CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (VN) — Bissell’s Phil Gaimon may not have won Monday’s road race at the Volkswagen USA Cycling Professional Road and Time Trial National Championships, but the rider certainly made an impression.
Gaimon launched a blistering solo attack over the final 25 kilometers that looked — for a time — destined to become the day’s winning move. Though swallowed up by the chase with just under a kilometer remaining, Gaimon’s heroics earned him the day’s Most Combative Rider jersey and some high-profile attention.
As his own riders, including sixth-place finisher Caleb Fairly (Garmin-Sharp), gave chase, Garmin boss Jonathan Vaughters tweeted a not-so-subtle message of support to Gaimon.
“Ok, I’m going to show some odd favoritism: I’m a @philgaimon fan. Go Phil!!!!!!!” Vaughters wrote.
For Gaimon, who aspires to sign a UCI ProTeam contract in 2014, Vaughters’ kudos were an encouraging consolation prize.
“It’s definitely great to get some attention from someone in his position,” Gaimon told VeloNews. “It would have been nice to win a fancy jersey to help make my case, but I’m still optimistic for the rest of this year. I hope I can make [a jump to the WorldTour] happen.”
Gaimon finished Monday’s road race in 17th place, 33 seconds behind race winner Freddie Rodriguez (Jelly Belly-Kenda).
Gaimon’s 2013 season has not been without challenges. In March he was airlifted from the San Dimas Road Race after a horrific collision with a road barrier. Earlier this month he was forced to abandon the Amgen Tour of California — one of his most anticipated season goals — after contracting a stomach bug.
With his difficulties behind him, Gaimon took the start at Monday’s road race prepared for battle.
“I knew that we were going to need to attack,” the 27-year-old said of his team’s race strategy. “Our goal was to get numbers in the selection and we did it.”
After descending Lookout Mountain for the fourth and final time of the day, Gaimon made his move just after the lead group completed its second of four finishing circuits through downtown Chattanooga.
“I was kind of just watching stuff through the start/finish,” Gaimon told VeloNews. “Caleb Fairly went off the front with someone else and I jumped across to it. When they sat up the field was right there so I just kind of kept on rolling. I might have been wise to go later, but when you go a little early they sometimes give you enough of a leash to make something happen.”
As the race finish drew closer and his pursuers grew weary, Gaimon began to entertain hopes of a victory. But it was an unexpected turn by RadioShack-Leopard’s Matthew Busche that Gaimon says put the final nail in his coffin.
“I had 30 seconds with 5km to go,” Gaimon said, “so I knew I could have had it. But I knew a lot of things had to go right back behind me. At some point, Busche decided to take a final shot and threw down.
“It was definitely a factor in helping bring the group back onto my wheel. I needed a little more hesitation, a little more of guys looking at each other. Unfortunately I just didn’t get it.
“You know, I’ll try that move 10 times and I’ll get it once.”
But could Gaimon actually be the day’s biggest winner? Having earned the respect of fans and at least one influential decision maker, the answer may be yes. Only time will tell.