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Road Culture

Phil Gaimon Journal: At least there were no helicopters in this DNF

Bissell rider succumbs to illness at the Amgen Tour of California in roller coaster season

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SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (VN) — This was a hard blog to write. On the one hand, I really don’t want to talk about it, because I absolutely hate sympathy. On the other hand, if I write about the good, I should go ahead and mention the bad. This year has been plenty of both and nothing in between. Part of what makes cycling so great is how damn tough it is. You’ve got to love it to get through, and I do love it, even now.

I’m not sure what illness I have, exactly. There was a cold going around the team at Gila, and I felt a coughing, sore throat, and all that going on, but my SRM said that my legs were fine, I didn’t have a fever or anything, and symptoms were pretty minimal. That usually just means allergies, and there was a ton of pollen around, so I popped some antihistamines, and crossed my fingers heading into Cali.

I’m sure you’re all shocked to hear that finger-crossing doesn’t work. Every day here, the headache got a little bit worse, the coughing got louder, and the legs lost of a few watts. On Monday, I still had enough to finish 15th on the climb into hell, but I know I’m capable of better. Of course, 200-kilometer races and blistering heat (literally, I do have blisters) aren’t great for the health.

On Tuesday, when the road went uphill, I went backwards, which is usually the opposite of how things work for me. I chased for 80km, with Glen Mitchell driving the Bissell car next to me, keeping me fueled, and calculating the pace I’d need to maintain to make time cut. With 5km to go, race officials told to me to get in the car. Given how I’m feeling right now, it’s hard to think I would have felt much better tomorrow.

Obviously, the Amgen Tour of California was a huge target for me and the team, but the rest of the guys are doing quite well without me. I think Carter Jones is going to seal the deal on the polka-dot jersey, and Chris Baldwin’s not too shabby of a GC rider. Personally, I’m disappointed, but I learned a long time ago that you can’t tie your happiness to the last race. I’ll go home, rest up, and look ahead to nationals and Philly in the coming weeks.

This has been a real roller coaster year, for more reasons than I can get into just yet. My last comeback was from near-death in San Dimas to near-victory at the Tour of the Gila, so beating a few sniffles and coughing some phlegm (and now sand) out of my lungs will be a piece of cake.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.