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Bissell Pro Cycling’s Phil Gaimon was airlifted to a Los Angeles hospital Saturday following a dramatic crash during the second stage of the San Dimas Stage Race.
Gaimon, who wore the race leader’s jersey following Friday’s short, uphill time trial, collided with a barrier approximately halfway through the day’s 12-lap, 84-mile circuit race. Gaimon sustained injuries to his head and face in the resulting pile-up, losing consciousness for approximately two minutes.
Ben Jacques-Maynes of Jamis-Hagens Berman Cycling was just behind Gaimon at the time of the crash and described it as one of the worst he has seen.
“Literally five seconds before we were sitting there having one of those little conversations you have in the pack,” Jacques-Maynes said. “We were talking about who was in the breakaway and how crazy the race was, and then the line of barricades came up and Phil just went full speed into them. It was immediate carnage.”
The pack, led by 5-Hour Energy, was chasing a six-man break as Gaimon became entangled near the start-finish area. Jacques-Maynes estimates that 10-12 riders were involved in the ensuing pile-up.
“There was nothing I could do. Phil went down, I went down,” Jacques-Maynes said. “We surfed the barricades for about 75 feet before coming to a stop. I ran over Phil’s bike myself and then everyone came down on top. I don’t know exactly what happened, if he got distracted or what. It took a while before we finally hit the ground.”
Jacques-Maynes suffered contusions and a possible hand injury, but it was the 27-year-old race leader who clearly bore the brunt of the crash.
“I knew the second I looked at Phil that things were very bad,” said Jacques-Maynes of the unconscious and bloodied Gaimon. “I stood up and asked that they call an ambulance. Someone was there who was a paramedic. She stepped in and secured his head.”
Though likely capable of continuing, Jacques-Maynes put an end to his own race to remain with Gaimon.
“There are times to worry about the race and to carry on with your job, and there are times to take care of the people around you.,” he said. “This was clearly the second. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a different team. You want to make sure your friends are in good hands. When you lose consciousness like that, having a familiar face around you when you wake up can be a comfort.”
Bissell manager Omer Kem confirmed that Gaimon regained consciousness prior to being airlifted from the scene to the USC Medical Center in Los Angeles.
“He crashed and hit his head,” Kem said. “They say he was unconscious for at least two minutes, which is about the amount of time it took first responders to get there. Outside of that I don’t have a lot of details yet. I talked to the nurse that was on the scene. She said he was awake and receiving good care when he got taken away, but given the severity of the injuries to his head and face they sent him to Los Angeles.”
Gaimon, who writes a monthly “Ask a Pro” column for Velo magazine, had been enjoying a strong start to his season, with wins in the San Dimas time trial and scoring the overall victory at the Merco Cycling Classic. In 2012 he was the overall winner of the Redlands Cycling Classic, racing for Kenda-5-Hour Energy.
Update: Bissell manager Omer Kem followed up with a series of text messages to VeloNews from USC Medical Center Saturday night: “Talking with Phil now, he is looking good and will go home tonight.” Kem reports that Gaimon suffered a concussion and received stitches both above and beside his right eye, adding, “Otherwise he seems fine.” Asked about Gaimon’s likely recovery time, Kem responded that he believes the rider will return to racing in time for New Mexico’s Tour of the Gila, scheduled for May 1-5.