VeloNews.com » Phil Gaimon http://velonews.competitor.com Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Tue, 31 Mar 2015 16:39:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Phil Gaimon Journal: Good legs and bad omens http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/02/rider-journal/phil-gaimon-journal-good-legs-bad-omens_361597 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/02/rider-journal/phil-gaimon-journal-good-legs-bad-omens_361597#comments Tue, 24 Feb 2015 17:24:16 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=361597

This is where the time trial finished. Way to ruin a good view. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com

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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This is where the time trial finished. Way to ruin a good view. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com

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://velonews.competitor.com/2015/01/news/road/phil-gaimon-journal-peaking_358268 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/01/news/road/phil-gaimon-journal-peaking_358268#comments Thu, 15 Jan 2015 14:23:08 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=358268

The rain does wash out the smog, though. Or something. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com

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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The rain does wash out the smog, though. Or something. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com



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://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/rider-journal/phil-gaimon-journal-two-wheels_354427 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/rider-journal/phil-gaimon-journal-two-wheels_354427#comments Fri, 28 Nov 2014 13:00:37 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=354427

Phil was without his bike, and he even had to walk for this view, but it was worth it. Photo: Phil Gaimon

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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Phil was without his bike, and he even had to walk for this view, but it was worth it. Photo: Phil Gaimon

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://velonews.competitor.com/2014/10/news/road/phil-gaimon-journal-tis-scratch_348716 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/10/news/road/phil-gaimon-journal-tis-scratch_348716#comments Tue, 07 Oct 2014 15:53:08 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=348716

One bonus of racing in the U.S. is Subway sandwiches in the race caravan. Photo by Ryan Kendrick.

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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One bonus of racing in the U.S. is Subway sandwiches in the race caravan. Photo by Ryan Kendrick.

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://velonews.competitor.com/2014/09/news/road/phil-gaimon-journal-north-american-grand-tour_343661 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/09/news/road/phil-gaimon-journal-north-american-grand-tour_343661#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 20:19:35 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=343661

Phil Gaimon found a fan at the USA Pro Challenge that also likes wearing blue and eating cookies. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com

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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Phil Gaimon found a fan at the USA Pro Challenge that also likes wearing blue and eating cookies. 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

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://velonews.competitor.com/2014/08/rider-diaries/phil-gaimon-journal-breath-typing_341128 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/08/rider-diaries/phil-gaimon-journal-breath-typing_341128#comments Fri, 15 Aug 2014 12:38:11 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=341128

Phil Gaimon endured some tempestuous weather while training at altitude in Big Bear earlier this summer. Photo: Phil Gaimon

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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Phil Gaimon endured some tempestuous weather while training at altitude in Big Bear earlier this summer. Photo: Phil Gaimon

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://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/rider-diaries/phil-gaimon-journal-meet-garmin-tour-squad_334953 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/rider-diaries/phil-gaimon-journal-meet-garmin-tour-squad_334953#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 14:32:07 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=334953

Garmin-Sharp's 2014 Tour de France team. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWSport.com

Gaimon isn't at the Tour, but he knows all about the nine riders Garmin brought to France

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Garmin-Sharp's 2014 Tour de France team. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWSport.com

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://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/news/phil-gaimons-journal-daily-blog-sickly-slog_328499 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/news/phil-gaimons-journal-daily-blog-sickly-slog_328499#comments Sun, 18 May 2014 02:42:22 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=328499

Phil Gaimon on the job during stage 3, which saw Garmin land a big win on Mount Diablo. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

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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Phil Gaimon on the job during stage 3, which saw Garmin land a big win on Mount Diablo. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

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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Phil Gaimon Journal: California, the showoff state http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/amgen-tour-of-california/phil-gaimon-journal-california-the-showoff-state_327995 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/amgen-tour-of-california/phil-gaimon-journal-california-the-showoff-state_327995#comments Thu, 15 May 2014 13:31:19 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=327995

Garmin-Sharp was content to sit up and take it easy Wednesday at the Amgen Tour. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

Phil Gaimon enjoyed riding past redwoods, the ocean, and more during stage 4 at the Tour of California

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Garmin-Sharp was content to sit up and take it easy Wednesday at the Amgen Tour. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

Wednesday’s stage 4 at the Amgen Tour of California might have been the most scenic race I’ve ever done. We raced through some redwoods, and then along the ocean all day, with some fun twisty sections, and not too much climbing. Sometimes, the state of California just turns into a showoff, and today was one of those. But don’t move here. It’s already too expensive.

Garmin-Sharp had a pretty low-stress day, keeping Rohan out of trouble and keeping each other cool and hydrated. I like Tyler Farrar a lot, but it is nice racing without a sprinter because it meant we really got to chill out today.

 Most of the stress was after we got our feedbags. Skratch Labs makes these awesome rice cakes for all the teams, and guys barter pretty hard to get the ones they want. You can have my “savory” bar, but I won’t trade for less than a sweet and an ice sock. I also had some peanut butter chocolate Harmony Bars, but those will cost you a kidney and your first-born child.

The breakaway stuck, which is pretty funny. All those sprinter teams had one job. It seemed like it was close enough that it would be easy to drag it back whenever they wanted, but a ripping tailwind helped them out, and suddenly there were 10km to go and they still had two minutes. Fine with us. Will Routley is a really nice dude, and a hell of a bike rider. Since we were sprinting for sixth or seventh, it just made the finale that much safer.

I’m typing from the bed in the back of the RV as we head to another hotel in … I don’t know where we’re going. It’s getting to be that time of the stage race where it’s hard to remember what room you’re in, or which hotel the key in your pocket is from today and which is from yesterday. I got lost trying to find the massage room, and when I was heading back from dinner last Tuesday night, I saw Nate Brown going down the hallway away from our block of rooms.

“Where are you going Nate?” I asked, figuring he was visiting a friend on another team. “I don’t know!” he yelled.

Alex Howes is almost back to normal, folks. After a long few days in the bathroom and trying to stay fueled on the bike, he says he’s feeling alright. It’ll be hard to gain strength mid-race, so a 100 percent Alex Howes isn’t likely, but it’s nice to see some color in his face again.

Someone read my blog from yesterday and brought grits to the start. I just finished those. I’ve also been getting lots of cookies. Somehow people found out that I enjoy chocolate chip cookies. If you’re looking to bring gifts to the start later today, I also like suitcases full of cash, and I’d love a piano.

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Phil Gaimon Journal: Dennis loses, then wins, in California http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/amgen-tour-of-california/phil-gaimon-journal-dennis-loses-then-wins-in-california_327866 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/amgen-tour-of-california/phil-gaimon-journal-dennis-loses-then-wins-in-california_327866#comments Wed, 14 May 2014 13:40:46 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=327866

Lawson Craddock made the podium on stage 3, and hopes to hold the same spot on the overall when the Amgen tour concludes Sunday. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

The Garmin-Sharp rider talks about Rohan Dennis' defeat in a team bet, which he overshadowed with a victory on Mount Diablo

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Lawson Craddock made the podium on stage 3, and hopes to hold the same spot on the overall when the Amgen tour concludes Sunday. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

First things first: Rohan Dennis lost the bet Monday. Caleb Fairly had wagered that he couldn’t go a day without cussing, and Rohan did surprisingly well. Before the time trial at the Amgen Tour of California, he said he’d never felt so pure. “I feel like I could go to school again!” It was a new Rohan. He even managed not to swear after yet another second place in a time trial.

But eventually, Rohan was overheard when we were stuck in traffic saying, well, what we all say when we’re stuck in damn traffic. Rohan didn’t even realize he’d done it until the evening, when Nate Brown bravely informed him. Then it was a stream of pent-up vulgarity, as Rohan was finally liberated. I cried laughing.

We had grits for dinner, which made this Georgia boy very happy (they called it polenta, but I know the truth). Ben King told a story where a friend asked a waitress what grits were. She explained (in a thick southern accent) “Well, it’s like oatmeal, but it’s grits.” If that’s not funny, it’s because you’ve got to hear Ben say it.

Rohan probably isn’t too bummed about losing the bet, though, because the dude killed everyone on a mountaintop finish yesterday, sealing the deal after a strong display of strength in numbers and good teamwork from the guys.

With that heroic effort, you’ve got a bike race to watch this week, rather than just watching Wiggo ride away with it like everyone was expecting. Rohan says you’re effing welcome.

Alex Howes stomach bug update: Not good, folks. I don’t even want to joke about it anymore. Bathroom jokes are funny, but he’s attained Viking status for hanging in there.

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Phil Gaimon Journal: Hurry up, blinding pain, and wait http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/amgen-tour-of-california/phil-gaimon-journal-hurry-blinding-pain-wait_327552 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/amgen-tour-of-california/phil-gaimon-journal-hurry-blinding-pain-wait_327552#comments Tue, 13 May 2014 02:40:34 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=327552

A fan brought me cookies, and Jonathan Vaughters brought a niece and nephew onto the bus to help me eat them. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com

Phil Gaimon recounts his day of being mistaken as a favorite by the press and his friends, and teammate Dennis' no-cussing bet

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A fan brought me cookies, and Jonathan Vaughters brought a niece and nephew onto the bus to help me eat them. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com

Monday was the time trial at the Amgen Tour of California, which mostly meant sitting around. First, a 30-minute bus ride to the start. Then, I sat around while my teammates warmed up, raced, and cooled down, until it was my turn to do those things. Then a long drive to San Jose, where we stay tonight.

Aside from sitting around and relaxing, we each had about 20-30 minutes of blinding pain. The course was more rolling than it looked on the profile, but all in the big ring. It was hot, but I started with a stocking full of ice stuffed into the back of my jersey, which looks really creepy when it’s melted, because then it’s just a ripped-up stocking.

Wiggins won. You could tell that Sky is serious about this race, because they have a ton of staff here. I walked past the Sky bus earlier, and they had two people putting laundry in the same washer, and one guy behind them, just watching. I assume he was maximizing the detergent efficiency, analyzing the aerodynamics of the laundry bags, and calculating the washer stress score.

One of the cycling news sites listed me as a favorite this morning. I was worried for a minute, but it was an oversight, and they meant my teammate Rohan Dennis. They corrected it pretty quick, so the pressure was off little old me, but it’s funny how many messages I got from friends who were fooled, and stoked that I was a favorite. Some said that if I just believed in myself, maybe I could win the TT. Or even the overall. It’s true that I trained really hard, and I’m damn fit, right? Yes, and don’t tell your kids, but it doesn’t work that way. My 40th place, at two or three minutes back (when you’re that far back, you don’t look too close at the results), is one of my better time trial results, so I’m content.

Rohan finished second today, approximately his 39,842,093,849,203rd time finishing second. More importantly, though, he’s poised to win a bet with teammate Caleb Fairly about whether he could go a day without cussing. He’s made it to 7 p.m., but he’s invented a lot of new terms for private parts and people he doesn’t like, and it only takes one slip-up to lose the bet. It’s getting tense for Caleb (we all thought he’d be an easy winner), but it’s hilarious for the rest of us.

Not content is teammate Alex Howes, who’s been sick with a stomach bug this week. He said his bowel movements were improving, but based on the smells in the car on the drive to the hotel, he’s not there yet.

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Phil Gaimon Journal: Rough starts at the Tour of California http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/amgen-tour-of-california/phil-gaimon-journal-rough-starts-tour-california_327463 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/amgen-tour-of-california/phil-gaimon-journal-rough-starts-tour-california_327463#comments Mon, 12 May 2014 14:40:56 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=327463

The marker decorations are so I won't confuse my heart rate strap with someone else's. This picture is to show you the salt. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com

The Garmin-Sharp rider talks about a pre-race illness and a stage 1 crash that plagued the team in California

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The marker decorations are so I won't confuse my heart rate strap with someone else's. This picture is to show you the salt. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com

Garmin-Sharp has been plagued by some bad luck this year, and this race—while it was no TTT pileup—certainly hasn’t started like we’d hoped.

Lachlan Morton had visa drama and couldn’t make it to the U.S. Meanwhile, after a long spring, Alex Howes was told to rest when he came back from Romandie, so he put the bike away for a few days. Then he was called in to take Lachlan’s spot. He brought a stomach bug with him, and has spent most of the time at this wonderful Doubletree hotel on the toilet. Last night, he slept in two pairs of shorts, just in case. Alex said it was OK to tell you about that.

The start was pretty relaxed, and a couple domestic guys were overheard joking that UCI WorldTour races were supposed to be hard. I remember being one of those guys (and thinking the same thing) a few years ago.

The stage was hot and just under 200 kilometers, which would have felt really long if I hadn’t been racing in Europe all spring. It looked to be a field sprint, and in the end it was, but in the middle, things were much more complicated, with a nasty crosswind section that tore the field apart and put us in a bad position. I need to check a video to see what happened because the split was bizarre. I’ve raced enough to have that “Oh s—t! Better get to the front!” moment when it gets fast and windy, but this time, the split happened before it even got looked dangerous. I looked up, decided to start moving up, and noticed that the split had already happened.

Then it got difficult. I was suffering back in the cars when JV (Jonathan Vaughters) leaned out the window and said (yelled), “Get to the front! Everyone has to chase! Now!” So we did, and it came back, with help from other teams, and eventually a headwind stretch.

Then Rohan Dennis, a favorite for Monday’s TT, got knocked to the ground. I didn’t see it happen, but I saw the bloody towel he used to clean up after the stage, and his beat-up helmet. The day after a crash, riders often find themselves with good legs, thanks to whatever chemicals your body releases when you hit the deck, so he’s still looking forward to the TT. The day after that, well, that usually sucks.

No one lost time, and both Tommy Danielson and Janier Acevedo are looking good (Alex Howes is looking skinny, but for the wrong reasons).

And those domestic riders who joked that the race was easy? They didn’t make it back to the group in the crosswinds. I remember being one of those guys, too.

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Phil Gaimon Journal: The cliche before the storm at the Amgen Tour of California http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/news/phil-gaimon-journal-cliche-storm-amgen-tour-california_327227 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/news/phil-gaimon-journal-cliche-storm-amgen-tour-california_327227#comments Sun, 11 May 2014 03:32:56 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=327227

Jim, our tour guide in Sacramento.

When the race starts, the public-relations storm is over, the schedules are issued, and your smart pro goes into "dumb animal mode"

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Jim, our tour guide in Sacramento.

First of all, I’m sure you that if you’re a Velo or VeloNews.com reader, you’re aware that I wrote a book. “Pro Cycling on $10 a Day” is now available in bookstores, bike shops, and online.

Here’s my one and only shameless plug for it: When I was coming up in the sport, I remember looking up to guys on the smaller American teams. I figured pros lived wild, glamorous lives, and I worked hard to join them as I ground my way through college.

I finally made it, learned what it was really like to be a professional, and wrote the book to tell the youngsters of today what they’re getting into, what to expect when they’re there, how hard it is, and why it was worth every night on a stranger’s sofa, and each square mile of road rash on the way. I’m really proud of how the book came out, and I hope to sign your copy if you make it out to the Amgen Tour of California this week.

If you can’t make it to the race in person, you can read about it here, because I’ll be blogging daily-ish from the Amgen Tour of California. I say “–ish” because I might get tired or busy, and I don’t want any whining if I miss a day. Got it, folks? Bike racing is hard enough.

Friday was the team presentation. People always talk about this time of a bike race as “the calm before the storm,” but I hate that cliché. For one thing, a bike race isn’t a storm, unless it’s actually storming, which happens sometimes. For another, from the riders’ perspective, the storm is over when the bike race starts, because racing is the easy part.

Some of the guys on Garmin-Sharp flew straight from the Tour de Romandie, landing in San Jose on Monday night. I spent an afternoon there filming a very silly series of videos for Cervelo (I can’t imagine why they picked me for silliness).

Then we had a few days of publicity-type rides around Palo Alto, including a stint where locals could sign up through their Uber apps to ride with us, the same way you’d pick up a ride across town. It was a ton of fun, we were generously wined and dined (don’t worry, just one glass of wine each, JV), but it was exhausting, and the schedule was packed every day.

When the race starts, that’s when it’s calm for us. There’s no PR or interviews (unless you’re the poor bastard who’s winning the thing), and riders go into what I refer to as “dumb animal mode,” which means we have a detailed schedule every day, a room list, meals provided, bags carried for us, massage, and soigneurs to point us to our rooms if the hotel is particularly confusing.

As a big, dumb animal, my brain is turned off for days as I blindly do what I’m told. In fact, my schedule the other day said, “Give Tom Danielson a wedgie,” and I just went for it, no questions asked.

It’s an exciting week for me. I remember racing here with smaller American teams, and looking with envy at the Garmin guys who roll up in their big bus, with a fleet of cars and staff and chefs.

Well, guess what? I’m that guy now! Goosebumps, guys! All my schedule says for the rest of the week is: “Don’t screw it up.”

 

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Book Excerpt: You can make lemonade out of road rash http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/news/book-excerpt-can-make-lemonade-road-rash_326170 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/news/book-excerpt-can-make-lemonade-road-rash_326170#comments Fri, 02 May 2014 20:22:55 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=326170

Phil Gaimon's new book, Pro Cycling on $10 a Day, hits bookshelves later this month.

In an excerpt from his forthcoming book, Garmin-Sharp's Phil Gaimon reflects on the day Johnny Sundt taught him a lesson at Univest

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Phil Gaimon's new book, Pro Cycling on $10 a Day, hits bookshelves later this month.

Velo magazine columnist Phil Gaimon earned a one-year contract to ride for Team Garmin-Sharp after several seasons gutting it out on U.S. domestic teams like Bissell, Kenda, and Jelly Belly. Gaimon has written a new book, Pro Cycling on $10 a Day, which is a guide and a warning to aspiring racers who dream of joining the pro ranks. His book chronicles the racer’s daily lot of blood-soaked bandages, sleazy motels, cheap food, and overflowing toilets. But it also celebrates the true beauty of the sport and the worth of the journey. The following is an excerpt from chapter 2.

Saran Wrap makes a good bandage

With my form finally coming around, I lined up with my teammates for the last race of the summer — the Tour de Toona in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Toona was one of the most prestigious NRC races at the time, and its hard climbs suited me well. Plus, the race was at low altitude, so the Colorado-based climbers didn’t have their usual advantage.

We members of the Sakonnet team were true amateurs, and Toona was no exception for us. We washed and repaired our own bikes, and we never had massage or paid feeders like the spoiled pro teams. Instead, we had Barb and Tom, a couple from Florida who were friends of Basil. They were in the area on vacation and had volunteered to drive us around and hand out bottles in the feed zone. Some vacation, huh?

Not that the team had many bottles to hand out in the first place. After each stage, we’d sneak over to the other teams’ trailers and steal the empties from their trash. They threw them out after one use, so we washed out their leftovers. No big deal, but I couldn’t imagine that happening with some of the spoiled kids on VMG the previous year.

We lost almost two minutes in the opening team time trial, but I rode well after that, the only amateur or Under 23 making small selections over the climbs. With no mountaintop finishes that year, chase groups always made it back to us, and we’d race for the stage win from groups of 30. Healthnet’s sprinter, Karl Menzies, barely made it over the climbs, but he had enough left to kill everyone at the finish.

I started at the back of the field for the Blue Knob climb on the last road race stage but flew through the peloton into a front group of 10 riders. It looked like the climbers would finally stay away, and I’d get my long-awaited top 10.

My group rode hard on the descent, trying to stay away from Karl and the other sprinters, and I was pegged at the back when the rider in front of me panicked in a fast corner and overcorrected. We were down before we knew it, sliding on gravel for what seemed like hours, until we finally tumbled into the guardrail. My bike’s frame was cracked into pieces, and the right side of my body was chewed to shreds.

My race was over, but the worst was yet to come. The ambulance pulled to a quick stop to check us out, and the drivers parked in the middle of the dangerous corner. When another group flew through the bend a few minutes later, three riders slammed into the back of the ambulance. Koschara had pulled over, and after begging the EMT to move, he ran up the hill to warn the next groups to slow down. There were tears in his eyes. Matt had been the man on the ground plenty of times when he was racing, but he found the helpless bystander role harder to handle.

I limped to Barb and Tom’s minivan and bled all over their seats on the way to our extended-stay hotel. By the time my teammates returned, I’d scraped the gravel out of my elbow and thigh, grimaced through a shower, and disinfected my wounds with various stinging chemicals. No amount of bandages in the world would have covered all the square footage I needed, so Matt helped me wrap myself in cellophane, which at least kept everything moist. When I packed my car, I grabbed close to a hundred of the team’s supply of lightly used water bottles. They wouldn’t need them for the crit the next day, and I had to go home with something.

I drove all the way back to Florida that night, 15 hours straight. Apart from gas, I stopped only once, at a Wal-Mart Supercenter for a cookie. You know how when you go to Wal-Mart, there’s always some lowlife with fresh stitches, black eyes, or facial wounds, and you try not to stare? That night, I was the guy with the limp and a right leg that looked like roadkill wrapped in plastic. Everyone stared.

You can make lemonade out of road rash

It was humid and over a hundred degrees in Florida that August, but I wore pants for a few weeks to keep my wounds covered. The crash took me off the bike for a while, forcing me to recover from the missing skin, a hard stage race, and a long summer. When I showed up at a small stage race in north Georgia the next month, my climbing legs from Toona were back with a vengeance. I was second overall going into the last stage, with two 40-mile laps and three long climbs each. I was only down by two seconds overall, but I attacked from the gun and stayed away to win by four minutes, despite a full Jittery Joe’s pro team chasing me all day. A year before, I’d begged that team for a contract, and their manager told me to do more NRCs. On the third lap, I saw an awful lot of guys in orange Jittery Joe’s jerseys on the side of the road, dropped from trying to catch me. I guess they hadn’t done enough NRC races.

Yelling is a tactic

It was a good sign for the legs to come back around, because the next weekend was Univest, the last race of the year. I expected to improve on my DNF record, until I woke up weak and nauseous the morning of the race, with a bad headache and phlegm everywhere. I knew from experience that even minor illnesses sap your fitness, so my heart sank as my hopes for the race went into the toilet, along with my dinner from the night before.

Not wanting to wake my teammates, I snuck outside and around the corner to a gas station, where I bought two sausage breakfast biscuits and a Coke, and walked around part of the finishing circuits for the stage. If we were still in the group after all the climbs, we’d get to race five 4-mile laps around town to the finish. When I got back to the house, the guys were up, so I joined them for oatmeal, and we headed out to the staging area.

Basil and Thurston had driven in from New York to watch the race from the team car. They were disappointed to see me coughing and pale, but they were glad I still wanted to start. My secret plan was to attack from the gun, make the early break, which usually got caught on the second of three climbs, and then hop into the car early when my job was done.

My first attack looked promising, and we had 20 seconds on the group when I went through the rotation behind Jonny Sundt, riding for Kelly Benefits. As we both drifted to the back, Timmy Duggan from Slipstream flew by with 10 guys behind him. We’d been caught and countered, and the new break was going away. With Sundt behind me, I sprinted ahead of the break we were in, trying to grab onto the back of Duggan’s group, but the two of us found ourselves in no-man’s-land between the break and the peloton.

I took a hard pull and flicked my elbow, asking Jonny for help.

“Fuck you! You pull us back there!” he replied. I kept pulling and didn’t say a word, but Jonny kept a constant barrage of insults coming, lashing me like a whip.

“Don’t you get us dropped from the break, you fucking idiot!”

I figured I must have messed up somehow for him to yell like that, so I managed to drag us across without Jonny’s help. After a little more reshuffling, the break of 11 was established with me, Jonny, Stefano Barberi from Toyota-United, John Fredy Parra from Tecos, Timmy Duggan and Will Frischkorn from Slipstream, and a handful of European riders.

The course was mostly flat at first, with lots of tight turns through Pennsylvania’s countryside, interrupted by three progressively harder King of the Mountain climbs (KOMs). As the rest of us kept the pace, Jonny and one of the Germans were battling for the sprinter jersey. The German was leading in the points, but he came off the pace on the first climb, and it looked like he held onto his team car to catch up to us.

On the second climb Sundt’s rival came off again, but this time, once Jonny had chased back, his director stopped the car and waited for the Germans to approach. He knew that if someone was watching, they wouldn’t hold onto the car again. The German didn’t finish the race, and Jonny got the green jersey.

After a couple hours in the wind, it was time for the field to bring us back for their sprinters. The lead moto approached with a time gap, and I was looking forward to hearing that we were almost caught so I could call it a day.

“Your lead is nine minutes,” he said.

My heart sank. The plan to make the early break and quit had backfired. The field had given up, and I was in for a long day.

Duggan went to the front on the third climb, shedding everyone but me, his teammate Frischkorn, and Parra. The four of us entered the finishing circuits with a massive lead, and when we made the first turn on the second lap, the whole peloton was standing there, pulled from the race, wondering who the skinny Sakonnet kid was. I made sure not to acknowledge them, to act like I knew what I was doing. Frischkorn attacked and easily stayed away for the win, and I was dropped on the final lap, cruising in alone for fourth and the Best Young Rider award. I was sure I’d get a pro contract from that effort.

After the stage, my result got me more chamois time at the press conference. I sat reluctantly beside Jonny Sundt, afraid to make eye contact after our interaction early in the race, but he was fine. Jonny’s rudeness wasn’t because he was actually angry, or even a bad guy. It was a tactic, and it earned him a free ride across to the break. He felt bad that I’d fallen for it, and he explained that I, too, could yell at less-experienced riders (he might have said “suckers”) to make them do my bidding. I’ve always appreciated the lesson. I woke up the next morning too weak to move, hit hard by the illness and the effort from the day before, but I knew that from then on, no matter how sick I felt, I’d always at least start the race.

Frischkorn’s Team Slipstream was the continuation of the TIAA-CREF development team, still run by Jonathan Vaughters and moving up the ranks fast. Vaughters was the first director to figure out that the doping era was over — he saw that teams with scandal and questionable riders were having trouble finding new sponsors — so he designed and marketed Slipstream around the idea of clean racing and internal testing. Other teams quickly followed suit, and in a way, pro cycling was rescued. I watched Frischkorn finish second (by a tire width) on a stage at the Tour de France the next summer.

Republished with permission of VeloPress from Pro Cycling on $10 a Day by Phil Gaimon. Learn more at velopress.com/phil.

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Phil Gaimon Journal: Home Alone in Catalunya http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/04/rider-diaries/phil-gaimon-journal-home-alone-catalunya_322484 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/04/rider-diaries/phil-gaimon-journal-home-alone-catalunya_322484#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 14:22:38 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=322484

Nate Brown and I testing out our new bike before the start. This was before we got yelled at. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com

The Garmin-Sharp rider writes about finishing the "longest and hardest race" he has ever done

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Nate Brown and I testing out our new bike before the start. This was before we got yelled at. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com

The Tour of Catalunya was last week. It’s sort of a home race for Garmin-Sharp, with most of our riders based in Girona, Spain, and it was nice to go to a race without stepping onto a plane. I just drove the trusty ol’ Renault to the team service course where the bus was parked.

It was a stacked field in Catalunya, so the startlist was intimidating. Even worse, in the four, seven-day stage races I’ve done, there was always one time trial that I could treat as a rest stage (well, except San Luis). No such luck here, with long stages and lots of climbing every day.

The first couple of stages were pretty straightforward, and by straightforward I mean lots of wet corners. The second day finished in Girona (we flew right past my favorite cookie stop in Banyoles). When I looked at the stages a month ago, I thought how cool it would be to ride into my new hometown, with all the cycling-friendly crowds, greeting pals, and teammates at the bus after the finish. Instead, it was dumping cold rain, and the only cheering I heard was from teammate Alex Howes (he skipped Catalunya for Criterium International).
“Phil! You suck!” he yelled.

My role was to support our GC guys: defending champ Dan Martin, Ryder Hesjedal, and Andrew Talansky. That meant moving them around in the field, riding out in the wind to make sure they had a draft, taking their jackets for the climbs, and giving jackets back for the descents. It’s harder than it sounds, OK? And really important.

Tom Danielson started the race, but whacked his knee during the second stage. Since he was my roommate for the week, I had hotel rooms to myself after that. Remember the scene in “Home Alone” when Kevin made his family disappear and then ran around the house, dancing, yelling, and eating junk food? It was just like that.

The race started out wet and only got worse, with two stages in the snow. And I don’t mean snow on the ground. This was “go back to the car and take whatever they have for warmth” snow, and mountaintop finishes. 

On the second consecutive snow day, I finished minutes behind the leaders. I pegged director Johnny Weltz in the chest with a snowball and climbed onto the bus, where I sat on the floor of the shower, too tired to stand. Despite the dismal conditions, I was in a good mood. Looking out the window at the snowy pines and the bundled crowds who trekked up there to cheer us on, I remembered that this was what I’ve always wanted. Miserable or not, I’m racing with the big boys now.

The WorldTour does have its downsides, however. I tried to make the early break one day, which would clearly be established on the first climb, right from the start. I attacked over and over, followed counterattacks, and kept hitting it the whole way up the 40-minute climb. Last year when I attacked on a climb, I was off the front no problem, but Katusha wasn’t having any of it on this day in Spain. Over the top, I finally had to give up.

Dan Martin rode over to me and said, “Good effort. Make sure you eat something now. We’ve got a long way to go.”

I tried for the break again the day after, a 220-kilometer windy stage, which started with another long, twisty climb. One minute I was fighting my way to the front of the field, but the next I hit a rock and went to the car with a flat tire. I chased back into the group just as it was exploding to bits, and found myself off the back, with a pack of 40 guys who were having a worse week than I was. At that point, if Contador had flatted, he would have punched it across to the back of the group no problem, but I’m not Contador.

I took my pulls in the group and crossed my fingers that we would get lucky. After all, the break would have to go sometime, and the field would stop to pee. Sure enough, after 30 minutes in the wind, we cruised up to the nature break, and I even had time to take one myself. Many hours later, I had the gas to follow attacks on the last climb, trying to help Ryder into a late breakaway or to put pressure on Katusha for Dan Martin to grab a stage result. It wasn’t much, but I was happy to find out that I could contribute at the front of the race, and it probably looked cool on TV.

On the last stage, I was feeling OK. I was worn down from the longest and hardest race I’d ever done, but I knew I had the legs to finish my first WorldTour race — and that’s pretty cool. But then Talansky flatted, at possibly the only time in a stage race worse than my flat on the 220km stage: with the big names attacking each other on technical, hilly, wet finishing circuits in Barcelona. Three of us waited with him, and my finish line became the back of the field. My job is to help the team, not to finish the race, and I’m alright with that.

I’m also alright with the fact that we won the team classification, so I got to stand on the podium, receive the flowers, all that jazz. Then we drove back to Girona, airplane-free.

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Phil Gaimon Journal: How to lose weight in Europe http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/rider-diaries/phil-gaimon-journal-lose-weight-europe_320032 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/03/rider-diaries/phil-gaimon-journal-lose-weight-europe_320032#comments Fri, 14 Mar 2014 13:24:04 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=320032

I can’t call this a car at the moment because it’s not running, but this is my new shelter with a CD player and a sweet Garmin GPS. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com

In his latest blog, the Garmin-Sharp rider talks about settling into his new Spanish lifestyle — and getting comfortable with it all

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I can’t call this a car at the moment because it’s not running, but this is my new shelter with a CD player and a sweet Garmin GPS. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com

My last blog was after the Tour de San Luis at the end of January. It was weird that after all the suffering and bonding in Argentina, not only had we not had training camp yet, but it was still January, and the season had barely started. I spent that week in L.A., then headed to Girona, Spain to settle into my new home at Tom Danielson’s house.

A few teammates shared the taxi from the Barcelona airport, and Caleb Fairly pointed out the Girona Burger King as we passed it.

“That’s where you go when you just need something American,” he explained. I thought that sounded silly. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten at Burger King in the United States, and there are a ton of great restaurants in Girona.

The team always brings guys to Spain a few days before camp starts, assuming they have apartments to rent, Internet service to set up, that sort of thing. All I needed was some groceries because Tom Danielson is graciously renting me a spare bedroom at his place and I didn’t need to do a damn thing. I have enough stress and new challenges this year, so it’s great to have the living situation dialed in as I get comfortable in my new surroundings.

Not that everything is easy. Tom’s house is a few miles (or, as they’re called here, kilometers) outside of Girona, so while the guys who live in the city can get around on foot, I quickly realized that I needed a car to get to the team service course, run errands, etc. I mentioned that to a couple of my teammates, and they immediately said the same thing: talk to Johnny Weltz. Johnny is Danish, formerly a racer, and now a director for Garmin-Sharp living in Girona. He’s also apparently good at connecting new guys with whatever they need. I’d never met him, and now I had to ask for a favor.

Sure enough, Johnny Weltz was the man, and within a couple days, I was the proud owner of David Zabriskie’s old Renault Laguna hatchback. You see, when Zabriskie retired, he rented his apartment and sold his furniture and car to teammate Lachlan Morton. Insurance in Spain is hard to get if you’re under 25 years old, so Lachlan was happy to have the car out of his hands. Weltz even hooked me up with the team lawyer, who handled the title, told me where to go for repairs, got me a Spanish ID (which is needed to own any property in Spain), and set up the insurance. The car had some paper napkins and French Fries under the seat, possibly from Burger King, but it could have been a mechanic that borrowed it.

Helping me get a car isn’t part of Johnny’s Weltz’s job. It was just him being a nice guy, and there’s been a lot of that on the team; Louise Donald too, who handles all the logistics, flights, hotels, etc. for 60+ people and still finds the time to patiently answer the dumb questions I e-mail to her.

Girona is a trendy spot for a bike racer, and I half-expected to call it overrated, but I have to admit, it’s everything it’s cracked up to be. As Jonathan Vaughters eloquently puts it, it wasn’t just the giant EPO factory that kept the cyclists coming (that was a joke, but there is Nestle Coffee factory down the street, and it smells amazing). The weather has been nice, and there’s an endless supply of magical, nearly traffic-free roads with great views, and tons of friends to train with.

The only downside in Europe was a lingering cold that kept me from decent training for a few weeks, and then a stomach virus a few of the riders seemed to have acquired in Mallorca, which left me eight pounds lighter and intimately acquainted with Tom Danielson’s toilet, where I spent the majority of the week after camp.

My health is back now (still working on those eight pounds), but the racing was all downhill since San Luis, which was to be expected. I’ve learned a lot, however, and went through a level of training I’ve never had before. I struggled in the cobblestones and crosswinds last weekend at Three Days of West Flanders, but was able to contribute to the team, and got a crash course (not literally, thank God) in how to navigate the European peloton — thanks to friendly advice from Nathan Haas, Johan Van Summeren, Dylan Van Baarle, and Raymond Kreder,. They’re all more experienced at that sort of racing than I was. My next event is the Tour of Catalunya in a couple weeks, which should suit my strengths better as we shoot to defend Dan Martin’s victory from last year.

Nate Brown is another American just joining the team and moving to Spain, and we have pretty similar race schedules, so we’ve been together a lot. We’ve both enjoyed our time here, but it’s tough racing and it’s not easy leaving our loved ones at home, figuring out how to live in Spain, and struggling to learn enough Spanish to get by (or in my case, to get the exhaust pipe replaced on a 2001 Renault hatchback), all at a time of year that our former teams are just finishing up their training camps and haven’t even done one race yet. How did Nate and I celebrate surviving our first month in Spain? At the end of a training ride, we stopped at Burger King.

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Phil Gaimon Journal: Hanging with the big boys in San Luis http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/01/rider-diaries/phil-gaimon-journal-san-luis_315374 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/01/rider-diaries/phil-gaimon-journal-san-luis_315374#comments Fri, 31 Jan 2014 22:45:38 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=315374

We didn't have any name stickers left, so the mechanic wrote mine with a sharpie in badass handwriting. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com

Phil Gaimon writes about riding onto the podium at his first race as a member of Garmin-Sharp

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We didn't have any name stickers left, so the mechanic wrote mine with a sharpie in badass handwriting. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com

Last week was the Tour de San Luis in Argentina, the first race of the year for all in attendance and my debut in Garmin-Sharp colors. It was also the argyle debut of three of my five teammates: Ben King, Nate Brown, and Janier Acevedo, all kept in check by veterans Tom Danielson and Tyler Farrar.

San Luis is known as a pretty chill race. At least, chill relative to a lot of the races we’ll do this year. It was still one of the biggest races I’ve ever done, so I trained and stuff, but I was careful not to train too much. I peaked too early last year, and the year before, and the year before that (in previous years, I consistently sucked throughout the season). A lot of the Euro guys were there for a warm place to train (or so they claimed), with their sleeves rolled up to even out those pesky tanlines.

Argentina was nice, but our race hotel was a casino in the middle of a vast plain (plains are always “vast”), so most of our experience of the country was by bike (that’s the story of my life, but I’m not complaining). We only made one trip into town, for haircuts. Have you ever gotten a haircut from someone who didn’t speak your language? I highly recommend it. I just pointed to a picture of George Clooney in Esquire magazine.

With the haircut out of the way the day before the first stage, I got down to important business. I live in Los Angeles now but I’m still a Georgia boy at heart, so all I need to keep from getting homesick is sweet tea. I always make some in the hotel room. I put tea bags I brought from home in team water bottles, and left it for an hour in the sun by the window. (If you felt the sun in Argentina this time of year, you’d know that’s almost enough to get it boiling.)

I brought my sweet tea to breakfast the next morning, and I just needed some ice to pour it over, but instead I got a taste of what my year is going to be like. You see, I’ll be spending several months in a region of Spain where they speak Catalan. I don’t know a word of Catalan, but I have taken one semester of Spanish at the University of Florida (I got an A-, but to be fair, the curve was ruined by a handful of native Spanish-speakers looking to dope their GPAs).

I brought an empty glass to the hotel bar, and did my best charades for “ice,” which was basically pointing at the glass and saying “ice?” That got me nowhere (in hindsight, I should have shivered). The waiter assumed I was asking for milk, so he kept saying “leche?” We both did the dumb thing you do with a language barrier, where you say the same incomprehensible words slower and slower, hoping that it clicks. Finally, I gave up and went back to my table, and the waiter felt bad to see me leave unsatisfied.

Then I remembered that Ben King speaks fluent Spanish, so I asked him the word for ice. A minute later, after a little practice with Ben, I was back at the bar, with a big smile on my face.

“Hielo!” I said, triumphantly.

The waiter beamed and slapped his forehead. “Hielo!” He gave me a big bucket of hielo, and got a solid “Gracias” in return, which I did remember from college (I can also count to 10, and find an appropriate place to poop).

And then the race started. If you’re into that sort of thing, you’ve read the race reports already, so I’ll keep it brief. I followed wheels into the early break, which looked innocuous and doomed, like every other breakaway. I took the KOM points, assuming that was all I’d get out of the day, and then we had a 12-minute gap because the sprinters’ teams argued about who should chase. And then they realized they’d get their tans either way, so the breakaway could have an hour for all they cared. I won that stage (after accidentally kind of causing a crash that took out half of the breakaway with 25 kilometers to go because that’s how I win races) and wore the leader’s jersey (it was orange-ish) for the next four days.

The highlight of the week was the teamwork. To race for GC, I had to ride hard for five hours total over the course of the seven-day race, but my teammates had to suffer for 20. Plus, I’m new to this team and racing with guys I’ve looked up to for years — guys who have little reason to trust me to hold onto my lead. How could I ask Ben King, Nate Brown, and Janier Acevedo to ride the front for 100 miles a day, in 100+ degree heat? To sweat for me? How do I ask Tom Danielson to pace me up a climb instead of going for the win himself? HOW DO I ASK TYLER FREAKING FARRAR TO GO BACK TO THE CAR FOR BOTTLES? HE’S TYLER FREAKING FARRAR.

It feels incredibly selfish, but fortunately I didn’t have to. When I showed up at the hotel with a bouquet after stage 1, Nate hugged me and said “I can’t wait to kill myself on the front for you, Phil.” I could have cried. My teammates are professionals, and damn nice guys. Even the non-rider teammates were glad to give me what I needed. From the soigneurs and mechanics handling every detail, to Chann McRae giving me pep talks from the team car, I was taken care of in ways I’d never think to ask. For example, someone from POC flew from Europe to Mendoza to drop off new time trial helmets, and then got right back on the plane. WorldTour stuff.

How could I repay my team for their efforts? Winning would be good, but if I couldn’t do that, I had to at least try really hard. I had no idea if I could climb with the best in the world, so it was a huge relief when I only lost 20 seconds to Nairo Quintana on the first mountaintop finish — and I was still 4:40 ahead of him. After that, for a couple days, I really thought I could keep the lead. And then Nairo put 4:35 on me on the 40-minute mountaintop finish of stage 4. I’d tried really hard, too. That day knocked me into reality. Then I lost another 30 seconds in the time trial a day later, which knocked me down to second overall. I took some knocks this week, folks.

The stage 4 podium and antidoping control were a 15-minute drive from the finish, farther up the climb that Quintana dropped us on. It was beautiful up there, with tiny, twisty roads, cattle roaming in the grass, and a few spots where the car had to drive through small rivers. I heard that the stage included those roads in previous years. Nairo would have won by an hour.

Other than that day, I surprised myself by hanging with the big boys, thanks to the teammates loading me with cold water and ice socks all day and Danielson dragging me up the climbs. Exactly one year ago, I was training with Tom in Tucson and all he did was kick my ass up Mt. Lemmon every day. It was the worst/best training of my life. There were moments last week where Tom was on the front burying himself with me on his wheel and it was like we were back in Arizona, except I was trying (eventually failing) to not throw up. I managed to savor it when the pitch dipped below 15 percent, and we finished seventh and eighth on the final climbing stage, ahead of a lot of names I’d never dreamed of dropping before. After all the humbling since stage 1, that eighth place felt great and it made some sort of statement to the world that I don’t suck after all, clinching my second place in the GC.

It was an awesome race overall, and I can’t wait for another crack at it next year. My plan: I’ll try and get six minutes in the early break on stage 1 and see if I can hold onto that.

After this, I have a few days at home in California, and then I’m off to Spain for three whole months. I still don’t know what this year will hold, but I’m going to be just fine because I’ve got some great people around me and I did my training. Also, I’ll try to hang out with Ben King a lot in case I need to ask for something in Spanish.

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Phil Gaimon Journal: Garmin-Sharp intro camp http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/11/news/phil-gaimon-journal-garmin-sharp-intro-camp_309621 http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/11/news/phil-gaimon-journal-garmin-sharp-intro-camp_309621#comments Tue, 19 Nov 2013 14:29:04 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=309621

Early in the hike, before it got miserable and exhausting. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com

The American rider checks in and talks about some recent experiences he had with his new teammates at Garmin-Sharp

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Early in the hike, before it got miserable and exhausting. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com

The offseason is over. How did I spend it? Vacation? Almost. I got my tonsils out. They’d been swollen and angry all season, and it was time to hack them out. When the doctor told me I’d be sore and miserable for two weeks after the surgery, I snickered. Thanks, doc, but I’m a professional cyclist, which means I’m pretty much a Viking, and I’ll be fine in four days. Not so, folks. I spent 14 days sucking down painkillers, miserably staring at the clock until it was time for more.

Despite the liquid diet and the sore throat, the time off allowed me to recover from a long season. My fractured wrist and finger that had bugged me since March healed up, and, as final proof that I’m ready to start training again, I caught myself taking the stairs two at a time. I also finished a book I was writing. More on that later.

Perfect timing, as I headed to Garmin-Sharp’s first camp in Boulder, Colorado. I can’t call this a training camp because there wasn’t a whole lot of bike riding. I packed a ton of cold-weather Bissell kits, and only wore one pair of bibs for a bike fit. Actually, I shouldn’t call it a camp, either, because we were staying in a swanky hotel, with no tents whatsoever. This was more of an introduction, with all the new guys on the team attending, and only a few veterans who happened to be close by and wanted to pop in.

It started with a meeting with the directors. When I walked into the room, there was a long, dark wood table full of dudes (dark wood is especially intimidating), and one empty chair for me. I gulped, but it wasn’t bad. They gave me a tentative schedule for the beginning of the season, starting with the Tour of San Luis in late January, a handful of stage races in Europe in March and April, with a reserve spot for the hilly classics. Then I’ll head back to the U.S. for the Amgen Tour of California — a race I’m pretty familiar with — to see how I’ve improved from the Euro stint, and then reset for the second half of the year. Of course, that could change around completely, so I’m going to peak from late January until mid-May, just in case they need me.

The room list at camp included 12 riders and 25 staff members. That’s a new one for me. I had meetings with the doctors for a basic checkup and an eye exam, with the chiropractors to check on my spine, with the sport directors for bike fitting … you get the idea.

We also had presentations from most of the major sponsors. I always say that if I could handle meetings and Powerpoint presentations, I’d have a real job, but everyone did alright. Nobody fell asleep, and I only saw one paper airplane (Tyler Farrar, but he never threw it).

On the first day, we played a role reversal game, in which the riders acted as staff, mixing bottles and directing the mechanics and soigneurs for a training ride. I was selected as one of the head directors, due to my impeccable leadership abilities, or maybe because I was the only native English speaker over 25 on the team. The staff made sure to act particularly obnoxious for the game, demanding tea in their bottles, bike adjustments, and trainer warm-ups before the ride started. My mechanic, Tom Danielson, did his best to play his part, with a cigarette in his mouth and a bad attitude. As director, I ended up doing a lot of his work.

New Balance is a team sponsor, so we got all kitted up in a different kind of tights one morning and met up with a few of their pro runners: Anton Krupicka, Jenny Simpson, and Emma Coburn. Most of my new teammates had been running in their offseason, and the pros claimed they were going “easy,” but we were all walking funny afterward. I think they were going at least easy-moderate.

Already sore from running, the teambuilding activity the next day was a doozy: we were split into four groups for 12 miles of hiking through the mountains (riders and staff), with stops for various challenges and puzzles. At the end, we were all ruined, and no one took the stairs at the hotel, but we’d gotten to know each other better, which is what this camp is all about. Everyone was super cool, and I’ll have lots of friends to train with in Girona.

It’s exciting to get my first long-awaited taste of argyle and look ahead to 2014, but I’m still proudly wearing the Bissell kit until January 1. It’s funny that after all these years struggling in the U.S., I finally found a happy home, just in time to move on myself, and now the team is no more. It’s a silly sport sometimes, but I’m a silly person, so we’re a good couple. I’m glad the sponsor is still in the sport. I think they made the right decision to keep the development team alive, and I’ll always be a vacuum salesman for Bissell.

When I finished the USA Pro Challenge this year, all my teammates were saying their goodbyes. Pat McCarty caught me just after I came out of the shower in the RV, and stuck out his hand to shake mine. I was dripping wet and was only wearing a towel, but like it or not, Pat got a big, wet hug. In case I missed anyone that day, consider this my virtual hug to all my teammates, staff, sponsors, and friends in the domestic peloton. You’ll be sorely missed as I’m suffering in echelons next year, and I hope you don’t hold it against me when I drop you at the Tour of California next year.

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Phil Gaimon Journal: The Tour de Phil http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/10/news/phil-gaimon-journal-the-tour-de-phil_304861 http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/10/news/phil-gaimon-journal-the-tour-de-phil_304861#comments Thu, 03 Oct 2013 13:21:36 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=304861

Phil Gaimon, who will ride for Garmin-Sharp next year, recently completed a grand tour — the Tour de Phil. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

Phil Gaimon, who will ride for Garmin-Sharp next year, talks about a recent block of hard training

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Phil Gaimon, who will ride for Garmin-Sharp next year, recently completed a grand tour — the Tour de Phil. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

When my racing for 2013 was finished after the USA Pro Challenge, I was planning to take a few weeks off the bike — until I got an e-mail from my new boss at Garmin-Sharp, Jonathan Vaughters, informing me that I’d be doing a grand tour. The Giro? The Vuelta? Not the Tour?

It was neither of those. I was signed up for the Tour de Phil, a lesser-known, three-week stage race training simulation, designed to attack my weaknesses as I prepare for 2014. We’d done some power testing earlier in the year, which showed that I’ve evolved for NRC racing in the U.S. — where you sit in the group at 200 watts or so and then start blasting each other in the last hour — so I’m damn good at riding easy for three hours and blasting a 15-minute climb. But I had some room for improvement in the 300-360 watts it will require to sit in the field in Europe next year. Turns out, you improve that sub-threshold zone the same way you improve everything else: you train long and hard. Hence, the Tour de Phil. The assignment was to ride 4-6 hours a day for three weeks, with as much time around 350 watts as I could handle.

Before anyone calls me out, I’ll admit the obvious: I wasn’t actually racing anyone, so it wasn’t a real grand tour. But if you look at the nerdy kilojoule expenditure on my SRM, the effort was comparable day-to-day. I did have a couple rest days, but no soigneur, no team car filled with bottles, no massage outside of my foam roller, and no buffet, except when my girlfriend felt like cooking when she got home from work. I also had to change my own flats, lube the chain, and wash the bike daily (just joking … I had to make some sacrifices, so my bike got filthy). I carried the biggest saddle bag I could find, which contained the following: three tubes, one mini hand pump, one quick link, one multi tool (with a chain tool), one spare derailleur hanger, one shifter cable (thanks to Brad Huff for that pointer), two kitchen sinks, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Race report

Week 1
On my coach’s advice, I didn’t go too crazy with the volume at the beginning, keeping the rides closer to four hours. I rode alone almost every day. You want to make a pro cyclist scream? Ask him if he wants to join you on a long tempo ride during his offseason.

On the third day, there was heavy traffic on the course, and that never happens in a grand tour (except at the Giro Toscana, I hear). When a motorist turned left in front of me, I skidded towards him and kept it upright by bracing myself against the front of the screeching car with my left wrist and palm. The wrist was the same one that had been bothering me all year from a previous crash, and the palm was bruised exactly where it sits on the brake hoods, so it hurt like hell.

I stopped at a coffee shop and considered my options. At first, I resolved to go home, let the hand heal, and restart the Tour de Phil in a few days. Then I realized that when I do real grand tour, it probably won’t go smoothly. Maybe I won’t get hit by a car, but shit happens and I should just deal with it and keep rolling. Also, it would have been embarrassing to tell Vaughters I’d DNF’d in the Tour de Phil. I finished that ride in the drops, which was easier on my swollen hand. I was in the groupetto, but I made time cut.

Week 2
To escape L.A. traffic, I stayed with a friend in San Diego for a few days. I rode the Escondido stage of the 2013 Amgen Tour of California backwards because the Tour de Phil climbs Palomar the hard way. It was also appropriate for the Tour de Phil to have a few transfers, even though I had to drive myself instead of sit on a sofa in an RV like Cleopatra. My legs had adapted to the training and felt surprisingly OK. 350 watts was no biggie.

Week 3
It was starting to feel like a stage race. I went to Interbike in Las Vegas for the Pinarello Gran Fondo (and because it had been too long since I’d spent $28 on a crappy meal at a casino), and then finished the week off in the Santa Monica mountains outside of L.A. I was eating everything in sight during the day, still waking up hungry at 5 a.m., and experiencing that “stage race stupid” you get from doing nothing but pedaling. I realized at dinner that my T-shirt was inside-out, but I didn’t care enough to fix it. Of course, the best example of “stage race stupid” is the fact that after three weeks, I still couldn’t come up with a better name than “Tour de Phil.” Pathetic.

The last day, I wanted to squeeze everything out of the tank, so I parked my car at the base of Decker Canyon in Malibu, and went up and down all day like an idiot, going harder each time. I did it 12 times, and then I could climb no more.

There were no post-tour criteriums, so I’m in the offseason now. The Tour de Phil was kind of a crazy idea, but I’m actually glad I did it. It’s always good for motivation to accomplish something you didn’t know was possible, I feel prepared for 2014 and I earned my time off now. My shirt is still inside-out, I think. I’ll fix it after my nap.

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Phil Gaimon Journal: Wrapping up in Colorado http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/08/news/phil-gaimon-journal-wrapping-up-in-colorado_300694 http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/08/news/phil-gaimon-journal-wrapping-up-in-colorado_300694#comments Wed, 28 Aug 2013 14:57:11 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=300694

The USA Pro Challenge was Phil Gaimon's last race of the season, so he'll have plenty of time to rest his pothole-rattled wrists. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

The Bissell rider talks about the final stage at the USA Pro Challenge, his teammate's affinity for real eggs, and more

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The USA Pro Challenge was Phil Gaimon's last race of the season, so he'll have plenty of time to rest his pothole-rattled wrists. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

Sorry for the delay on this one, folks. I wrote a blog entry after the race finished on Sunday, and then my laptop died, so that masterpiece is trapped on what might turn out to be a $1,200 paperweight.

Bissell finished with five dudes at the USA Pro Challenge. We lost our two Kiwis, Jeremy Vennell and Mike Torckler, to crashes in the third stage, and our climber/sprinter (he time trials alright, too), Chris Baldwin to a freak accident in stage 4. It’s weird how empty it felt at the dinner table after they headed home. Jason McCartney said he finished the Vuelta once with three guys left on his team, and a staff-rider ratio of three to one. I bet those three got nice, long massages.

Jason’s the nicest guy on the planet, but he has a thing about eggs: he really hates the powdered fake ones they usually serve us. It’s fun to watch him working his way down the buffet, and then wait for the look on his face when he finds out the eggs are fake again. It’s how you might look if someone told you a loved one died in a fire. Jason’s from Iowa. They take their poultry seriously there.

“Is there any way I could get some real eggs?” He politely asked the server before the fifth stage, more than willing to pay for them from the hotel restaurant, if that’s what it took.

The server talked to the manager, who said he could make some, but it would be 45 minutes. Now, I’ve scrambled eggs a couple times, and it rarely takes longer than half an hour. My guess is that this was their way of saying “yes” for their “customer is always right” policy, without actually having to do it, because of course he wouldn’t want to wait that long. Well, they don’t know Jason McCartney.

“That would be great! Sure, I’ll wait.” Iowa, folks. Iowa. The eggs only took 10 minutes or so. I asked for some peanut butter around the same time, but that’s a whole different story.

The stages were pretty eventful for some guys, not a whole lot for me. I covered breaks early on, passing out bottles and cruising to the finish line. I don’t even really know what went on at the finish, unless I decided to read about it later. Every day my teammates and I had this conversation in the RV after the stage.

“Who won today? Sagan?”

“I don’t know.”

“Yeah, whatever. Probably Sagan.”

After one stage, reporter Dan Wuori put his recorder up to my face.

“Were you surprised with the outcome of the stage today, Phil?”

My answer: “Well uhhh, what was the uhhh, what was the outcome, Dan?”

I might need media training, but we had a laugh.

Pat McCarty said he’s had plenty of interviews in that situation. He’d just say something generic, without even knowing who he was talking about, like this: “Well, it was no surprise to me. It was a tough stage, and you could tell those guys were really motivated today.” Pat’s such a pro.

Speaking of being a pro, stage 6 finished in Fort Collins, McCarty’s new hometown. He said he needed to be in the break for his home crowd, which is easier said than done, giving that half the field wanted to be in the break. Pat did it, though. And Kirk. Five guys on the team and we put two in the break. So there.

The last 30km were tough that day, and then it got even harder when guys started crashing in the middle of the group. You know that moment when bikes and dudes are tumbling around in front of you, and all you can do is squeeze your brakes as hard as you can, so suddenly your bike is totally locked up, and pointed the wrong direction? And at just that moment when the ground is sucking you down, you let off the brakes, your momentum puts you upright again, you miraculously find a hole through all the carnage, and then you’re suddenly back in the group, like nothing ever happened? Maybe that’s never happened to you, but I had one that day.

I don’t think anyone crashed during Sunday’s circuit race in Denver. The only pain there was from the giant potholes, which wreaked havoc on my wrist. Last race of the year, so I have plenty of time to let that heal. Who won the circuit race? I don’t know. Whatever. Probably Sagan.

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