Phil the Thrill. TOC podium?
We are two days from showdown, Amgen Tour of California, 10th edition, the GC wide open version. The one where Phil Gaimon of Optum Pro Cycling could podium. Is this just crazy talk?
We’re looking at a new champion being crowned down in LA Live in the City of Angels in just over a weeks time. Previous winners Tejay van Garderen, Michael Rogers, Chris Horner and reigning TOC king Bradley Wiggins are all hors de combat.
This shindig is wide open. Phil is very Thrilled because he wants to get back to the World Tour and California is pretty much the yes or no, live or die, plans A through Z.
His script looks not outrageously unpromising. Tejay is training, Rogers is supporting Contador in the Giro d’Italia, Wiggins retired to an indoor track and Horner never got a party invite — and anyway he’s still coughing up mucus from a lung problem he’s had since nearly getting killed by a hit and run car in a tunnel near Lake Como.
Horner is still messed up from all the antibiotics (hear that Marcel Kittel?) he’s 43 and bald and off form. He’s out, way out and probably never coming back to California. That reduction in former winners would leave just the spindly, Chris Froome-light Robert Gesink. The guy a year off major heart surgery (with minimal race days) and you don’t want to hit max heart rate on Baldy with a suspect ticker. Unless you’ve already picked out a nice burial plot at the summit.
But back to Gaimon. His stock is climbing and even Velonews had a video segment on top riders for TOC with his name and photo montage. He is out of the Garmin argyle and into the black and orange of Optum and this is where he rolls the dice with all the money down on the table.
Gaimon has already proved he is on form, winning the Cali tune-up Redlands Cycling Classic and doing deluxe domestique work for his Optum pal Mike Woods in the recent Tour of the Gila. He has even cut back on his cookie intake — which is the mark of a man determined to earn a World Tour ride with an eye opening performance in California.
Can that even happen despite the best of his intentions, prayers and supplications? Hard to say, right? We talked on the phone with Gaimon for almost two hours a few weeks ago for an upcoming story in Cycle Sport magazine. He knows what the stakes are and exactly what needs to happen.
Without giving anything away from the CS story, we can still drop one quote. “I need to show up big in California. That’s the kind of result that will kick the doors back down.”
The Big Bear time trial and Mount Baldy summit finish will decide Gaimon’s future. A ride back with the big boys in the World Tour or another year at Optum. We’re pulling for you, cookie man.