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Editor’s Note: Phil Gaimon, 25, is a Velo magazine columnist and third-year pro racer for Kenda-5 Hr Energy Presented by Gear Grinder. He has an English degree from the University of Florida, and owns online stores at podiumcycling.com and sharethedamnroad.com. Phil’s previous blogs
I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, training camp is mostly about male bonding. After a winter cooped up at home, it’s great to be back with the team again. Pat Lemieux had been staying with me in Athens, so we flew out together a few days early, and Isaac Howe picked us up at the airport. Mentally, Pat and I had a head start on the humor and silliness part, and Isaac had to sit down and take some breaks when we first arrived, but eventually he got up to speed.
We had a 25-minute drive each way to the main team house, (owned by sponsor Billy Jones of WCJ Pilgrim Wire who probably regrets offering that up by now), and the team gave us a pickup truck for the week, with a big bench front seat, where we of course sat three-wide. By the end of the week, Isaac and I had learned that Pat has a very contagious giggle, and we forced him to sit in the middle where we could tickle him. “Frankie, I can’t tell you why, but you want to give us a GoPro camera” I explained. Thankfully, Frankie trusts me. Here are the results of that trust.
They chose Tucson for camp this year, hereafter spelled “Tooson”, which I learned from Tibco rider Jennifer Wheeler, who was also tired of misspelling the city’s name. Camp started with the usual February Christmas from sponsors, who really spoiled us this year: we were all greeted with the new Masi Bikes, tons of kit from Hincapie, packed in Rudy Project bags with our names embroidered on them (a classy touch).
Christmas was followed by a meet and greet with our new teammates. Everyone went around in a circle and stated their marital status, education, etc. Luca Damiani, our token Italian guy, was the highlight. He’s been in Italy all winter, so his English is a bit rusty. He’s a funny guy to begin with, but factor in a few subject-verb disagreements, and it’s pure comedy. Luca ended his intro with a warning that I’d heard before: “Leesen. When you roommate with me, you flush, everything.” He gave me that same speech at Redlands last year, and again at the Taiwan Cup. I left him a present in the bathroom on both occasions. I love Luca.
We got our bikes all measured and fit the first day, and then beat the crap out of each other up Mt. Lemmon. Over the week, we also beat the crap out of each other up Madera, Gate’s Pass, and then Lemmon again. I got in just under 30 hours of riding over seven days. All the sprinters were complaining about the amount of climbing, but I would argue that it’s worse for me. I’m the climber. I have drop everyone each time.
I’m proud to say I did win training camp, in case anyone was wondering, despite a late challenge from Nate English the last time up Lemmon. That one really hurt, but we made peace at the cookie cabin at the top. Nothing’s better than finishing a climb with a $7 cookie the size of a manhole cover.
Every evening, we’d get short lectures from some of the sponsors that came to visit, including Masi, Speedplay, Carborocket, Carmichael Training Systems, 5-Hour Energy, Mazza Wines, and Vincero Designs. We were also visited by two professors from Arizona State for media training, which turned into a heated debate about the use of coarse humor on social media. It was mostly between the professors and rider Jim Stemper, one of the most vulgar and offensive people you’ll ever meet. Just kidding. Jim is a nice boy. It was everyone against me. I maintain that coarse humor is the main reason anyone reads my columns or tweets, and the reason you’re reading my blog right now. Well, I’ve got your back, reader! They won’t change me! That said, we might start with a disclaimer in the future: the opinions of Phil Gaimon do not necessarily reflect those of the sponsors, team, or staff. How’s that?
So another camp came and went, and we still haven’t told any ghost stories, roasted marshmallows by a campfire, or even set up a tent. These bike racers have no clue what camping is all about, but it was still a good trip. Everyone was looking fit and fast, and we’re ready to smash it this weekend at San Dimas, the Old Pueblo Crit in Tooson, and Redlands the following weekend. Stop by the van and we’ll pass out some Bonk Breaker bars and 5-Hour Energy.