As his one-year contract with Slipstream Sports draws to a close, American Phil Gaimon is among several riders on the Garmin-Sharp team without a contract offer for 2015.
The Garmin team, run by Slipstream Sports and its manager Jonathan Vaughters, is merging with the folding Cannondale Pro Cycling squad, taking on several riders from that program, as well as its bike sponsor.
Unless the team brings in another title sponsor, the current Garmin team, run by Slipstream, will be known as Cannondale in 2015.
Though the merger ensures the survival of the Slipstream program, which has raced at the Tour de France every year since 2008, the situation has created a surplus of bodies for a roster Vaughters believes will max out around 27 riders.
Coinciding with the announcement that longtime Garmin sprinter Tyler Farrar had signed with MTN-Qhubeka after seven years with Slipstream Sports, Gaimon told VeloNews that he is still without a contract.
“I am still in talks with team,” Gaimon said. “I still want to stay. I think with the merger, things are just happening later.”
Gaimon, who writes a column for Velo magazine and VeloNews, made a name for himself in 2014 both on and off the bike.
After several years riding domestically with teams like Jelly Belly, Kenda-5-hour Energy, and Bissell, Gaimon signed a one-year deal with Garmin in June 2013. It seemed a perfect fit; Gaimon sports a “clean” tattoo on his right bicep.
He wrote a book about his experiences on the domestic circuit, “Pro Cycling on $10 a Day: From Fat Kid to Euro Pro,” published earlier this year by VeloPress, the book-publishing division that shares ownership with VeloNews.
“This is my first time going through any of this,” Gaimon said. “I wasn’t negotiating a year ago; they gave me the opportunity, and I jumped on it. There was no merger situation, and it was a no-brainer to go to the team I’d always wanted to ride for. This year there are a lot of elements that complicate things outside of my control, or even outside of the team’s control, in the short term.”
In his first race with Garmin, at the Tour de San Luis in January, the 27-year-old Gaimon won the opening stage and held the race lead for several days, finishing second overall to Nairo Quintana (Movistar). It was his biggest personal result in a season that has largely seen him ride in a support role.
At both the Tour of Utah and USA Pro Challenge, Gaimon played a pivotal role in the team’s success; Garmin’s Tom Danielson won the overall at Utah, and placed second in Colorado, while the team’s Alex Howes won the final stage at the Pro Challenge. In Utah in particular, Gaimon played an essential role, helping Danielson chase down GC danger man Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) on the climbing stage that ended at Snowbird Resort.
Both Danielson and Howes praised Gaimon for his role in their successes last month. Gaimon most recently rode in support of Ramunas Navardauskas, who finished fourth overall at Tour of Alberta.
“[Vaughters] said he was happy with how I’ve been racing,” Gaimon said. “After the last stage in Colorado, I think Howes and Danielson went to him and told him they wanted me to hang around. He said some nice things to me, and I know he’s working on it. Now it’s just a waiting game.”
Garmin riders who have renewed contracts with the team in recent months include Howes, and Andrew Talansky. Among the Cannondale riders with believed to come over to Slipstream Sports are stage racer Davide Formolo and sprinter Elia Viviani.
American Ted King, who spent the season with Cannondale but did not have a contract in place for 2015, recently told Cyclingnews.com that he “has a contract in the works” for next year, but did not specify whether or not it was with Slipstream Sports.
Asked for comment on Gaimon’s situation, Vaughters told VeloNews he was facing several difficult decisions.
“I hope we can keep him too, but the reality is very tough on this one,” Vaughters said. “He’s a great guy and did exemplary teamwork in Colorado. But there are very hard choices to be made with combining two operations.”
Riders from Garmin-Sharp’s existing team who are still without a 2015 contract include Jack Bauer, Thomas Dekker, Caleb Fairly, Koldo Fernandez, Lachlan Morton, Nick Nuyens, Johan Vansummeren, Steele von Hoff and Fabian Wegmann.
Gaimon next races at the “Laurentian Classics,” the Grand Prix Cyclistes Québec et Montréal WorldTour events, this weekend in Canada, where he’ll again ride in a support role. He’s aware that, as the clock ticks down, he’ll need to initiate conversations with other UCI ProTeams if he’s to continue racing at the sport’s highest level.
“I think I’ve shown I’m prepared to race at the WorldTour level based on the season I’ve had, if not with Garmin, then with another WorldTour team,” Gaimon said. “It’s been cool to see how much I’ve progressed this year. At Utah and Colorado, I saw some guys who haven’t seen in a year, and they were saying, ‘wow, Phil, you’re throwing guys around in the peloton.’ What I want to do is… continue tearing the race apart, from the front. I want to see that continue. My goal in cycling is to see how good I can get. I’d love to do a grand tour, and the Olympics. I want to continue to compete at the highest level, to see what I am capable of.”