Phil Gaimon Journal: The cliche before the storm at the Amgen Tour of California

When the race starts, the public-relations storm is over, the schedules are issued, and your smart pro goes into "dumb animal mode"

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First of all, I’m sure you that if you’re a Velo or reader, you’re aware that I wrote a book. “Pro Cycling on $10 a Day” is now available in bookstores, bike shops, and online.

Here’s my one and only shameless plug for it: When I was coming up in the sport, I remember looking up to guys on the smaller American teams. I figured pros lived wild, glamorous lives, and I worked hard to join them as I ground my way through college.

I finally made it, learned what it was really like to be a professional, and wrote the book to tell the youngsters of today what they’re getting into, what to expect when they’re there, how hard it is, and why it was worth every night on a stranger’s sofa, and each square mile of road rash on the way. I’m really proud of how the book came out, and I hope to sign your copy if you make it out to the Amgen Tour of California this week.

If you can’t make it to the race in person, you can read about it here, because I’ll be blogging daily-ish from the Amgen Tour of California. I say “–ish” because I might get tired or busy, and I don’t want any whining if I miss a day. Got it, folks? Bike racing is hard enough.

Friday was the team presentation. People always talk about this time of a bike race as “the calm before the storm,” but I hate that cliché. For one thing, a bike race isn’t a storm, unless it’s actually storming, which happens sometimes. For another, from the riders’ perspective, the storm is over when the bike race starts, because racing is the easy part.

Some of the guys on Garmin-Sharp flew straight from the Tour de Romandie, landing in San Jose on Monday night. I spent an afternoon there filming a very silly series of videos for Cervelo (I can’t imagine why they picked me for silliness).

Then we had a few days of publicity-type rides around Palo Alto, including a stint where locals could sign up through their Uber apps to ride with us, the same way you’d pick up a ride across town. It was a ton of fun, we were generously wined and dined (don’t worry, just one glass of wine each, JV), but it was exhausting, and the schedule was packed every day.

When the race starts, that’s when it’s calm for us. There’s no PR or interviews (unless you’re the poor bastard who’s winning the thing), and riders go into what I refer to as “dumb animal mode,” which means we have a detailed schedule every day, a room list, meals provided, bags carried for us, massage, and soigneurs to point us to our rooms if the hotel is particularly confusing.

As a big, dumb animal, my brain is turned off for days as I blindly do what I’m told. In fact, my schedule the other day said, “Give Tom Danielson a wedgie,” and I just went for it, no questions asked.

It’s an exciting week for me. I remember racing here with smaller American teams, and looking with envy at the Garmin guys who roll up in their big bus, with a fleet of cars and staff and chefs.

Well, guess what? I’m that guy now! Goosebumps, guys! All my schedule says for the rest of the week is: “Don’t screw it up.”


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.