The Happiness of Pursuit: A Father's Courage, a Son's Love and Life's Steepest Climb

The Happiness of Pursuit: A Father's Courage, a Son's Love and Life's Steepest Climb

For two decades, Davis Phinney was one of America’s most successful cyclists. He won two stages at the Tour de France and an Olympic medal. But after years of feeling off, he was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s. The body that had been his ally was now something else: a prison. The Happiness of Pursuit is the story of how Davis sought to overcome his Parkinson’s by reaching back to what had made him so successful on the bike and adjusting his perspective on what counted as a win. The news of his diagnosis began a dark period for this vibrant athlete, but there was also light. His son Taylor’s own bike-racing career was taking off. Determined to beat the Body Snatcher, Davis underwent a procedure called deep brain stimulation. Although not cured, his symptoms abated enough for him to see Taylor compete in the Beijing Olympics. Davis Phinney had won another stage. But the joy, he discovered, was in the pursuit. With humor and grace, Phinney weaves the narrative of his battle with Parkinson’s with tales from his cycling career and from his son’s emerging career. The Happiness of Pursuit is a remarkable story of fathers and sons and bikes, of victories large and small.

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  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547523644

  • ISBN-10: 0547523645

  • Pages: 240

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 06/01/2011

  • Carton Quantity: 10

Davis Phinney

Davis Phinney

David Phinney is a former professional cyclist, a TV commentator, and one of three Americans to win multiple stages of the Tour de France. In 2000, he was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson's Disease. Today he and his wife, Connie Carpenter Phinney, an Olympic gold medalist, run the Davis Phinney Foundation.
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Austin Murphy

Austin Murphy is a senior writer at Sports Illustrated.
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  • reviews

    "I am one of countless people inspired by the remarkable courage and optimism that have characterized Davis Phinney’s career in cycling and his approach to living with Parkinson’s disease. The Happiness of Pursuit introduces us to those who have inspired him — from passionate spectators on a mountain roadside in France to his son, a second-generation champion racer. This book will resonate with anyone who has ever dug deep for strength to reach the top of their own mountain, wherever and whatever it may be." — Michael J. Fox, actor, Parkinson's disease activist, and author of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future

    "The test of a true champion is not when things are going well, but when they are not. How they meet and overcome the challenge, and never give up. Davis Phinney’s book lets us see and feel this. A true champion. A remarkable life. Thank you for this gift." — Patrick Dempsey, actor and cycling aficionado

    "He won more bicycle races than any other American. Then Davis Phinney faced the onset of Parkinson’s disease, which again called on all of his courage as a winner to fight his newfound enemy. The Happiness of Pursuit is a true story of a famous family who has experienced every emotion. A great read." — Phil Liggett, "the Voice of Cycling"

    "In this touching personal account, Davis provides inspiration to the millions of families worldwide—mine included—who join the Phinneys in never giving up hope that we’ll find a cure for this disease." — U.S. Senator Mark Udall

    "Davis Phinney always brought great intensity to his racing, which propelled him to the pinnacle of the sport and which now drives him as he confronts his disease. The Happiness of Pursuit is a fabulous story of courage—a must-read." — Jim Ochowicz, general manager, BMC Racing Team

    "The Happiness of Pursuit tells the incredible story of Davis Phinney, one of the most talented riders of his generation, with a career marked by many successes. When he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease he faced the challenge with the same determination, courage, and willpower he demonstrated as a world-class bicycle racer. For Phinney, every step in his son Taylor’s cycling journey has been a great joy, a victory, and perhaps a fulfillment of destiny." — Eddy Merckx, former professional cyclist and five-time Tour de France winner

    "What happens when you take an amazing family of athletes and bring in one of America’s best writers to capture their stories of achievement, perseverance, and hope? You get an instant classic." — Bob Babbitt, cofounder and editor in chief, Competitor

    "Davis Phinney and Taylor Phinney. Father and son. They have in common an incredible drive to succeed. The Happiness of Pursuit shows how a father and son can become an unbeatable combination, building a strong relationship by conquering challenges both on and off the bike." — Axel Merckx, former professional cyclist and current team director of Trek-Livestrong U-23

    "The cycling talent scouts’ salivary glands went into hyperdrive when they saw Davis Phinney for the first time. But what they slowly came to understand was that the era of the pedestaled despot was over. The untouchable tyrants like Hinault, Saronni, Moser, and Roche would have to yield to more democratic leaders. Davis Phinney heralded a more open, clean, and passionate sport that we now see having worldwide appeal. It was my great fortune to have been a teammate of Davis, who is one of the cornerstones of my personal passion and enjoyment of our sport." — Bob Roll, cycling commentator

    "Davis Phinney is one of my heroes. This book explains why." — Rick Reilly, author of Sports from Hell

  • excerpts


    I didn’t know where the kid was going. I just knew it was

    going to be interesting. I was standing next to my twenty-yearold

    son Taylor on the dais at an awards banquet in Davis, California.

    I’d just introduced him to a crowd of three hundred or so

    people at a ceremony hosted by the US Bicycling Hall of Fame.

    USA Cycling had named Taylor its 2010 Male Athlete of the Year.

     As he made his way to the lectern, someone fired up a Lady

    Gaga tune, inspiring T to shake his booty in the direction of the

    crowd, which roared with laughter. The prospect of giving an acceptance

    speech didn’t exactly rattle him.

    Taylor could have talked about any number of victories: in the five

    years he’s been racing a bike, he’s won five world championships.

    Instead, he told the story of “the Text,” a message I’d sent him as he

    struggled through a tough French race called the Tour de l’Avenir.

    After winning the prologue — a short, solo effort against the

    clock — he’d crashed heavily on a rain-slicked descent toward the

    end of the second stage. As he lay dazed and bleeding on the road,

    his shorts and jersey shredded, he was ringed by anxious onlookers:

    his team director, Patrick Jonker, and several paramedics, all

    of them Tour de France veterans. They urged him to abandon the

    race, to board the waiting ambulance. Shaking them off, T climbed

    back on his bike. He went from the yellow jersey to the lanterne

    rouge that day — from first to last. After returning from the hospital

    with a half mile of bandages on his left side, he took the start

    the next morning.

     He raced in pain that day and the next. On the eve of Stage 5,

    the most mountainous and difficult of the race, he sent me a text,

    describing his condition as “pretty f-ed.” His will to keep racing

    seemed to be wavering. “If they go crazy on those climbs tomrw

    and I get dropped . . . not sure if I’ll finish.”

     “So I send that to my dad,” Taylor told his audience, “and I

    get back a text about this long.” He held his thumb and forefinger

    about five inches apart.

     While laughing along with the crowd, I also reflected on how

    much time it had taken me to peck out a five-inch text message.

    Since my diagnosis with young-onset Parkinson’s disease about

    ten years ago, my hands don’t work as well as they used to.

     Taylor wanted to bail on the race, is what it boiled down to, and

    he wanted my blessing. Which was not forthcoming.

     “Hmmm. OK. See how it goes,” is how I began my reply. “Start

    with the mindframe that you’re gonna finish the stage, tho, otherwise

    you’re done for sure.” And I proceeded to lay it on thick. If he

    was capable of competing, he needed to honor his commitment to

    his team, to show his true character, to remember what his mother

    and I had instilled in him from the beginning, the lesson my own

    father had drilled into me: Phinneys don’t quit.

    Before beginning this memoir, I held in my head a CliffsNotes version

    of my father as a kind of cold, close-minded scientist who impeded

    my success as much as he enabled it. The exercise of writing

    this book made me realize, fairly quickly, that while it made

    my journey seem slightly more heroic — Look at everything I’ve had

    to overcome! — the CliffsNotes version was incomplete, and unfair.

     Damon Dodge Phinney had more depth and generosity than I

    long gave him credit for. His love was often disguised, but always

    present. Even as he disagreed with what he viewed as my risky,

    wrong-headed career choice, he supported me. In his way. He took

    time off from his job to drive me to races from Kentucky to Canada

    to California. His fervent wish that I wasn’t racing didn’t stop

    him from peppering me with advice on how to race better. One or

    two days after my competitions, he would slide unsolicited, single-

    spaced typed letters under my apartment door. Disapproving

    of my line of work (he would have much preferred to see me

    head off to college) didn’t preclude him from holding — and sharing

    — strong opinions on how I went about my job. After giving

    them a brisk once-over, I usually tossed them, believing I knew

    better. As I grew older and recalled his advice, I was struck by how

    spot-on and incisive it often was.

     Damon was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer in 1987.

    It was grim news, and, in its way, a blessing. Rather than a death

    sentence, he heard a gong that jarred him out of his lifelong stoicism.

    It was in the final fourteen years of his life that my father

    truly learned to reach out to people, to show the world his inner

    light, even as he fought his cancer like a Spartan at Thermopylae.

    In so doing, he set an example of grace and courage that turned

    out to be his greatest gift to me, as I cope with my own chronic


    “Phinneys don’t quit,” declared Taylor, explaining to the audience

    why he gutted it out in Stage 5 at the Tour de l’Avenir. Because

    he made that decision, because he pushed through the pain, because

    he endured, he learned something vital. T stayed the course,

    worked hard for his team, and, following that ebb, he began to

    flow. He felt stronger at the end of that eight-day race than he had

    in the beginning. And the form he found in the final stages of

    L’Avenir helped him ten days later in Greenville, South Carolina.

    There, he won his first professional national road title, eking out a

    0.14-second victory over Levi Leipheimer in the USPRO time trial

    championships — a stunning outcome. Levi is one of the best in the

    world in that discipline. A fortnight after Greenville, Taylor won

    the U23 (under twenty-three) world title in the same event in Melbourne,


     Those races down under were his last as an espoir. (That’s a

    French word for a promising young rider. Translated literally, it

    means “hope.”) T was primed for his next quantum leap — this

    time to the top of the pro ranks. He’d recently signed a multimillion-

    dollar deal with the BMC professional racing team. Funded

    by Swiss businessman Andy Rihs, BMC is directed by my old boss,

    Jim Ochowicz.

     It was Och (rhymes with “coach”) who created the 7-Eleven

    team I rode with for nine years, from its early-’80s success in this

    country through its pioneering days as the first North American

    team to contest the Tour de France. Twenty years after my last race

    in the red, white, and green tricot of Team Slurpee, as we were

    known, we entrusted Taylor to Jim’s care.

    To follow Taylor’s races in Melbourne, I found myself devouring

    Twitter updates at 3 a.m. in a Glasgow hotel. While he was in Australia

    for Worlds, I was in Scotland for the World Parkinson’s Congress.

    In addition to serving as a featured speaker at three of the

    sessions, I represented the foundation that bears my name. Meeting

    with leaders in the PD community, I engaged in our ongoing

    conversation on how to live better with this disease.

     Sixteen years after I stopped riding a bike for a living, I’m still

    in a race. But this is a race I can’t quit, or even take a break from.

    Like an insidious vine, Parkinson’s has crept and coiled its way into

    every corner and recess of my life, slowing me in all ways. The disease

    has forced me to see the world differently — to recognize and

    seize the small moments, the hidden grace notes available to us every


Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547523644

  • ISBN-10: 0547523645

  • Pages: 240

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 06/01/2011

  • Carton Quantity: 10

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