Gaimon signs with Bissell, sets sights on Europe in 2014

Kenda climber jumps ship for a team he thinks is almost assured a shot at the big U.S. races

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

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Phil Gaimon, who won the general classification at the 2012 Redlands Bicycle Classic as a member of Kenda-5-hour Energy, will be sporting the colors of Bissell Pro Cycling in 2013. But if the 26-year-old and his new team manager have their way, their coupling may be short-lived. Gaimon has his sights set on Europe in 2014.

The rider, author of the Velo magazine column “Ask a Pro,” had hopes of crossing the Atlantic sooner — and the legs to back his ambitions in the spring of 2012. In addition to his overall win at Redlands, Gaimon took time trial and KOM victories at the San Dimas Stage Race. All that was left was the chance to shine on a bigger stage.

“I was really hoping to go to Europe [in 2013],” Gaimon told VeloNews, “and based on my spring results I thought I could do it. I really felt I was ready and based on conversations I’d had with a couple of teams, I think I had a shot. What I needed to do was show myself at California, Utah, or Colorado. And obviously that didn’t work out.”

Despite strong results, Gaimon’s Kenda squad failed to secure an invitation to any of the three major U.S. races. (Kenda announced Monday that it will be merging with On the Rivet Management, owner and operator of the Competitive Cyclist squad.)

“I was told to prepare for Utah and went up to train at altitude for a month at Big Bear, California, but then kind of had nowhere to go. After that I realized that if I want to get to Europe I need to be on a team that does those races and that was Bissell.”

Bissell general manager Glen Mitchell thinks his team will be a good match for Gaimon, ranked fifth in the 2012 National Racing Calendar rankings.

“Phil is entering the prime of his career. Not only has he improved his results from year-to-year, but he’s shown that he can produce steadily throughout the season, which is important,” said Mitchell. “If he can get to the Tour of California or [the USA Pro Challenge] and show that he can get the same kind of results that he’s had at the NRC level, then that’s the really exciting part — for both the rider and the team. To get exposed at that level? It’s an opportunity to show everyone what you’re all about.”

Because Bissell’s focus is almost exclusively domestic, Mitchell recognizes the team’s role within the broader structure of cycling.

“At the Continental level, if we do our job right by giving riders exposure and teaching them how to race, then our guys get the chance to move up. It’s great going to races and seeing guys on these bigger teams that came through our program. Of course we always want a strong roster, but we know that when we do, the chances of losing guys to teams above us is a reality. And that’s ok, because when we do it helps us to attract riders in the future.”

Gaimon thinks the fit will be a good one.

“I’m so happy with where I’m ending up,” he said. “They’ve been around forever. They’re super stable, they bring more staff than the other teams, a really solid group of sponsors and great equipment. If I get a little bit better next year, as I’ve been doing every year, then nothing’s going to keep me from winning a lot of races and going to Europe the next year unless some ridiculous crack happens.”

Even as he prepares to depart, Gaimon has nothing but praise for his Kenda teammates and their recent accomplishments.

“The guys on this team are awesome, so leaving them isn’t easy. Kenda’s done amazingly well for the money they have. Our results have been disproportionate to our budget over the past three years. I’m really proud of that.”

So does Gaimon have what it will take to jump to the sport’s highest level?

“That’s a question he’s going to have to answer for himself,” said Mitchell. “We think he’ll be a really solid add to our roster, but I also think this will be a chance for him to race against some other teams and see where it leads.”

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