American Phil Gaimon won stage 1 of the Tour de San Luís in Villa Mercedes, Argentina, on Monday. Gaimon took the breakaway victory in the 164-kilometer opening leg of the seven-day stage race, which started in San Luís.
Emiliano Contreras (Argentina) was second and Marc de Maar (UnitedHealthcare) was third.
With the opening-stage victory, Gaimon took the overall lead ahead of Tuesday’s 170km second stage, from La Punta to Mirador del Potrero. The stage closes with the Cat. 1 climb to the finish and should give the first indication of the race’s overall contenders.
“This was not expected, but I’m really happy,” said Gaimon. “I don’t know if I’m dreaming or not. It’s a great day. We’ll see what happens with the rest of the week, but I’m excited to start my year off like this.”
Monday marked Gaimon’s first race day since joining Garmin in the off-season. The U.S.-based UCI ProTeam signed Gaimon, of Athens, Georgia, from the domestic Bissell team. He won the 2012 Redlands Classic and was second at the 2013 Tour of the Gila. Gaimon nearly snuck away with the stars and stripes jersey at the 2013 U.S. nationals with a long-range solo attack, but was caught in the final kilometers by a group containing eventual winner Fred Rodriguez.
The stage was not without incident, however. De Maar crashed after tangling with Gaimon late in the stage. According to both riders, two lead motorbikes drove off course. Gaimon tapped the brakes to follow them, but de Maar was aiming for the lead cars further ahead. The Dutchman crashed, but was able to continue on for third.
“The first thing I did when I saw Marc was to apologize,” said Gaimon. “It looked like a moto went left, one went straight, I was cross-eyed, and I tapped the brakes a little, and left a mess behind me. It’s not the best way to win a race, but that’s bike racing, unfortunately.”
De Maar said he wasn’t angry, but was disappointed.
“We came to a roundabout, and I was behind Phil,” he said. “I knew the course was straight, because I’d studied the race bible and I knew that, at a certain point, it was just a straight shot all the way to the finish. But I was on the inside of Phil, so when he turned, there was nothing I could do but crash, and when I got back on the bike, I had a mechanical. I realize it was not intentional, and I’m not angry, that’s just part of the game. It’s just frustrating; there’s one break in 100 that goes to the line, and this was the day. I was feeling good, and it’s hard to crash 20km from the finish. But that’s bike racing. It happens.”
With the leader’s jersey in hand, and a day in the mountains ahead, Gaimon said Garmin would fight to defend the lead.
“I don’t think we’re going to give up the jersey without a fight,” he said. “I’ve never raced for GC at a race like this. I’m going to do my best. we’ve got a great team here. I came here to ride for Tom Danielson. … I haven’t talked to the team yet, but I’m looking forward to our chances here.”
Neal Rogers, on assignment in Villa Mercedes, contributed reporting for this report.