'' says Connie as Davis nods his head in agreement. ``I wouldn't have won the gold if it weren't for this guy, and I doubt he would've brought home a bronze without me.''
And so the two got an agent who was interested in cycling, and they've continued to do a lot of work together. Despite the fact that Davis immediately joined the professional circuit after the Olympics and Connie retired from competition, they try to share their work. They both do promotional work for a medical research foundation, which runs an annual, national bike tour.
Together they are designing a clothing line for cyclists, are working as cycling and fitness consultants for a Colorado resort, and are designing cycling sunglasses for a Boulder company. They both also hope to do commentary for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, and eventually put together a combination autobiography and how-to book about cycling.
``It's a unique situation, but it's worked out well for us,'' Davis, 26, a Boulder native, said. ``Whether it's competition, business, or life, we raise each other's expectations and ambitions and give each other mutual respect and understanding.''
Their promotional package has proven to be marketable because they can represent the male and female sides of competition, fitness issues, and various products. They also, however, have to go in separate directions at times.
Davis and his team compete on the pro circuit from February to October, with at least three of those months spent in Europe. Under the guidance of Jim Ochowicz, the team, including Ron Kiefel, Doug Shapiro, 1980 Winter Olympic speed skating hero Eric Heiden, and possibly Alexi Grewal, is hoping to be the first American squad to compete in the Tour de France, a 24-day race that spans 3,000 miles, next year.
``The pro level is grueling,'' said Davis, who peddled more than 20,000 miles this year. ``It's a lot of work, training, and traveling. We [the US cyclists] had such good success in the Olympics, but they're skeptical still in Europe.''
Connie tries to arrange work where Davis is competing, but she also has her own activities. A physical education graduate of California-Berkeley, she now is pursuing a master's degree in exercise physiology from the University of Colorado to complement her career as a fitness, health, and nutrition expert. The 28-year-old native of Madison, Wis., also writes for a cycling magazine, sits on the substance abuse committee of the US Olympic Committee, has a children's book about physiology on hold, and prom otes the Women's Challenge, a week-long race in Idaho, every summer.
Connie began her athletic career as a speed skater, and at the age of 14 placed seventh in the 1,500-meters at the 1972 Olympics in Sapporo. An injury kept her from the 1976 Olympics, so she turned to cycling, a sport in which she amassed 12 national championships, four world championship medals, and three International Classic victories before her finale in Los Angeles. In that 79.2-kilometer race (49.5 miles), Connie came from behind and crossed the Olympic finish line only inches in front of teammate
Rebecca Twigg. Her 2:11:14 time, a 22.7 m.p.h. pace, gave the United States its first gold medal in cycling and ended a 72-year drought of any US medal in that sport. A week later Davis's 100-kilometer road team trial squad won the bronze.
This medal-winning couple met through cycling, at a race in Tucson, Ariz., in 1978. They were married in October 1983, and since then have spent their few hours of leisure time together renovating their 80-year-old house here.
``We keep pretty busy, but it's been fun for us after the Olympics,'' Connie said. ``We talk to different groups about cycling, fitness, nutrition, and motivation.'' Added Davis, ``Cycling is a growing sport, and we can really have an impact.''