Connie Carpenter Phinney

Connie Carpenter doesn’t keep trophies. “Why would you keep stuff? Trophies don’t mean anything when it’s all said and done. Photos mean something. Articles mean something, although maybe not as much as a good photograph.” Along with the photos, she keeps stories - plenty of them.

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Connie’s ride

"I don’t ride how I used to. We would never have stopped to enjoy the view, but now we stop. That’s why I’ve picked this loop around Boulder Reservoir – the sunsets are particularly stop-worthy."

Distance: 22.4 miles
Elevation: 804 feet

Download the gpx route  

She can tell you stories about going to the Winter Olympics at fourteen to speed skate (she came 7th in the 1500m, but she leaves that part out most of the time), and not telling anyone at her middle school about it. She can tell you about finding bike racing after an ankle injury, rising to the top of the sport, and going on to win the first gold medal for women’s road racing at the LA Olympics in ‘84. (Another part she leaves out: between skating and cycling came collegiate rowing at Berkeley.) Then she can tell you stories about her husband, Davis Phinney, who also raced at those LA Olympics, then the Tour de France, and who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s shortly into his retirement. Then there are the stories about her kids: Kelsey, who is probably the only racer at the most recent cross-country skiing World Championships with a neuroscience degree on her wall, and Taylor, a three-time Olympian at the age of 26. The stories don’t stop.

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Amongst all those stories is the one about how she came to Boulder for the Red Zinger bike race, in 1977. The Red Zinger was named for a local tea company – the same tea company where Davis Phinney earned some extra cash by stuffing leaves into tea bags – and was one of the first stage races for women in the USA. “I drove from Madison across the high plateau of East Colorado. You drive for a long time before you see a mountain and you think, ‘what is all the fuss about?’”

“The Red Zinger was crazy. Fifty thousand people showed up to the races. It was nuts, it was cool, it was like racing at Woodstock. Everybody came for the music, for the party, and the athletes were cool. We didn’t take ourselves too seriously, because how could you? It wasn’t like we were making any money, we were just racing because we wanted to.”

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Boulder, and its bike races, made an immediate impression. “The people of Boulder were fans of bike racing and bike racers, but they didn’t expect you to be anything more than yourself.” This sentiment is typical Boulder, where the frontier spirit is infused with a strong sense of community and interdependence. The People’s Republic of Boulder label isn’t a jibe, it’s a badge of honour.

“People here expect space, they expect freedom, they expect time in the mountains. They even expect the sun to shine 300 days a year, which wasn’t the case at home in Wisconsin. It was liberating, being here.”

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It wasn’t long after her first rides at the Red Zinger that Connie moved to Boulder. “I felt very accepted. I could be myself, I felt, and it helped that I was dating Boulder’s prodigal son.”

So Boulder became the backdrop of many of Connie’s stories. It’s where she raced, where she retired, it’s the home to her family, and now it’s where she contributes to the work of the Davis Phinney Foundation.

Once you get past the sheer number of her stories, you realize that there’s a common thread that runs through them all: she works hard, rides her bike, and doesn’t pay too much attention to the people who tell her something can’t be done.

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