We overtook the Team Helen’s/Santa Monica BMW guys on Ocean and I noticed that in the midst of their stylish blue-white-red kits there was an orange helmet. The rider was rail thin and wearing an Optum kit. I checked his top tube and it said “Phil Gaimon.”
So I knew that the 2015 July 4th Holiday Ride was going to be hard.
It turns out that Gaimon, who’s one of the nicest people around, showed up to help the Helen’s guys retake their Mandeville KOM, formerly owned by local legend Tony Manzella and recently usurped by Nick Brandt-Sorenson, the infamous masters racer who received a two-year suspension after testing positive for naughty substances at masters nationals in Bend, Oregon in 2011, where he won both road and the crit titles and then de-won them after the pee-pee test.
To my way of thinking, Strava KOM’s are the one place that doping and dopers should be encouraged, since the whole compete-on-Strava thing is a totally bogus shit show to begin with, but whatever … my immediate problem was figuring out how a 51-year-old freddie would stay in the same county as the top pro road racer in the country.
The short answer, of course, is “ain’t gonna happen,” and it didn’t. But when we turned onto Mandeville Canyon Road for the 6-mile, 16-minute climb, it sure seemed like it might. Then Phil went to the front and five seconds later the dream died stillborn.
I was behind Frenchy the Younger, seven bikes back. In the rear I could hear the pounding and mashing of the massive fredoton which included well over 200 idiots like me who thought that we were really going to get a chance to ride against Phil Gaimon.
The Mandeville Canyon climb is very gradual, and never starts to hurt until the halfway point. We hadn’t finished the first quarter mile and over a hundred riders had evaporated into a mist of seized muscles and irreparably ruined (until tomorrow) egos. My legs hurt in that first quarter mile the way they usually hurt in the last.
After the white picket fence that marks the halfway point, U23 Hagens-Berman pro and Eagle Scout Diego Binatena leaped away from what was now a group of less than ten people. Phil took a breath, never bothering to get off the hoods, and gradually increased his effort by ten watts every thirty seconds. Diego returned to the fold and a couple of other riders popped like the gas-inflated stomach of a decomposing corpse that’s stuck with a shovel.
Now Phil had Diego, Matt Cuttler, me, Matt Wikstrom, Tony Manzella, and Stathis Sakellariadis on his wheel. All but Tony and Matt were young enough to be my kids, and all, including Tony, were just getting warmed up. The massive noise and carnage earlier in the ride had been replaced by the eerily quiet sound of spinning chains and labored breathing, which turned out to be mine.
With about half a mile to go Matt started to come off Diego’s wheel. “I’m done,” he muttered.
“Close the fucking gap!” I croaked, and miraculously, he lunged and did.
Shortly thereafter we both cracked. Tony, Matt, and Stathis came streaking past to close the yawning gap I generously handed them. Matt and I pedaled together briefly until I had to leave him in order to get caught up on some important reading material. When I hit the final wall, Phil had sat and was lazily pedaling. He had towed the group, I later learned, for the entire fifteen minutes at something around 430 watts.
Of course I sprunted by him and shouted, “Quitter!” as I beat the remnants of the softly charging fredoton, led by Derek B. and G$. Diego, Stathis, Matt, and Tony were finishing the business section of the Times when I arrived.
“Beat” of course is meaningless when all you do is finish ahead of someone, because the true tale of the tape is on the KOM leaderboard, where the computer gets to decide who’s the fastest of them all. Poor Phil Gaimon never had a chance against ol’ Strava.
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PS: Don’t forget to take the 2015 Bike Racing Survey here.