DAVIS PHINNEY Pt2: The PEZ-Interview
Without guys like Davis blazing the trail for American racing in Europe, we might not be looking at Lance’s 6th TDF win. Last time we talked about the very early days of joining the Euro-bunch, today we hear more about Davis life in Italy, his life with Parkinson’s, and his the Davis Phinney Foundation.
POCO MODESTO OR LOCAL HEROS?
Randall: Your wife Connie (Carpenter) had her Olympic jersey enshrined in the Madonna di Ghisallo – the Italian cycling shrine. You rode with Andy Hampsten the year he won the Giro. What is it like for you living in Italy today – are you local celebrities there?
I’m about to be struck by Davis’ Forest Gump-like modesty. The accomplishments of Davis and Connie are far too extensive for anyone but a sports statistician to recite from memory;
Although well-known in their hometown in Italy, Davis is still in awe of Italian greats like Gianni Motta .
Davis: No, no, not really. There are thousands of riders. People know of us for sure but there are a lot of people who have done significant things, whether they are soccer players or cyclists. We live in the same town as Giovanni Battaglin who won the ‘81 Tour of Italy and that kind of overshadows us. But our neighbor Gianni knows more about Connie and my careers than we do. He’s like a guy who knows all the stats of baseball players – he knows all the stats of cyclists. So when we moved in he says ‘oh, you won the World Championships on the pursuit in ’83 and in ‘84 this happened…,
Initially we were better known for our kids playing soccer than we are for our background. But eventually people ferret out your history and then they show you a bit more respect. But it’s not like you’re some super celebrity. It’s not like if Lance Armstrong moves into the neighborhood or Greg Lemond.
Davis’ wife Connie, and American racing pioneer in
her own right, has a jersey enshrined at the Madonna di
Ghisallo (the patron saint of cyclists)high above Lake Como.
– You gotta see this place – .
Prior to the interview I wondered how I might broach the topic of Parkinson’s with Davis. He surprised me as he segues to the subject, head on with the courage and determination that underscored his racing career;
Davis: So it’s fun but we purposely don’t promote ourselves overly much. Part of that is to a purpose. When you’re in my situation and you’re diagnosed with Parkinson’s when you’re young and you’re used to being one of the strongest riders around and feel confident physically – I don’t need for people to expect me to be something that I was 20 years ago.
Davis chuckles a bit as he continues, his voice belying a sense of pride mixed in with his sincerity and humor
If you look at some riders who are much healthier than me who I used to race against but don’t keep their fitness level, you would say that I look a lot better than they do (laughs). I definitely take care of myself and I feel like I look pretty good. But it’s deceiving because Parkinson’s is just crippling in a different kind of way. I don’t feel like I look much different than I did 20 years ago. But I don’t have the same function.
YOUR TIME ON THE PLANET
Randall: Tell me about your foundation – the Davis Phinney Foundation.
Davis: My initial pursuit of the Parkinson’s was to take care of myself because of the nature of the disease and the limited treatment options available. Part of the methodology of moving to Italy was to be in a less stressful environment and be less accessible than I was in the United States. To try to find an organic alternative to mainstream medicines, which help you function fairly well but have a short lifespan in terms of their function. Especially when you take them as a young onset Parkinson’s person like me you can wind up being worse off in 5 or 10 years.
Cycling is still a big part of Davis’ life. The whole family rides regularly .
I wanted to get a handle on my health and felt like I’d done that by moving to Italy. So I wasn’t soliciting foundation work until last fall when I went to Austin to do my annual stint with the Race for the Roses and Lance’s group.
I’m moved as Davis talks about his continuing support of the LAF then outlines his own vision for the DPF. The parallels between Davis and Lance, champions and pioneers, on the bike and off the bike, are striking. Davis continues:
I’ve been a big proponent and supporter of Lance and his Foundation, along with my father who passed away with cancer complications a few years ago. I realized that you have a responsibility with your time on the planet. If I could be a little less selfish in terms of looking out for myself and my family, and balance that in terms of looking out for other people who could use someone like me who has some notoriety, that would be a good thing.
THE DAVIS PHINNEY FOUNDATION
Coincidentally, Ben Serotta had a dealer in Cincinnati named Kathy Krumme of Oakley Cycles and they were having a conversation. Kathy said it would be great to get Davis to Cincinnati and do some kind of event. Out of that grew, thanks to Kathy and her partner David Ariosa, the Davis Phinney Foundation. We have a big event coming up in Cincinnati at the end of July and we have a website – www.DavisPhinneyFoundation.com
So the initial event is funding research at the University Hospital in Cincinnati, which has a Parkinson’s specialty component to it. Beyond that my interest is, like Michael J. Fox, in being more focused on curative research. If we can build up enough of a treasure trove in grant applications it can function like a legit foundation.
Randall: Have you been able to hook up with Michael J. Fox?
Davis: I haven’t yet. Lance has talked to him about me but at the point they were talking it wasn’t a time that I was ready to commit to anything. So I’m sure that we’ll get together at some time.
I am cognizant that I have a finite amount of energy and I don’t want to step back into the public world full speed and end up doing to myself what I swore I wouldn’t, which was to accelerate the pace of my Parkinson’s.
I’m trying to find the balance. I’m still working with the LAF, which is important to me, and segueing more into the DPF, so we’ll just see.
It’s really been gratifying, the response of people to the limited amount of publicity and information that we’ve been able to generate for the foundation, and keeping people abreast of what I’m doing. The response has been great.
ANDIAMO – WIN THE SEROTTA
Randall: Tell me about the Serotta bike that is going to be auctioned – that’s what you’re riding now?
Davis: Yeah, I have a super nice compact Serotta frame with a Dura Ace 10 speed group. And Ben – I didn’t even ask him about it – he just decided to do it. He decided to donate a complete Ottrott to the foundation to be auctioned off by the sale of a maximum of 500 tickets at $100 each. The sales have been really good – if we get some good pub from you maybe we’ll get it over the top.
Final Days to ENTER!
WIN A SEROTTA OTTROTT Dream Bike – AND HELP FIND A CURE FOR PARKINSON’S DISEASE Only 500 tickets will be sold, for $100 each. Draw date is July 31, 2004
Click here to visit the Davis Phinney Foundation and get your ticket:
And check out the Phinney/ Carpenter bike camps at: