Logan Phippen has had an unconventional journey to the pro ranks. The American turned professional this year at the uncommon age of 29.
With 19 race days under his belt so far, how has he found the step up?
“It’s surreal. I’ve been a fanboy of cycling my whole life. Now I show up to the race and it’s so exciting to see these great guys on the start line. It was difficult to believe at first, it was kind of shocking but then by the end of the week, you get used to it.”
The week Phippen is referring to specifically is the Baloise Belgium Tour, his third stage race of the season. The race was undeniably his hardest one of the year.
Belgium is the holy grail of cycling. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Navigating the small roads that have made several riders legends in the sport gave Phippen chills. “There was a moment in the first stage of the Baloise Belgium Tour where it hit me, ‘Damn dude, you’re here doing it. You’re in this peloton in a big race.”
He says there is a level of respect for these accomplished athletes on the start line but there was also a realization they are competitors and he was there to do a job.
“I remember watching Philippe Gilbert in 2008, 2009, 2010 when he was this superstar of one-day racing and so being in the peloton with him, there’s a level of respect.”
I asked him if getting dropped and riding in the back of the race often led to imposter syndrome. Did he feel like he didn’t belong? “I felt like a neo-pro there because there are so many nuances to the racing. Technical racing on small roads and the level of the peloton. It was definitely a new level compared to the other races I had done earlier in the season but I just need to continue learning and finding new things to work on. Even if there is pressure in the peloton, finding ways to relax during those moments, be focused on the right things instead of being intimidated. I don’t feel like I don’t belong”
Phippen proved his potential in his five years with the Team Novo Nordisk development team. He regularly performed at the front of races like in the Tour of Mevlana where he narrowly missed out on a top 10 overall, eventually finishing 11th.
These and other performances are what led to his opportunity with the pro team. Phippen says the jump up to the higher level has been a big one.
“The biggest difference at this level is everyone is a professional and all these guys know how to execute their jobs. They do it at a very high pace because everyone else has the same job and the way to do it well is to do it faster than anybody else can do it. It’s astonishing how much higher the level is.”
What keeps him going through the tough moments?
“I’m in a position now I wanted to be in for as long as I remember. To be in Europe, racing and having this life. When you’re chasing your desires in life, it’s never easy. Pushing myself and struggling a lot of the time to just be there is the minimum of what I need to be doing to have my personal sense of success. I’m hard-headed and when something gets into my mind there is no turning it off. I’ve realized all these guys even at the front of the race are suffering. That’s the nature of the sport. My body just needs to learn to suffer faster and not take it so personally when the pace is getting dished out. The more time I spend in that really really really uncomfortable zone, I think the easier it becomes to stay there for longer.”
— Xylon Vaneyck to www.teamnovonordisk.com