Phil Gaimon – VeloNews.com http://www.velonews.com Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Sat, 10 Dec 2016 16:29:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://www.velonews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/cropped-Velonews_favicon-2-32x32.png Phil Gaimon – VeloNews.com http://www.velonews.com 32 32 Phil Gaimon Journal: Don’t call it ‘retirement’ http://www.velonews.com/2016/10/rider-journal/phil-gaimon-journal-dont-call-retirement_424057 Mon, 31 Oct 2016 18:59:23 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=424057 Phil Gaimon announces he's retiring from professional cycling. But it isn't really going to be "retirement" exactly.

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Before I signed on for 2016, JV [Cannondale team director Jonathan Vaughters] said that part of my role would was to be an ambassador to sponsors — I’d do some races, but I also needed to be marketable, ride some gran fondos, taking that pressure off some of the team’s top riders. I enjoy that stuff, but on a 10-year mission to be a bike racer, my plan was to train my ass off so he’d want me at the races instead of photo shoots.

If you followed my season, you can guess how that went. I did my best to balance the marketing and the racing, and I even began organizing my own gran fondo to raise money for City of Hope (a cancer research center), and then I’d do repeats up Rocacorba. I was able to play a role in the races to help my teammates, and holy shit did I have a great time, but in the little moments where I could have carved out an opportunity to get a result for myself, I never quite pulled it off, and this was the first year I didn’t win a race.

My best result in 2016 was 11th overall at Criterium International, where I broke my 30-minute power record on the last climb. 11th is great, but if that’s my best, it’s hard to think I have much more upward mobility in the sport. I’m still enough of an athlete to think it would have been in the team’s best interest to keep me, but I can’t say I was surprised when they didn’t offer anything for 2017.

I talked to a few other WorldTour teams, but in most cases, if you look at the history on some of these teams, there’s a not of lot places I’d fit in. They’d never want the guy with the “CLEAN” tattoo, and I don’t really want them, either, so I didn’t cast a wide net when I sent out my resume. I targeted programs I respected, where I had friends and felt I’d fit in. I came close with Dimension Data, but no luck.

If I wanted to keep racing, I’d have to go with a Continental or Pro Continental team — some of which offered more money than I’d ever gotten from a racing contract, but I wasn’t inspired to go back to that. When I thought about the options I had for racing in 2017, for the first time, I found myself thinking about the risks instead of the benefits. I thought about my friends Stefano and Katie, who helped me through some tough times a year ago. They’re having a baby in March, and if I’m at a hospital, I want it to be with them in L.A., not a somewhere in Belgium because I got hit by a motorcycle, pretending I could keep the dream alive.

I also thought about myself a few years ago — how excited I would have been for those offers, how willing I was to take the risks back then, and the young guys now who are fast as hell, who want nothing more than a contract that wouldn’t mean as much to me.

I was trying to make the Vuelta squad this year, but I ended up in Alberta instead. After packing up my apartment in Girona, on the flight over, I read Andre Agassi’s autobiography. The big revelation was that he always hated tennis, and I guess you’re supposed to feel sorry for him, but I was jealous. Letting go would be so much easier if I didn’t smile every time I looked through my old photos. I tried hard to be miserable on the flat courses in the cold Canadian rain, so I could be happy if I never raced again, but I couldn’t help but have a blast in Belgium, Alberta, and all the other flat races I should have hated. I love this sport, I love my teammates (past and present), and I’m glad for the time I had, suffering on my bike in new places, drinking coffee on cobblestones, and for the last few years, literally everywhere I went, some kind stranger brought me cookies. If that’s not living the dream, I don’t know what is. I didn’t do everything I wanted in pro cycling, but I’ve done just about everything I could, and boy did I have a good run. But bike racing doesn’t love me quite as much as I love it, so it’s someone else’s turn to try and live the dream, and my time to get out of the way.

So next year, I won’t be a pro anymore, but I wouldn’t feel right to call it “retirement.” Retiring implies that it was a career — that it even existed. I started at the tail-end of the EPO era, I never quite got paid enough to support myself without working on the side, and my only multi-year contract was for $20,000, with the team folding halfway through year two. I was always chasing it the next goal and climbing the ladder, which was part of what I loved, but I never felt secure or stable. Also, retiring sounds like I’m done, like I’m on a beach with my feet up, and that’s not the case either. I have a lot of ideas and plans, and I want to think that my best years are ahead of me, that I have much more to offer.

I’m not completely sure what’s next, though. I accidentally ended up living in Hollywood, where — thanks to cycling — I met some awesome bigwigs, and now I’m pitching a TV show, a travel show, based around bikes. It’s a long shot, but I’ve already gotten much further than I should have (same way I feel about racing, to be honest). If abandoned storage units can have a TV show, so can I, but even if I don’t, I get the same thrill going to meetings with producers that I did pinning my numbers for a race.

If that doesn’t work out, I have a weird resume I’ve picked up as I hustled my way through pro cycling: I started and sold a business, I wrote a book, and my podcast has 100k downloads in 11 episodes. From being the “marketable guy,” I actually learned things about marketing, forged relationships, and I’ve met some great people who respect my weird skills, which I’m sure will lead to new and exciting opportunities. Whatever I do, I’ll find a way to squeeze bikes into it, be that local races with friends, Strava, or tearing up group rides.

I can promise that more books are coming, but “what I’m doing next” will have to come in another blog when I figure that out. For now, my Gran Fondo is this Sunday. I started it as a fundraiser for City of Hope, but now it’s become a bittersweet/chocolaty/sea salty, cookie-themed “Don’t call it retirement party,” with everything I love and want to share about cycling rolled into one day.

Here’s why you should join me at the Malibu Gran Cookie Dough:

– Three beautiful courses from 46 to 118 miles designed by yours truly, including Mulholland, the Pacific Coast Highway, and incredible climbs and descents
– Cookies at the top of the canyons, baked by celebrity chef Jeff Mahin
Lots of awesome pros
VIP dinner at Pedalers Fork — a classy, cycling-themed restaurant
– Awesome cookie clothes from Castelli (available even if you can’t make the Fondo): http://www.philsfondo.com/shop
– Raffling a Cannondale Slate, and a Cannondale Evo Disc for City of Hope
– Free beer
– Espresso and cookie rest stop by the beach in Malibu
– Lots more, but this is already the longest blog I’ve ever written
– Oh yeah. The forecast is 80 degrees and sunny

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Phil Gaimon Journal: Pickle juice and goose bumps http://www.velonews.com/2016/05/rider-journal/pickle-juice-and-goose-bumps_408055 Tue, 31 May 2016 20:18:25 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=408055 Gaimon explains why nationals gives him goose bumps, even if it isn't exactly the most "important" race of the season.

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Watched the finish with these weirdo fans. They were trying to show off my max power, 1,200 watts. I was wondering why the confetti popped out of my Garmin. Greg Daniel got real confetti, and Robbie Ventura has great teeth. One-day race. In and out in 36 hours. This is how I pack light. Greg Daniel had to check a suitcase because you can't carry-on pickle juice. In and out like a bike-racing ninja, I was out the next morning at 6 a.m. Kiel Reijnen gave me a ride to the airport, and we fit two Sci-con bags in the back of his rented Volkswagen Passat. Greg Daniel doesn't have to rent a Volkswagen. His was free.

I’ve done 30 race days this year, and you treat them all about the same: you have breakfast, you have a race meeting, you win and drink champagne, or you lose and drink beer. When you’re a professional, you don’t get nervous and you don’t stress. We’ve done hundreds of races, and this is our job. But there’s just something about nationals.

If you measure what’s at stake, nationals should be relaxed. We all want to win, but WorldTour teams don’t put a ton of focus or resources into national championships. Most of the recent national road race champions didn’t even get a WorldTour contract the following year, so a national championship wouldn’t make a huge difference on my next contract or change my life like a stage at Tour of California or a WorldTour race could.

Most of Cannondale’s Americans are in Europe, either at the Giro or focusing on the Tour de Suisse or the Dauphine, so we only had three riders in Winston-Salem: me, Ben King, and Alex Howes. That meant less staff, no fancy RV, and no chef. Mike Creed was our director, and we’ve all been friends for years before he was bossing us around.


My flight landed in North Carolina at 9:30 the night before the race. I carried no suitcase. Just a backpack containing a San Remo skinsuit, an extra t-shirt, a pair of underwear, and a bar of dark chocolate. Soigneur “Disco” Jonny Adams picked me up at the airport wearing a Hawaiian shirt, and riders and staff — usually segregated — shared take-out Thai food out of Styrofoam containers in the lobby at the Fairfield Inn, all laughs and smiles. We were just hanging out, ready to race bikes with our friends.

But during the pre-race meeting, when Creed talked about how we were going to win the race, I looked down at my arm and saw goose bumps.

“Really, skin?” I thought. Paris-Roubaix didn’t get you, but goose bumps? Here? “Yes,” confirmed my skin.

There’s less at stake in Winston-Salem, but tell that to my goose bumps. You can’t measure glory, dammit.

At the start, Greg Daniel showed me a mini-bottle of Palmolive that he’d filled with pickle juice to reduce cramps. “I hope you don’t win, dude. I don’t want to drink pickle juice.” I’m not making this up.

The course was pretty much the worst imaginable for me: I like climbs, and I can handle steady flats, but this was 12 laps of constant, steep little hills. We finished with 10,000 feet of climbing, but all in short sprints, and my goose-bumped legs don’t like sprinting. It makes them tired, and sore (yeah yeah, we’re working on it). Between sprints, heat, humidity, the travel day, and a hard Tour of Cali still lingering in my legs, I was pretty pissed off during the race.

But I hung in there, because it was a good course for team leader Alex Howes. If you watched the Ardennes, you know why he was looking forward to the kickers in this dreary tobacco town, so Alex sat out the Tour of Cali to stay fresh for nationals. All three of us are on the long list for the Olympics, but Alex is higher than I am, and he thought this could be his ticket.

Ben and I wanted it to happen for him, but marked and outnumbered, we had to use our energy wisely. Ben jumped into lots of breakaways. I jumped into some, and when my legs refused to jump anymore, they’d limp into the break instead of jumping. They couldn’t do 1,200 watts for 10 seconds over and over, but we compromised: I’d pick a good moment when the breakaway was just up the road, and they’d do 500 for a few minutes instead to get me across.

Halfway through, Brad Huff was on the back of a breakaway, and looked back to see his old friend Phil bridging up, pissed off, doing 500 watts for what seemed like forever to close a 10-second gap. Brad gave me a big, exaggerated wave and a smile, yelling “Hey Phil!” I took my right hand off my shifter, returned the wave, and went quickly back to white knuckles and closed the gap. I wasn’t being cute. Returning the wave was involuntary, because my parents taught me good manners. I forgot about it until I ran into Brad that night at a burger joint. Then we couldn’t stop laughing.

With a few laps to go, I was in the first group on the road, and Ben was in the second. Alex was in the third group with most of the leaders, but he blasted away and bridged up to Ben.

“Ben, go!” He said. Ben buried himself, and they caught my group. “Phil, go!” Yelled Alex.

I pulled until vomit and cramps told me this was the last hill I could sprint up today (they actually said the last hill ever, but we compromised again). When I swung off, Alex was looking good, Ben looked like hell but he was still there, and some of the favorites were a minute back, digging deep after the damage we’d done from Alex’s well-timed leapfrogging.

Ben suffered one last time to get Alex into the front group in the last kilometers, leaving our hero to play chess when Greg Daniel attacked. If Alex chose to try and follow, who’s to know if he could have made it after the effort to get across? Or would he just be starting his sprint early, and risk getting beat on the line? Alex crossed his fingers that someone else would do the chasing, or that Greg would fade, but his timing was too good, and his legs were too fast from the pickle juice.

I’ve seen Alex get second before. I’ve seen him pound his bars at the finish line in frustration. But he pounded them just a little harder on Saturday. Whatever the result, when a bunch of dudes drive and fly across the country to sweat so Alex can win a bike race, he doesn’t take it lightly, so you always get a big hug after. On Saturday, he squeezed a little harder. There’s just something about nationals.

We went to a free Gin Blossoms show that night. Remember the Gin Blossoms? Greg Daniel doesn't. He's too young. (Sigh.)
We went to a free Gin Blossoms show that night. Remember the Gin Blossoms? Greg Daniel doesn’t. He’s too young. (Sigh.)

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Phil Gaimon Journal: Racing on home roads http://www.velonews.com/2016/05/amgen-tour-of-california/phil-gaimon-journal-racing-on-home-roads_407271 Tue, 24 May 2016 14:12:28 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=407271 Phil Gaimon reflects on the highlights from his Amgen Tour of California, from In N Out Burger to "Cookie Corner."

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The Amgen Tour of California is usually known as a fun, chill race for the WorldTour teams. With good food, In N Out Burger, nice hotels, and safe, open roads, guys coming off of a hard spring beg for starts in Cali. In previous years, the race had built a reputation as a sprinter’s showcase, with a handful of GC guys duking it out on a mountaintop finish and a time trial, and then sitting back while guys like Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan put on a show the rest of the week.

This year, they changed the script on us, with only two traditional sprint days: stage 1 in San Diego (which still had a lot of elevation gain, but Cannondale’s Wouter Wipper barely missed the win behind Peter Sagan). Then they made the sprinters drag their asses over 50,000 feet of climbs to make it the last sprint day in Sacramento, where Cavendish sealed the deal for his team.

As a SoCal resident, the first three stages were home turf for me. I’d been training at altitude, so I had enough breath on the climbs to say hi to my friends on the side of the road, and it was surreal to rip around the roads I train on with a world-class peloton. I’ve climbed Highway 2 up to Angeles Crest hundreds of times, but the group ride doesn’t go quite as fast as when Alaphilippe attacked for the KOM points, and the descent into Santa Clarita was a lot more fun since we could use the whole road (except for the guys who accidentally used the shoulder, the dirt, and the pavement).

Stage 3 started on my favorite training roads and the home of my Gran Fondo coming up this November (stay tuned for an article about it soon, or check out philsfondo.com). We were on the front defending Ben King’s yellow jersey after his breakaway win into Santa Clarita, and I figured I would lead the descent down Mulholland since I know it so well, but Wouter Wippert sat on his top tube like the crazy sprinter he is, and went faster on his first time seeing the road than I would have on my hundredth.

My friends set up a “Cookie Corner” to promote Phil’s Fondo and heckle me on the Gibraltar mountaintop finish, so I was excited when the team told me to rip the climb for Lawson Craddock and Andrew Talansky. Paddy Bevin returned from a crash with a torn jersey to heroically drop us off at the front at the base of Gibraltar, where I took over, hoping to lead the peloton past my drunken, sunburned friends, but Andrew and Lawson were in charge of my pace, and as much as I wanted to win the race to the cookies, I had a job to do. They told me “faster, slower” (mostly faster) and blew me up about 500 meters before Cookie Corner. Lawson said that later that if he’d known it was coming up, he would have had me pace a little easier. Lawson’s a real man of the people, and he respects the whole cookie thing.

After another breakaway win for Toms Skujins in Tahoe, Andrew and Lawson racing for the win on the nasty Santa Rosa stage, TV time for Alan Marangoni in Sacramento, and a bus full of cookies thanks to yours truly, Team Cannondale had a great week. We tied Peter Sagan for stage wins, which is about the best you can hope for at the Tour of California. Our director here was Juan Manuel Garate. It’s first year as DS for the team, and last week was his first victory as a director, his first Mexican food, first In N Out Burger, and his first time driving a Lexus, since they sponsor the race (if anyone at Lexus is reading this, I want you to know he drove the hell out of that thing in the caravan). I won’t ask “Juanma” which part was best, because I don’t want to get Vaughters angry at him. Winning is great, but they make a nice burger at In N Out.

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Gaimon Journal: Roubaix’s adventure and pain http://www.velonews.com/2016/04/rider-journal/phil-gaimon-journal-paris-roubaix-adventure_402233 Mon, 11 Apr 2016 17:52:47 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=402233 Gaimon describes how it is to fight into the Roubaix break, ride the cobbles blind, crash, and eventually withdraw from the Queen of the

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In the fall, everyone sets goals for the big races.
“I want to get on the Tour of California team,” say all the Americans.
“I hope I get a spot for the Tour,” thinks just about everyone.
“I’m dreaming of Paris-Roubaix,” say the big guys.

Then the season starts, and reality sets in. Reality this year for Cannondale (and the WorldTour in general) took the form of illness, spreading fast among teammates at hotels and stage races, no matter how much hand sanitizer you use. Many of the guys who’d been training for Paris-Roubaix spent last week in bed, and I got an email on Wednesday saying I was flying to Roubaix Friday, followed by teasing from Vaughters, my teammates, and lots of you jerks on social media. Funny or not, it would be a disservice to the race and our healthy riders to start seven guys, and I’d be able to contribute something. Right? Shit, I hoped so.

I’d done one small race on cobbles before, but not a one-day race, and certainly not the biggest one-day race in the world. I got a new Cannondale Synapse that I rode once, but there wasn’t time to recon any of the cobble sectors, and let’s not pretend that riding two hours on a training ride would make me any more prepared to race them with the best in the world, who’ve been doing it for years. For this, recon would only spoil the surprise. I went in expecting adventure and pain, hoping for a chance to enjoy the spectacle, and like every other delusional bike racer, secretly dreaming of winning.

Our team leader was Dylan Van Baarle, a young Dutch guy fresh off a great finish at the Tour of Flanders, who spent the hour before the Roubaix start singing along to Dutch pop music in the bus, not nervous at all.

Most of the guys had a very simple job, except it’s also hard as hell: “Stay behind Dylan. Anything he wants, you give him,” said Andreas Klier, our director.

People ask why teams ride together in the group, forgetting that this is a team sport. It’s not like the president and vice president never taking the same plane. If it gets windy, we form a mini-echelon, with one guy riding out in the wind to protect the others. More importantly, a team like Etixx could go to the front at any moment and rip a climb or a crosswind and blow the race to smithereens. Your team can undo that damage, or if Dylan has a mishap, the back of the field is your finish line. Maybe that means you crash together, but you’ll never win apart.

My job was to go for the early break, which wouldn’t be easy, either. Just to get to the front, you’re jumping sidewalks, shooting up gutters, following moves that get welded back. It’s a crapshoot mixed with a chess game at 400 watts. Wouter Wippert and I took turns. I’d let his sprinter legs cover more of the attacks on flat roads, and I’d jump on anything resembling a hill. Sure enough, something went on a hill. I was with four guys, then it was 10, then it was 22, but I didn’t look back. I looked straight ahead, and still ran over something that pounded my crotch and caused my seat to angle down. Still, I felt good when we had 40 seconds. That should have been the time the pack called a pee break and gave us 10 minutes, but then I saw Cavendish had snuck in the break, which meant it was doomed. Etixx was going crazy on the front, unwilling to give him a leash.

So the breakaway was short-lived, caught after an hour or so. I did the “stay with Dylan” thing for few minutes, but then there was an open stretch, so I stopped to get my saddle fixed. On one hand, stopping in Paris-Roubaix is dumb. On the other hand, riding with the saddle wrong is a good way to get injured.

When I caught back up, the group was stretched out and splitting in a crosswind, and Jack Bauer flatted. I hung out at the back to help him after his wheel change, and then we hit the cobbles. Things got different there.

I just followed the guy in front of me. Sometimes it was the dirt on the side, sometimes it was the center, and then every few minutes you come across a guy who picked the wrong line. He’s sitting there in pain, so you slam your brakes along with 50 other guys and then catch back up on the next paved section. Multiply that by 10 crashes and chases, and I’d say that’s the Paris-Roubaix experience for about one-third of the group.

Halfway through the “race” (which is in quotes because I wouldn’t say I was racing anymore), I was in a group chasing a group chasing a group (okay, maybe I was racing). I didn’t have much hope of seeing Dylan again, but I was expecting to finish, and we came ripping into a town between cobble sectors. This is where recon or experience or cyclocross or prayers might have helped, as I don’t know how to rip a turn (paved or pavé) on those wide tires with super-low pressure in them, and now I’m trying to do it with the best in the world on roads that I’ve never seen before. I took a slide and got a little bruise on my hip, but I got up right away and joined a group with slightly less hope of finishing. They all stopped in the feed zone, and I kept riding, hoping to taste a few more cobbles (not literally).

There’s another race behind the bike race, of team mechanics and soigneurs jumping from one sector to the next, cutting the course to leapfrog the pack, over and over. Our staff passed me and told me I’d better hop in the car, because I’d been directed off-course. I was bummed, but it’s not like I was in the race any more, and if they hadn’t seen me, I’d probably still be out there.

So I ripped the rest of the cobble sectors in a Skoda with “Disco” Jonny and Pat O’Donnell, and watched the finish from the team bus after a shower. I felt bad about the crash and the DNF until I saw the results — very few have the Paris-Roubaix they wanted, and I did my job. Asking a bike racer how he did at Roubaix is kind of like asking a gambling addict if he’s up or down over his lifetime: Maybe you get lucky sometimes, but nobody’s up.

Dylan finished 16th. Next year he’ll be in the top 10. Then top five or podium. Someday, he’ll win it. That’s how you’re supposed to do it, and it’s a good thing, because his singing career isn’t nearly as promising. (But Dylan, if you read this, don’t stop the singing.)

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Phil Gaimon Journal: The world’s #1 restaurant with mom http://www.velonews.com/2016/03/rider-journal/phil-gaimon-journal-the-worlds-best-restaurant-with-mom_400236 Tue, 29 Mar 2016 17:20:32 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=400236 Phil Gaimon contends with Girona's loud church bells, enjoys a trip to Nice with his mother, and dines at the best restaurant in the world,

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I arrived in Girona on February 1, and got the keys to my new apartment. I’d signed the lease sight-unseen, but I wasn’t worried, because I did my homework and made sure it had everything I needed:

– Washer (they don’t do dryers here)
-Elevator (carrying a bike up stairs gets old)
-Two bedrooms (my mom said she’d want to visit — more on that and our trip to the world’s best restaurant later)
-Location in Old Town Girona, with all the cobblestones and narrow streets where they film “Game of Thrones.” I’d lived in the outskirts of Girona in 2014, so I knew that you’re out of the bubble if you’re not within the 800 meters of “Old Town,” where it seems like one-third of the WorldTour has settled.

The place is small but nice, with one original stonewall built in 1200 AD, and a view of the cathedral. I put my two shirts on hangers in the closet, crammed the drawers with new Castelli gear, filled the spare bedroom with Cannondales, and plopped down on the sofa to admire my work.

Nice job, Phil. You thought everything out, and you’re going to be very comforta —
DOOOOONNNNNNGGGGG
I jumped. What the hell was that?
DOOOOONNNNNNGGGGG
Oh. That’s the cathedral. How often is it going to —
DOOOOONNNNNNGGGGG
I looked out the window. Yep. That 15-foot bell is about 50 feet from my single-pane window and un-insulated 800-year-old stone wall.

I guess it’s three o’clock.

It rings on the hour of course, but also on the half-hour, and softly on the 15 and 45. Then sometimes it just goes for 20 minutes straight like the city is under attack, or they’re testing the emergency bell system. Maybe the hunchback has to practice.

My friends said that after awhile, you don’t even hear the bells anymore. “That’s when you know you’ve gone insane!” I argued.

Over a couple weeks, I got used to the ringing in my brain. I’m not buying a grandfather clock for the house back home yet, but I almost like it. When it rings 10 times in the evening, that means go to sleep. I’ll sleep through the night until seven bells wake me up, but that’s my snooze bell. Eight bells means it’s time to get up and scramble some huevos, and dump the oatmeal into a pot of boiling agua, and 11 means I’m already late to meet Mike Woods and Alex Howes at the bridge for a ride (it’s all downhill, and they’re 10 minutes late anyway).

I’ve done a few races so far: hard ones that you’ve never heard of, with power numbers on the Garmin I don’t see too often. It’s funny, because the NRC calendar hasn’t even started yet back home, but I’ve been riding the front, chasing breakaways, and surviving wet cobblestones for months. So far, though, the real adventures have been outside the race, adjusting to bells and the Euro-pro life in Girona.

In New York, locals brag about their knowledge of the subway system. (“You take the A to the G, walk across the street to the L, and that goes all the way to Queens”) (Don’t try that, and don’t email me. I’ve only been to New York a few times and I just picked letters at random, but that’s what you weirdoes sound like.)

In Los Angeles, we do the same thing with cars. “You take the 405 to the 101 and get off at Cahuenga to go into Hollywood. Never take Highland! Highland is for tourists.” (That wasn’t random. I live right by there. You’ve got to be crazy to get off at Highland.)

The thing in Girona is being an insider. If you have friends in town who don’t race bikes, that’s a real feather in your POC. Otherwise, there’s no big supermarket in Old Town, so you brag about knowing the right shops for everything.

“You got tuna at the Consum Market? Are you crazy? It’s fresher at the Spar. Now if you want salmon, don’t go anywhere but the Paraguayan fish market. Of course it’s only open on the second Tuesday of the month between 9 a.m. and 9:15.”

The real pros in Girona have a different store for every item on their shopping list. It takes some time to figure it out, and it’s hard to get everything you need at first, so you make compromises. I use Tabasco instead of Sriracha on my eggs, for example, but when Toms Skujins found the real Rooster Sauce at one of the supermarkets, he bought a bottle for everybody, because teammates work together.

My Cannondales got kicked out of the guest room for a couple weeks, but it was worth it to have my mom visit. My race schedule was open, so she’d planned to spend the week exploring Girona while I trained during the day, but right when she landed, Mavic asked me and Kristoffer Skjerping to fly to Nice to test out some new wheels. I told them I didn’t want to leave mom at home and we had a rental car already, so Kristoffer found himself on a road trip to France with the Gaimons. He was a good sport about it, and Mavic treated us to a lovely weekend, with a classy hotel, crepes on the Mediterranean, and some sweet carbon wheels, which helped Kristoffer and me win the Paris-Nice Gran Fondo.

The food scene in Girona is well-known, so on her last day, I took mom to Can Roca, rated the #1 restaurant in the world. Literally, it’s the best place to eat on the planet, so reservations are booked a year in advance, but I was lucky and got in for lunch on someone’s cancellation. I’m an “oatmeal and scrambled eggs” kind of guy, and I don’t think I’d even been to a Michelin-rated restaurant (I’d never cheat on Mavic with another tire, after how they treated me in Nice), so it was a lot like giving the keys to James Bond’s car to a 15-year-old getting his learner’s permit, but just as I might buy a plane ticket to go somewhere cool on vacation, this was an experience worth sharing with mom, and now you, the reader, if you scroll through the photos above. Thankfully, I’m not on $10 a day anymore, but I probably won’t ever eat like this again.

I was ready to go train when mom left, with Critérium International coming up.

“I guess it’s time for me to go to the airport.” She said.
“Oh, already?” I asked.
“The bells just rang eight, right?”
“Bells? What bells?”

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Phil Gaimon Journal: Breaking the world Tegaderm record http://www.velonews.com/2016/02/rider-journal/phil-gaimon-journal-breaking-the-world-tegaderm-record_396980 Mon, 29 Feb 2016 20:46:31 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=396980 Phil Gaimon makes short work of the Cannondale team's first aid kit in Argentina then heads to France for more early season action.

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When I talk about Cannondale’s first “training camp” in Aspen in November, I put it in quotes because we hardly trained at all. Instead, we had activities to get to know each other and meetings to check off the nuts and bolts. One night, I sat at a large, intimidating wood table, where all the team directors were gathered to discuss my training, goals, and an approximate race schedule. They made something clear that I already knew: I’m probably not going to be a team leader, so instead of shooting to peak for one race, I should try to stay around 90 percent and keep healthy, so I’m ready to be a solid role-player year-round, and swoop in to help out at a race if someone twists an ankle.

That conversation proved important after stage 2 of the Tour of San Luis. With just over 1k to go, the pack made a fast right turn onto a big road. I was near the front but not quite at the front, so I decided to use my American Criterium Skills to carry speed into the corner, planning to take a line a few inches wider than the guy in front of me, using that momentum to move up in the pack in the next straight.

Things I didn’t consider before entering that turn:
1. I totally won a stacked CBR crit in Los Angeles last year, but that was due to European Relentless Attack Skills, or possibly General Fitness Skills. I don’t really have Criterium Skills.
2. I wasn’t in America anymore. I was in Argentina, and roads are different there. Some of them have narrow seams in the pavement to separate the lanes, which caused a bad crash for Adriano Malori a few days later. This one had a six-inch cement curb down the center, in exactly the line that I’d committed to. I didn’t see it until I was flying sideways at 30 miles an hour, staring at my yellow shoes that were suddenly higher than my face.

I lost a good fraction of my skin in that landing, and what looked like a third butt cheek formed out of swelling on my hip, knocking me from the 90 percent January fitness to something in maybe the mid-70s. Lots of guys would have dropped out with that much road rash (at many points in my career, myself included), but I did as I was told in Aspen: I finished the stage race, I brought all the bottles to the guys (no easy task in a race that’s 110 degrees every day), helped keep our leaders out of the wind, and only complained about my wounds to Dr. Sprouse, who gets a shout-out because he spent an hour every day pouring various stinging chemicals all over me, and mummifying my arm, hip, knee, chest, and ankle. He said he brought “a grand tour’s worth” of Tegaderm to Argentina, and used it up on me in two days (so enjoy your hour record, Evelyn. I’ve got my own record, which took way more suffering, and only a few seconds).

After San Luis, I healed and packed for a few days at home in Los Angeles, and then headed to Girona, where I’ll be based for the season. My apartment is in “Old Town,” the epicenter of pro cycling that makes Girona such a hotbed. I do miss L.A., where you run into celebrities pretty often, but Miley Cyrus doesn’t invite me for a coffee. Here, when I spot someone I’ve watched and admired on TV, I’ll often get a “Hey Phil!” and maybe a hug (followed by a “why haven’t you showered?”).

Last week, I raced Haut Var and Provence: five stages of crazy French racing over six days, that you’ve probably never heard of, but according to my teammates’ power files, were harder than most one-day classics.

Sophie Roullois was one of our soigneurs. As the only French-speaker, she was also mouthpiece for a lot of hungry Cannondale riders to the waitstaff at the restaurants.

“SoSo, did you order more bread?” We’d whine, every evening.

“Yes, I tell you a thousand times I order more bread, but I think they forget!”

I got reacquainted with the European racing style and roads, but fortunately not too acquainted with the roads, as I had in Argentina. That meant I was able to contribute more than bottles, marking early breakaways when Tom Slagter was in yellow in Haut Var, and chasing down a breakaway in the closing kilometers with Joe Dombrowski in Provence.

When you finish a race, soigneurs are waiting at the finish with OTE recovery drinks and water (we used to get Coca-Cola, but I think someone on the team misread the news about Luca Paolini, so that’s out). I finished at the back of the pack after chasing the breakaway with Joe, and Sophie handed me my drinks, pointing me to where the bus was parked.

“Do you need anything else, Phil?” She asked.

“SoSo, did you ever order that bread?” I asked, coughing, because I was still catching my breath.

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Phil Gaimon Journal: Call me Odysseus http://www.velonews.com/2016/01/rider-journal/phil-gaimon-journal-call-me-odysseus_393139 Mon, 18 Jan 2016 19:28:21 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=393139 Phil Gaimon's journey to his first race of 2016, Tour de San Luis, was long and fraught, but he made the best of airplane delays and food

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Long flights are always intimidating, but South America isn’t bad, right? It seems like it’s just a quick trip down the coast from L.A., especially if it’s been a decade or two since you (I) got a B in geography class.

My trip was not so easy, with a delay from LAX that snowballed into a missed connection in Houston, a 24-hour wait until the next flight, followed by the expected day-long layover in Buenos Aires to get to San Luis.

All said, the journey was 75 hours door-to-door, but I’m no rookie: I’d packed spare underwear in my carry-on, as well as half of a Trader Joes (including a sizable bar of chocolate). The airline gave me a night at the Hyatt, complete with meal vouchers, so I basically lived like a king.

While my poor teammates spent hours crammed in a plane, my trip was broken up nicely, with a night at the Hyatt in Houston, a pleasant cruise on the recumbent spin bike at the gym in the hotel basement, and an Uber trip to Waffle House for breakfast (yes, smothered, covered, etc). I even had a travel companion in Jon Hornbeck, who also had the misfortune of flying from LAX.

Jon only had a carry-on, so while my gear was held hostage, he was able to supply some bib shorts at the gym (minor breach of contract on my part, but Castelli and Vaughters were understanding, and George Hincapie offered me a free week at his hotel in Greenville for my 75-minute endorsement). (That last part is a lie.)

After three days of bonding with Jon (and sharing his chamois), we’re friends for life, and I’ll be best man at his wedding (if we don’t get married to each other), but now I’m rooming with Andre Cardoso, so by the end of the week, BFF status might have shifted toward this Portugese hero, who didn’t know I was taking a picture while he flossed or whatever he’s up to.

This trip was a metaphor for my long journey to Garmin, then to Cannondale, with a year on Optum (now Rally) in between. Everything is green argyle instead of blue, but otherwise, it feels like I went out to lunch and it took a year. I’m back at the Tour of San Luis, which is chock full of great memories from my time in the leader’s jersey in 2014.

Everyone keeps asking each other how we’re feeling, how training has been going. Since we haven’t raced yet, nobody really knows.

“I won the group ride in Simi Valley last week, Alex. I’m ripping right now!” I promised.

I don’t expect to land the one-in-a-million lucky breakaway like I did in 2014, but I’m excited to build some new memories this year. Somewhat less excited for the trip home (where hopefully my house hasn’t been invaded, if we’re continuing the Homer metaphor).

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Phil Gaimon Journal: Another round of the Tour de Phil http://www.velonews.com/2015/10/rider-journal/phil-gaimon-journal-another-round-of-the-tour-de-phil_387775 Fri, 16 Oct 2015 12:04:17 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=387775 Phil Gaimon returns to Slipstream's Cannondale team after a year away, with a new perspective after the loss of his father.

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I had some ups and downs in my 2014 with Garmin-Sharp. Being strong enough to race in Europe is half the battle (maybe three-fifths), but learning how to navigate the pack, control the breakaways, and help the leaders win big races is a process. It’s not rocket science, but it takes time. By the second half of the year, I’d carved out a role for myself on the team, and proved that I could be a factor in the big races.

Cycling is a business (at least, for those of us making a living at it), so while I was bummed that I wasn’t re-hired for 2015, that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I didn’t take it personal, and I blamed myself. (You know how I could have kept my job? I could have won five races.) So in the fall of 2014, despite the end of my contract, I trained hard for the upcoming WorldTour race in Beijing, and Japan Cup the week after. Instead of showing up unmotivated and unfit (which is very temping in October when you know you’re off the team), I brought a good attitude, made all the front splits, and played a role in several stage wins. My teammates told me that I’d learned in one season what takes some guys two or three (although that was after a few end-of-season beers, and one teammate — I won’t say who — also insisted that the McDonalds we had at the Tokyo airport was the best food he’d ever tasted). Jonathan Vaughters noticed, and said I should continue to train hard, because he’d do his best to have me back if a spot opened up.

Optum provided a great home for me this year. Going from a WorldTour team to a Continental team, you do feel a difference in budget, and I always jokingly pointed it out to my teammates. “On Garmin, we got an hour massage and had five kinds of cereal” or “wait, you guys have to wipe your own butt on this team?” But overall, management, staff, and equipment were all as pro as it gets, so the adjustment was easy. I felt right at home, and was glad to be on a bus with a bunch of old and new friends. Also, THEY MADE ME A COOKIE BIKE.

With Optum, I was able to apply what I’d learned in Europe. At Volta Algarve, I lost time after attacking in a hilly finale, but still finished 20th overall. At California, I managed 14th. In the past, I always wussed out when bumping started, but a year in Europe got me over that, and I came around a lot of lead-out trains this season, dropping our sprinters off in good position.

When Utah began, I was ready. I attacked on the finishing circuits in early stages and climbed at the front, but I had some trouble at home that began to wear on me, and it only got worse, as my dad went from healthy to not feeling well, to a bad cancer diagnosis over just a few weeks. I thought I could wait until the races were over to go home and visit, but I wasn’t sleeping much between stages, and my head wasn’t in it.

Kiel Reijnen rode up to me during a stage at Colorado and said he was sorry to hear about my dad, and I had to hold back tears. I ate one of those Clif Organic dark chocolate/almond bars, thinking maybe if someone saw me, I could just say I was really emotional because this snack is so damn delicious. Then I stopped at the feed zone and booked the next flight home. It was tough, but I got lots of love and support from the team, and I’ll never forget that (although they still refused to wipe my butt for me).

Fortunately, my next year is still looking up, as Vaughters still sent over that contract. At the lower levels of cycling — a world of folding teams and one-year contracts — it feels like you’re always one twisted ankle away from flipping burgers (or one win from the big time), but at the top, they look at your body of work. They don’t care so much whether you got 8th or 14th (or went home to sit with your folks at a hospital). They want to know who you are and what you’re capable of, that you’re physically able to do the job, that you know how, that you’re a team player, a hard worker — bonus if you can crack a joke on the bus and your teammates or sponsors like having you around.

Vaughters knows what he’ll get from me because I already showed him, and I’m excited to exceed those expectations now that I have more experience under my belt. Of course, that didn’t stop him from sending me on another late-season grand tour simulation, lovingly (hatingly?) named the “Tour de Phil.” The idea was that I ride really hard, about five hours a day, for three weeks (with two rest days), simulating the wattage demands of a grand tour, which will help my legs adapt to the demands of the longer races I’ll face next year. It sounds crazy, but it worked last time.

By the end of stage 10, I was starting to enjoy the Tour de Phil. I was eating everything in sight, going from bed to bike to bed, and I’d been having those great days where it’s hard to go less than 300 watts. Then the morning of stage 11, my dad passed away, so instead of getting on my bike and heading to the canyons in Malibu, I got into my car and headed to the airport.

On my way to dad’s funeral, I noticed that my bike had two flat tires. They say these things come in threes.

So I DNFed the Tour de Phil, and I start my offseason with time to focus on family before I put it all into bikes again. If racing has taught me anything, it’s how to push through a rough time, and look forward to better days. One good thing about a fake grand tour: No one cares, and you can try it again later.

It is sad to leave for Europe when the sponsorship scene in the U.S. is looking ugly again, with fewer teams and fewer jobs. I hope it turns around, because there are lots of great humans and bike racers here, men and women. They all deserve a longer massage. And a clean butt.

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Phil Gaimon Journal: How to win the breakfast buffet http://www.velonews.com/2015/08/rider-journal/phil-gaimon-journal-how-to-win-the-breakfast-buffet_382508 Mon, 24 Aug 2015 15:23:49 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=382508 Optum's Phil Gaimon walks through the finer points of how to make the most of a race's breakfast buffet — always keep an eye on your

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Phil Gaimon Journal: Time to train http://www.velonews.com/2015/08/news/road/phil-gaimon-journal-time-to-train_380340 Mon, 03 Aug 2015 16:17:53 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=380340 Phil Gaimon rides the Tour de Beauce, rests, and returns to training, with help from Henry David Thoreau

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I hate when people start their blog with an apology for how long it’s been since they’ve written, so I want to make it clear that I haven’t written in awhile because I haven’t raced in awhile, and that’s what I blog about. So I’m not sorry.

You see, when the Tour de France is going on, if you’re not one of the chosen teams for cycling’s main event, you’re probably sitting at home. Few races try to compete with the Tour, since they wouldn’t get the top riders, or a whole lot of viewership. It’s nice, though, because you don’t get much chance to rest during the season, or really train sometimes.

There was one race that I didn’t really feel like writing about, but it’s been long enough that I can tell you about the Tour de Beauce. Beauce is a great event, and one I hadn’t exactly targeted, but was looking forward to, with a good climbs, a long time trial, and a strong team.

Near the end of the second stage, Pierrick Naud was escorting me and Mike Woods to the base of Mount Megantic. You see where this is going: one of the dumbest crashes I’ve ever been a part of.

The road was dry and safe, there wasn’t any reason to fight for wheels, and we were about as organized, at the front, and together as teammates could hope to be (those are the things directors yell at you to do). I don’t know what happened in front, but suddenly we were all piled on top of each other, along with a bunch of other dudes. I slid on my back like a turtle, and remember looking over to see Woods sliding on his belly like a penguin. Pierrick kind of rolled, generously spreading the road rash to all sides. When I stood up, my bike was shockingly far away.

I limped to the finish, where our heroic soigneurs, Jose and Myriam, had found a small shack/house thing. The house was intended to shelter us while we warmed up and ate, but instead became an impromptu hospital/comedy club, as we cleaned and patched our wounds, observed and roasted by the guys who made it to the finish unscathed. Woods had taken some road rash to his nether regions, and the joke was that it was three feet long before the crash. Road rash is temporary, but a good dick joke is forever if I can write it in a blog or a book.

Pierrick had stitches and continued in the race. I think he used to play hockey. Woodsy spent some time with his family, and my crushed helmet indicated that I should sit in a dark hotel room staring at the ceiling for a few days. I emerged only to buy a blender and groceries, so I could make kale/beat shakes, which make me happy for some reason.

Guillaume Boivin rescued Beauce for us, racing like a wrecking ball, and capping it off with a National Maple Syrup Championship a week later. While I took a few days off, Tom Zirbel and our North Star crew held up their end and won a big race in front of our Minnesota-based sponsors.

I spent most of July at altitude in Big Bear, training at 7,000 feet for Utah and Colorado. My fiancé came up for a weekend, and Jesse Anthony joined for a few days, but he left me for a house the team was renting in Colorado. I could have gone there, but I trained in Big Bear at this time last year and it worked, so I didn’t want to change anything.

In my book, I talked a lot about sad times in cheap motels on the way from one race to another, living out of my car, eating dinner alone. I always looked back on it fondly, though, and reliving it for a few weeks in Big Bear wasn’t all bad. Maybe I just needed someone to tap me on the shoulder back then, and say everything was going to be okay. I know that now.

The Tour of Cali stage was snowed out, but it doesn’t get any better than Big Bear for good riding and good people. I have an annual tradition of reading Thoreau’s Walden by the lake, and I think he’d be proud of the portable kitchen I set up in my motel room, still in a box from the amateur days. Electric skillet, one fork, one knife, one spoon. I can afford vegetables now, though. Back then it was carbs and protein. Veggies were just empty vitamins. Thoreau was a proponent of a morning walk and manual labor. But wouldn’t be happy about all the training I did. I imagine he’d think pro cycling is pretty silly (but that’s the beauty of it, Henry!).

Beauce and portable kitchens are behind me now, and Utah and Colorado are coming up. I’m excited to line up with the team. My best “Miami Vice” impression is all over the race poster. Thoreau never had that.

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Phil Gaimon Journal: Food diary http://www.velonews.com/2015/05/rider-journal/phil-gaimon-journal-food-diary_371849 Tue, 26 May 2015 20:16:57 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=371849 Gaimon keeps track of everything he eats during one day of racing at the Amgen Tour of California. Spoiler alert: There are cookies

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Phil Gaimon Journal: Fish fry http://www.velonews.com/2015/04/rider-journal/phil-gaimon-journal-fish-fry_366993 Fri, 17 Apr 2015 15:30:58 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=366993 Gaimon burns some fish, returns to Redlands, and celebrates with a bit of fudge, with an eye to bigger races to come this season

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I had a rough few weeks when I got back from Portugal at the beginning of March. Between jet lag and fatigue from a month of racing in Europe, I wasn’t able to put together a good block of training, so I signed up for the San Dimas Stage Race to see where my fitness was. The stage 1 uphill time trial suits me perfectly, and I’ve won it twice, but I finished fourth this year. Not what I’d hoped for, but not bad.

I was tempted to continue the stage race and try to improve on my GC, but I nearly died crashing myself in that race in 2013. I thought I’d conquered my fear last fall when I returned to the scene of the crash. I found the spot where my body was helicoptered from a puddle of blood to the hospital where they sewed my face back on. I stood on that spot, and I danced. Then I peed on it. I probably won’t get to dance or pee on my own grave, but this was pretty close.

The ultimate conquering of fear is to get back on the horse, but I decided to head to Big Bear instead, to do some long rides with teammate Mike Woods, and get a little altitude into my system. As much as I wanted to conquer the San Dimas circuit race fear, I had bigger fish to fry.

The Tour of California is a fish.

Actually, I did fry a salmon for dinner one night in Big Bear. That is, first I fried it, then I forgot about it on the stove, so it was also blackened.

I put in some good miles and hard climbing in Big Bear, and went to all my favorite restaurants. I didn’t go to the fudge shop, but not because I was watching my calories. It was because they close at 8 p.m. (who closes at 8, and who wants fudge before 8?). A few days later, after a good result in the stage 2 ITT at Redlands, I went to the fudge shop by bike, dragging half my team with me (they’d wondered why I wanted a 45-minute cool-down). Before you call me a hypocrite for eating fudge that early, I left it in the bag and ate it at 9 p.m. that night.

I was sitting second overall after the time trial, ahead of the GC riders we were most worried about. With a mountaintop finish the next day, the team liked my odds to take yellow. Tom Zirbel led me into it, and then Bjorn Selander, Will Routley, and Jesse Anthony lined up at the front from the bottom of the climb. Every time I looked back, the group was smaller and smaller. Mike Woods was up next, and his super pull left everyone behind us gasping. I just had to counter Gavin Mannion’s attack at 600 meters to go, taking the stage and the race lead.

After that, aside from a crash on my butt in the criterium (it hurts to wipe now), there wasn’t much stress. The Sunset circuit is notorious for GC shakeups, but our climbers rode perfectly, Tom Zirbel took insane Tom Zirbel pulls, while Pierrick Naud and Tom Soladay ripped the twisty part of the course. They kept the break close, and team Jamis helped us bring it back, with Cal Giant behind us, ready to pull for their two jersey-wearers if we needed it. I barely saw the wind.

It was touching to return to Redlands. I’m not a crier, but every time I edited that chapter in my book, I’d tear up. Some of the folks who made it special last time were missing, but most were still there, and I have a lot of new friends from my time in Big Bear and LA. My fiancée was racing, so I even had someone to take care of my podium flowers. So many familiar faces and kind words (on and off the bike), I felt like I went out to lunch and it took three years.

When I won the overall at Redlands in 2012, it was my first big win. My team wasn’t invited to the Tour of California that year, so I went back to Georgia and had a good celebration. Perhaps a little too much celebration. This time, the win still felt great after such a team effort. We went out for burritos and had a beer, but we’ll celebrate later. We have bigger fish to fry.

I didn’t mean that literally, but I think I will cook a fish tonight. I’ll keep an eye on it this time.

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Phil Gaimon Journal: Good legs and bad omens http://www.velonews.com/2015/02/rider-journal/phil-gaimon-journal-good-legs-bad-omens_361597 Tue, 24 Feb 2015 17:24:16 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=361597 Phil Gaimon opens his season at the Volta ao Algarve, getting acquainted with stray cats around town and launching attacks out on the road

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I’m currently seated on a small sofa at an apartment in Vilamoura, Portugal, and my teammates/roommates are trying to figure out where the purring sound is coming from. They have a problem with stray cats around here, and we think there might be one inside the apartment. This is partly because I lured a cat into Ryan Anderson’s room the other day with some “Mountain Berry” Clif Blocks (non-caf) as a prank, and maybe someone put a cat in the cupboard as joke? It’s like a cat opera at night, with all the purring. Someone needs to translate reruns of “The Price is Right,” because Bob Barker will solve this. Will anyone get that joke?

Optum Pro Cycling just wrapped up our first race of the year, the Volta Algarve, in the Algarve region (duh) of Portugal, a five-day stage race. It usually takes a few races to get in shape, and about 10 months to learn how to work together as a team (and then half the team changes and you start from scratch), but we had a pretty good showing, and rode well together.

The field was probably the hardest we’ll face this season, with solid rosters from some of the top teams, but it’s still February, so most of the Euro pros aren’t in full Euro pro speed (or motivation), and my teammates and I were very much in the bike race. I attacked with 25k to go in the first climbing day, and was caught with around 10k to go. It was one of those attacks that if the big teams had hesitated, we would have stuck it, and I’d have looked like a genius. But it didn’t, so I lost 90 seconds on the GC, and I’m still kicking myself. You get so few chances. Do you gamble it on a win that might never come, or be conservative to maybe get top-10 or 15 overall? I ended up trying a bit of everything this week, but top-15 sounds pretty good now that it’s finished and I was top-50 or something (even if I wanted to look at the results, there’s no wifi at the apartment).

There was one more climbing day, and my goal this time was to wait until the hitters went. That sort of patience is tough. You always think “If I go now, they’ll probably give me a decent leash, because the who the hell am I?”

But that backfired on me before, so I stayed in the field and saved my energy this time. Then the hitters went on the final climb. I rode away from some of them, and watched as the other ones rode away from me. I finished 15th, pretty good for where my form is at the moment. Teammate Mike Woods was fifth. Like, only four dudes were ahead of him. So there’s a top-15. Richie Porte did a thing where he pulled on the front for about 15k, chasing down everyone who tried to attack in the valley. I thought with all that work, Richie would go backwards on the last climb like he’d pulled a parachute. But he won. So if you’re gambling on the Tour de France, bet on that guy. And cut me 10% for the insider tip.

The last stage was for the sprinters, but I felt pretty good, despite starting the day with blood and feathers in my chain and cassette, from a bird that hit my bike on the roof racks (I also found a dead blackbird in one of the hotel rooms this week. I’m happy that I don’t believe in bad omens, although I do believe in Alfred Hitchcock). We were working for our sprinter, Eric Young. The plan was for me and [Tom] Zirbel to take the front and lead into the last turn of the race, with around 4.5k to go, and then our sprinters would have to fight from there. I was next to Guillaume [Boivin] at the start, and he hit me with a dose of reality: “Let’s be honest. You guys won’t be there with 6k to go, same way I’m not there on the big climbs.”

It hurt my feelings a little bit, but he made a valid point, if you consider my skinny climber body, and what I’ve been able to contribute to lead outs historically (very little). You see, it’s scary near the end of a sprint day. It’s more like a hockey match, without the referees. We were talking about it after the stage.

“I wish we could have just hit ‘Pause’ for a minute,” said Jesse Anthony (who might have watched too much “Saved by the Bell” growing up), “at that left turn with 15k to go, where some guys went the long way around the roundabout to move up, some went inside the turn on the wrong side of the road, others bunny-hopped the median at full speed. There were just riders everywhere, volunteers, cops, spectators with their cellphones out.”

He didn’t mention the stray cats watching, but it was a crazy scene that happens all the time. Nobody even crashed.

Maybe it was Guillaume’s pessimistic pep talk, but Zirbel and I were on the front with 5k to go (I might have looked like I knew what I was doing), dropping off our fast guys in pretty good position for the finale. Of course, things got a little nasty in the last 4k, with more roundabouts, poles separating the bike lane and the road, short cobblestoned speed bumps, and large men named André Greipel. I think if he just stands up and puts his weight on the pedals, he’s going 50 mph.

I went to the back, which is generally a happy place that close to the end. And then as the pack was blasting through a roundabout with 800m to go, a local team flew underneath me, full sprint, with two sets of handlebars tickling my hip as they went by. I understand the urge to sprint at 800m to go, except we were at least 80 guys back, and Greipel probably crossed the line 5 seconds ago, so maybe this isn’t the time to take risks in a roundabout. But whatever. “No crashes, no apologies” is my motto. Also, “Have your pets spayed or neutered.”

We decided that the stray cat was outside all along. Maybe he smelled the dead bird in my chain.

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Phil Gaimon Journal: Not peaking http://www.velonews.com/2015/01/news/road/phil-gaimon-journal-peaking_358268 Thu, 15 Jan 2015 14:23:08 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=358268 Phil Gaimon writes about winter training, which included a recent mountain bike ride that left him and his bike covered in mud

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I’ve always lived in warm climates, where it’s easy to be consistent in the winter. For many years after I started racing, I really sucked, so winter was always the best time to make big improvements in my fitness. The only problem: if you’re doing the hard work in the winter, you generally peak in the spring. So I’d always come out swinging at the first local races. When I started to suck less, I’d win something early (San Dimas, Redlands, Merco), but even in the last couple of years, when I only sucked a little, I’d pay for my spring in May or June.

This year, with Optum p/b Kelly Benefits (as I understand it, p/b means “peanut butter”), I’m hoping to not suck at all. California is a big target, so the coach is holding me back. Instead of trying to improve my power in the winter, I’m improving my endurance, getting a real base. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been training. It just means I’ve been spending a lot of time in the gym (only bicep curls and abs), and hours on the bike are more in the 250 watt range than the 400 I might have been chasing in the past.

I even went mountain biking once. My friend Stefano Barberi had been wanting to show me the trails in his neighborhood, and we selected the day that turned out to be the first rainstorm to hit Los Angeles in months. We both grew up in the southeast, where rain is no big deal, so we didn’t know any better. Here, the people aren’t equipped for any form of precipitation. The same way that an inch of snow can shut down a city like Atlanta, a few drops can cripple LA. Take a look at an overhead view of car accidents on a rainy day here, and you’ll see why I stick to the parks and bike paths. It’s something to do with slippery pavement. Or the people here are morons.

Fortunately, the trails in the rain were much safer, because it was impossible to go more than 10 mph (no idea what mph stands but, but I assume it’s delicious, spreadable, and comes in “crunchy,” or “creamy”). To make things even safer, mud quickly stuck to the wheels, clogged up the fork, and eventually made the wheels stop rolling. Try hurting yourself by crashing into soft mud at low speed. Can’t be done! In fact, it’s hard to crash at all when the mud holds your bike upright. We finally had to stop the ride, because the city of Austin called. They said it was too muddy, and we were going to damage their prized “heritage cactus.” (Too soon?)

The mountain bike is clean again, hanging on the wall, gathering dust, as any MTB (that stands for “MounTain Bike”) belonging to a roadie should, and I’m starting to do big boy rides again. For awhile, I was afraid that not going crazy in the winter would ruin my legs, but then I did my first big ride, and according to the old power meter, I’m going to be just fine. I think I won’t suck. More importantly, the primary goal was to not peak in January, and we’re about halfway through. So far, so good!

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Phil Gaimon Journal: You again. With the two wheels. http://www.velonews.com/2014/11/rider-journal/phil-gaimon-journal-two-wheels_354427 Fri, 28 Nov 2014 13:00:37 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=354427 Gaimon wraps up his season in Asia and then tries to avoid making eye contact with his bike during a four-week break from riding

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Normally, my bike lives on a wall rack in the living room (garage space doesn’t come cheap in LA), but I kept in it in the bag when the season ended. I didn’t want it staring at me in my time off. Other than riding down the street for dinner, I took four full weeks without pedaling.

My last races of the year were the Tour of Beijing and Japan Cup in October. Beijing was an adventure for a lot of reasons. The most memorable moment will be sitting in the lobby before the first stage, as riders, directors, and race organizers discussed whether we’d race with the poor air quality.

Dan Martin had an app or something, and we stared at the particulate numbers on his phone. We’d read that anything over 100 made it unsafe to exercise outside, but that’s probably the same folks who say you should go 55mph on the interstate (you can go at least 58.5 in my experience). It was finally determined that we wouldn’t race if it reached 300. “It’s 285 now,” said Dan at the pre-race meeting. With Ryder Hesjedal, Thomas Dekker, and Lachlan Morton looking over his shoulder.

“I mean what’s the difference between 285 and 300?” asked Ryder.
Dekker did some math. “15, I think, no?”
Lachlan lit a match. “286.” He lit another. “287.”

The race turned out well, however. Racing in the fall is always a little odd, with some guys signed to other teams, everyone tired and ready to take time off, but it wasn’t as different as you’d think. You’d think that guys who aren’t signed yet would go harder, or those signed elsewhere would have less incentive to ride as teammates, but bike racers are bike racers. With a few exceptions, I don’t think the results are much different than they would have been if the race took place in June. The early break went sooner than it did in the spring when guys were more ready to fight, but it was still a battle to position for the climbs, and Tyler Farrar didn’t have any more mercy than usual when he saw the “1k to go” sign.

After Beijing, we headed to Japan Cup, the ideal race to end a season, with a small field, perfect weather, Nathan Haas taking the win in the road race, and Steele Von Hoff second by a hair in the criterium. The trip included a double-date with my fiancée, Nathan Haas, and his girlfriend. At karaoke, Nathan tried to start Queen’s “Bicycle Race,” but was unanimously outvoted.

During the season I was on the road so much, I put off a lot of tasks for the fall, like renewing my car registration, signing and mailing books that I sold on my website (sorry, folks!), and bathing. I also missed people, so I spent the last week in Oklahoma to see a friend’s baby for the first time (and consume massive amounts of BBQ), and then in New York, finally meeting the rest of my fiancée’s immediate family (I consumed only one slice of pizza, but it was massively greasy).

I did some form of exercise most days of my “offy,” but now I’m back in Los Angeles, buckling down for 2015, the bike back together, hanging on the wall as usual. Time off was nice, but time on is better, and it’s fun to have that clean slate again. Everything’s possible right now. Even a garage for the bikes.

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Phil Gaimon Journal: ‘Tis but a scratch http://www.velonews.com/2014/10/news/road/phil-gaimon-journal-tis-scratch_348716 Tue, 07 Oct 2014 15:53:08 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=348716 American Phil Gaimon writes about the emotions of leaving Garmin-Sharp, and the WorldTour, to ride for Continental team Optum-Kelly Benefit

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As folks start thinking about cyclocross treads and winter clothing, some of us roadies still have work to do. I’m off to the Tour of Beijing, and then I finish my season at Japan Cup the following week.

Japan Cup will be my last race in argyle. Obviously, as a professional cyclist, I want to race at the highest level, so the main goal of the year was to stay with Slipstream, and the secondary goal was to at least stay in the WorldTour. I suppose my dreams of winning the Tour de France just took a small hit, but I won’t give up. Like the black knight in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” who has his arm chopped off, but insists “’Tis but a scratch!”

What happened? Well, I did what I’ve seen a hundred guys screw up, where you assume your job is safe, you don’t look around or talk to other teams, you’re caught up in a crazy whirlwind of bike races, and then something happens and suddenly it’s too late. The thing that happened in this case was a merger, which meant one less team at the WorldTour level, a handful of spots on Slipstream handed over to dudes from Cannondale, and fewer jobs available overall. I didn’t have quite enough time in the WorldTour to rack up results, show my value to teams, and make contacts in the right places.

I’m bummed about losing my spot in the big leagues. I was happy to get a chance, but after performing well and missing out, it seems like maybe I never had one to begin with. Mentally, it would be much easier to fail because I actually failed, rather than being the victim of bigger forces and a shrinking sport.

All you can do in life is make the most of the opportunities you have and hope it works out, and I know I did my part. I won a race, I learned how to survive cobblestones and snow, how to control a race for my team, how to be strong from January to October. I made a lot of progress on the powermeter and in the pack, so I know I’m not one of those old guys who needs to just hang it up, but can’t see the forest for the trees. Alex Howes put my car in his garage in Girona for the winter, there’s a closet full of my stuff at Tom Danielson’s house, and I’m pretty sure I owe Nate Brown a coffee. I’m going back to tie up those loose ends some day, and someone else will pay for the plane ticket (economy is fine).

I’ll always remember the mobs yelling for autographs and photos when I was in the yellow (but it was actually orange) jersey at San Luis, the grin from Danielson when he looked down from the podium after winning a stage in Utah to see me and Alex Howes yelling in the crowd of photographers, and the hug from Alex after he won the Pro Challenge stage in Denver.

It took a lot of years to figure out all the little things it takes to win, to find the determination and make the sacrifices I needed to get to Europe. I earned a seat in a room full of guys who’d all figured that out and perfected it, champions who’ve won some of the biggest races in the world. I got to know them as humans: what makes them tick, how they act. At times, I even got to feel like we were peers. You wouldn’t believe how great it was to be in that room.

I’ll bring that feeling and those lessons into the rest of my life, but especially in 2015. I’ll be riding for Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies, and I’m excited about it. Sure, it’s not a WorldTour team, but it’s a team I would have cried for joy to ride for just a couple years ago, and there’s a ton of upside. The life of a low man in the WorldTour is tough: lots of time on the road, lots of race days and events, but the pay isn’t too different from the guys at the top of the continental teams.

Next year, my race schedule will be more predictable, I can focus more on races that suit me, and I’ll be training at home, so I probably won’t miss my fiance’s birthday, or my friends’ weddings. I have a lot of friends in Europe now, but I feel very at home and comfortable in the American peloton. I know most of the guys on Optum really well, and when Brad Huff wants to show me something vulgar next year, he can just walk into my hotel room, rather than send a dirty text message.

For a decade, my experience of bike racing was getting in the car, eating rice or oatmeal out of a Tupperware, pinning my race numbers in a camp chair, and ripping it up for $200 in prize money. As cool as it was to race on TV and sign autographs at the finish, I also missed how it used to be. Optum is going to be a great mix of comfortable surroundings and great friends, but with lots of opportunities to kick ass in bigger races while I chase a 2016 return to Europe.

Off to China now, then Japan, followed by a well-earned vacation. Espresso or cortado, Nate Brown? I won’t forget.

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Phil Gaimon Journal: A North American grand tour http://www.velonews.com/2014/09/news/road/phil-gaimon-journal-north-american-grand-tour_343661 Tue, 02 Sep 2014 20:19:35 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=343661 Phil explains how the Tour of Utah, USA Pro Challenge, Tour of Alberta, and Canadian WorldTour races end up feeling like a grand tour

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When they are in the U.S., Garmin-Sharp often benefits from the kindness of strangers — strangers who like to deliver cookies at the races. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com
When they are in the U.S., Garmin-Sharp often benefits from the kindness of strangers — strangers who like to deliver cookies at the races. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com
Gaimon enjoyed some tasty Kansas hospitality while visiting the Garmin headquarters. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com
Gaimon enjoyed some tasty Kansas hospitality while visiting the Garmin headquarters. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com
These creepy Aspen trees are always staring at you. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com
These creepy Aspen trees are always staring at you. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com

Sure, it’s no Vuelta, and we get whole weeks off instead of rest days, but if you’re one of the lucky few to go from the Tour of Utah, to the USA Pro Challenge, to the Tour of Alberta, to the one-day races in Montreal and Quebec, you get about the same number of race days as a grand tour (maybe exactly the same, but I’m not looking it up).

I already wrote about the Tour of Utah. Colorado was similar, but about 4,000 feet higher, and then throw in a few faster dudes, so slightly harder to win.

Garmin-Sharp showed up with a lofty goal of GC and stage results, but we pulled it off, with a handful of second-places, including the GC for Tommy D. [Danielson], and finally a stage win in Denver for Alex Howes. At Utah, I remember Alex joking that Kiel Reijnen thinks he’s a sprinter now, but he could totally dust him on training rides. Fast forward to stage 1 in Aspen, where Kiel beat Alex in a two-up sprint. Nobody said anything then, but Alex got him in Denver, so I can joke about it now.

I made it through Utah and Colorado without a bad day, riding the front in a few critical moments, saving the day once or twice for Tommy D., and dropping all the sprinters on Lookout Mountain to force that Alex-Kiel rematch. It was a big improvement from last year, when I signed to Garmin-Sharp in the summer, met my future teammates, and then embarrassed myself by finishing in the groupetto every day, certainly making them wonder why the hell I was on the team. I credit Vaughters forcing me to do the Tour de Phil last fall, a spring of hard races in Europe, and my coach Frank Overton of FasCat coaching, who made me do 40-minute intervals in Big Bear all of July.

From the Denver finish, we flew to Garmin’s headquarters in Olathe, Kansas. We signed some autographs, took photos, rode with Garmin employees and locals, and did hilarious video interviews with each other that you’ll eventually find on the internet.

In one of the interviews, Danielson and I asked what we’d most like to be known for in 100 years. I wasn’t even going to pretend that anyone will remember who won the first stage of the 2014 Tour of San Luis (they don’t even remember that now). Then I thought about my book, but will they have books in 100 years? I certainly don’t read any sarcastic sports books from 1914. I told Tom that I’ll be remembered for my contributions to science, and cried with laughter. Sure, I haven’t made any yet, but I’m still young! Tom then said he wants to be known for his fashion innovations, citing a bald spot with a helmet tan. I don’t know if that video will sell any Garmins, but you’ll giggle, and that’s good too.

In Olathe, Ben King met his hero, Bill Dance, a Garmin-sponsored bass fisherman. I just caught the end of it, but their interview will be good, too. Ben doesn’t have much of a southern accent around us, but after 20 minutes of bass talk, he pronounced it “bye-sickle.”

We also went bowling. I just remembered that all the riders said they’d put in $20, and some of those deadbeats never paid me (I bowled a solid 133).

We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto (you were waiting for that joke). I had four days at home in Los Angeles, and now I’m off to Calgary for the Tour of Alberta, and one-day races in Montreal and Quebec. Guys complain about the bus transfers at the Vuelta, but at least they’re not hanging around at LAX.

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Phil Gaimon Journal: Out of breath from typing http://www.velonews.com/2014/08/rider-journal/phil-gaimon-journal-breath-typing_341128 Fri, 15 Aug 2014 12:38:11 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=341128 The Garmin-Sharp rider checks in as he comes off racing the Tour of Utah and prepares for the USA Pro Challenge

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I’m writing from a sofa at 9,000 feet in Snowmass, Colorado, where Garmin-Sharp and a handful of other (less cool) teams, are staying between the Tour of Utah and the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado.

Everything’s a little weird at altitude. I spent most of July at a friend’s house in Big Bear to acclimate with Tom Soladay, who rides for Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies. We knew we’d be spending August racing against guys who were just coming off of the Tour de France. As I understand it, if you can survive the Tour, it’s pretty good training (one might say the best), so our only advantage would be that the altitude would hurt them more than us.

In Big Bear, you feel the lack of oxygen. Your power suffers, and even weather gets weird. Soladay and I were caught in a hailstorm in July in Southern California. One minute it was beautiful out, then we were descending into the blackness of hell, pelted with ice at 40 mph. I rode through a puddle on Big Bear Blvd, found that it was over a foot deep, then noticed that it had some current, and finally found myself crashing. I was fine, but I could have drowned in there. Some days, I’d descend into Redlands to train at sea level, but whatever watts you get back due to more oxygen, you lose from the heat. Below 3,000 feet, the air is like peeking into a hot oven, except it smells nothing like cookies.

The weather was merciful at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, where with Tom Danielson, my team, Garmin-Sharp — at the risk of bragging — totally won the whole thing. I hadn’t raced in awhile, so even though I’d put in some great training, I was worried about my form. I felt a little better after riding a couple hours on the front during stage 2, keeping the breakaway close, but I was nervous when we hit the big hills later in the stage race. My job was to ride the front on the crucial climbs, keeping things under control so Danielson would be in good position to drop everyone.

I wondered, “Can I do this?”

Tom would ask how I’m feeling, like a concerned mother. “Well, not awesome,” I said, “but nobody’s awesome. How are you? Don’t say awes—“ “— I’m awesome.” He cut me off. I laughed, and then coughed, because you can’t laugh at altitude. Nothing is funny here. And then I’d start riding up the mountain.

In a few minutes I would look back, and the field was small. Phew. I’m doing it. Then we’d get near the top, and Tom would coach me. “Recover on this section, jump out of this corner, OK now hit it. Harder!” He never said to go easier.

I’ve had a good season, but it was tough to watch the results of domestic events that used to be my bread and butter, now won by the guys I used to race against. Then I’m back at Utah, with my fancy new team, a pretty Cervelo with my name on it, and I get to look back at those dudes on the climb. Hey guys, remember me?

It’s also nice to experience the other end of the race. Before, it was just about hanging on as long as I could. Now, everyone on the team has a job, and there’s only room to care about yellow. We all finish each day spent, we all lose time, and we’re happy about it, because Tom Danielson brought it home like a boss.

Now I’m in Aspen, waiting at 9,000 feet for the next stage race to start. We’re not much higher than before, but with an extra 3,000-4,000 feet, tasks that would seem easy become exhausting, like sitting on the sofa having a conversation with your teammates. If you talk too fast, you’ll find yourself out of breath. Even the animals up here move slower. You feel bad for the squirrels. Imagine trying to jump tree-to-tree but you can’t breathe. We’ll get used to it, though, and I’m excited for the USA Pro Challenge. As long as there’s no hail.

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Phil Gaimon Journal: Meet the Garmin Tour squad http://www.velonews.com/2014/07/rider-journal/phil-gaimon-journal-meet-garmin-tour-squad_334953 Tue, 08 Jul 2014 14:32:07 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=334953 Gaimon isn't at the Tour, but he knows all about the nine riders Garmin brought to France

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It’s funny how many people have asked if I’ll be racing the Tour de France this year. They probably don’t realize that there are 29 guys on the team, and only nine get to start the Tour (we capitalize Tour as if it’s a religious reference).

I hope to race the Tour in a year or two when I’m ready, but for now, I’m excited to watch since I’ve gotten to know some of the players. You probably just know what you’ve seen in the results, so I thought that maybe you’d enjoy a more personal view of the guys on our team — as I have this year — so I’ll share a couple things that struck me about each rider on Garmin-Sharp’s Tour squad.

Andrew Talansky: I wrote a book about how hard it is to come up to the WorldTour from racing in the U.S., and Andrew Talansky had it as hard (or harder) than anyone. He wouldn’t settle for sitting in for a top-10, so Andrew was the guy always attacking, always in the break, going after the top step.

For years, the racing was very controlled by the bigger teams, and Andrew was the dude who’d rip your legs off but didn’t have a lot of results, so he bounced around smaller pro squads and development teams, probably spent a lot of time in vans and crappy apartments in Europe. Then one year he was good enough that he could race for the win every day, and he’d often get it. The domestic peloton was like “Oh, shit!” And then JV signed him, and we didn’t have to worry about him anymore. Lately, the WorldTour peloton is having that “Oh, shit!” moment.

Tom-Jelte Slagter: I haven’t raced with Slagter, but when he showed up to training camp, he’d just had a baby. It was nothing but baby pictures. He couldn’t help but smile when he was showing them, and you’ve gotta love that. Most guys get slower when they have a baby, with the crying and whatnot, but Slagter’s been killing it this year. Happy watts are a thing.

Janier Acevedo: Janier raced for Jamis last year, so he and I were kinda rivals. He dropped everyone on the first mountaintop stage at Gila, and then eight of us ganged up on him in the last stage and attacked for hours.

I was afraid there’d be bad blood, but at the Tour of San Luis this year, Janier was told that he and Danielson would be protected GC riders, and he said that he was having knee problems, so protection status should go to me instead. That’s some selfless team-player stuff, and I’ll forever love him for it.

There’s one typo in my book — I called him “Javier.” No one cares, but I feel really bad about that.

Johan Vansummeren: It’s weird to go from riding for Bissell to sitting in a cramped bus at the Tour of West Flanders with a Paris-Roubaix winner, but the team threw me into the low-prestige, cobble-heavy stage race for experience. I was a fish out of water, while “Sumi,” as he’s known on the team, was very much a fish in water, racing easily on roads he knew like the back of his hand. I struggled when I tried to navigate the field on my own, but when Sumi found me and gestured to follow him, he knew the fast way around each roundabout and the best line through every corner, so we’d make up a few spots here and there, and quickly found ourselves at the front. I’d have never made it to the top third without him.

Alex Howes: Howes might be the coolest bike racer I’ve met (which would put him way up there in the “coolest humans rankings.” At the Tour of California, he had stomach issues, and didn’t mind that I blogged regular updates about his bowel movements. He raced a few days where I’m sure his body didn’t process a calories, but hung in there, running on fumes, like a boss. They offered to send him home, but all Alex would say is “No no. I’ll come good.” And he did.

Alex also does an awesome impression of pretty much everyone on the team. He has us all in tears at the dinner table. And breakfast.

Jack Bauer: The southern hemisphere guys came to training camp late, so I only talked to Jack a couple times. He seemed cool, and I’ve heard nothing but good things. Sorry, that’s all I’ve got on the guy, except I’m sure he’s sick of the Jack Bauer “24” jokes. I was sick of them a year ago. So when he’s on TV and they mention his name, keep that to yourself, alright? You’re welcome, Jack.

Ben King: When you meet Ben, he just seems like a nice, quiet, country boy from Virginia, and he is. Gets along with everyone, including people that no one gets along with. But then you get to know Ben, and you realize that he’s the most worldly 25-year-old you’ve ever met. He lives in a small town in Italy, speaks fluent Spanish (at least it sounds fluent to me), and has read more than a lot of English majors I know. You get the feeling that Ben’s only racing bikes because it’s a way he can make a living until he comes out with a novel or something.

Sebastian Langeveld: When I showed up at training camp, I’d just had a good result at San Luis, but I was nervous around all the guys I’d looked up to for so many years. Langeveld saw me in the hallway, and he could have just smiled and walked past me, but he shook my hand with a big smile and a “Congratulations! You showed up ready to race!” That was really nice of him.

Ramunas Navardauskas: On a team ride in Mallorca, Ramunas rode ahead of the group for a few minutes, doing a little interval for his training, while we continued our pace. When he was finished and coasting back to us, the director in the car drove up to the group with a funny idea: “Hey guys, get behind the car, and we’ll speed past Ramunas and leave him behind.”

We must have been cruising 40 miles per hour when we got to Ramunas, who was probably going 15. At the last second, he looked back and saw us coming, stood up, took two pedal strokes in a big gear, on his hoods, and was immediately on the wheel. He laughed, like “you guys almost got me,” but it was once of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen on a bike.

Also, I know I just said Langeveld is nice, but Ramunas is really, really nice. Like he’s weird nice. Always smiling. He’s the kind of guy that you’d want on the team just for positivity, even if he wasn’t really fast.

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Phil Gaimon’s Journal: From daily blog to sickly slog http://www.velonews.com/2014/05/news/phil-gaimons-journal-daily-blog-sickly-slog_328499 Sun, 18 May 2014 02:42:22 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=328499 It's funny how the races you focus on and prepare for can go to hell, just like a big result can come by accident, when you least expect it

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I suppose it was cocky to commit to a daily blog, because it assumes that I’ll finish the stage race. Maybe it’s just bad luck. I didn’t think that finishing the Amgen Tour of Cali’ was that lofty a goal, after all the harder races I’ve been able to slog through this spring in Europe. In fact, I thought I might get a result or something here.

Instead, I guess I got a stomach bug. I spent the night in Pismo waking up every hour in a sweat, heart racing, with a headache, so sore that I felt like I’d been sadistically beaten. Tommy D. was still sleeping like a baby, so I don’t think he took a baseball bat to me in my sleep or anything, but I suppose it’s a possibility.

I started the race that day, and was pleasantly surprised to be able to hang in there, with the help of the guys bringing me lots of ice socks and water, all hoping I’d push through to help out later in the race.

I didn’t feel great the morning of the Mountain High stage. My stomach was still messy, but the headache and soreness were gone, so I was optimistic that I’d make it through, maybe even get in the break. Bike racers are dumb that way.

Then the race started, and the 6.5 watts per kilo I had in my head turned into 6.5 kilos per watt. The first 20km were tough, and I was in the cars a lot (along with plenty of other dudes), tasting the still-undigested pesto risotto I’d had for dinner two nights before. It doesn’t matter whether your head aches if there’s two days of food in your guts, and nothing turning into fuel. The doctor told me to pull out in the feed zone, where I got a ride to the finish to cheer on my team.

It’s funny how the races you really focus on and prepare for can go to hell, just like the big result can come by accident, when you least expect it. It’s a silly sport that way, especially for the guys lower on the totem pole, like myself.

I only live 30 minutes from the hotel, so the upside is that I get to spend the night in my own bed, because there’s nothing worse than hanging around the event when you’re not in it. All I want to do after a bad race is think about the next one and put this behind me, so as much as I like everyone here, I don’t want to see them right now.

Rohan and the rest of my team is kicking ass, so I’ll cheer the guys on from a distance. But for now, I’m getting out of here like I’m about to turn into a pumpkin.

 

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