Culture

Phil Gaimon Journal: Time to train

Phil Gaimon rides the Tour de Beauce, rests, and returns to training, with help from Henry David Thoreau

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.