Phil Gaimon Journal: Tour of California’s heat is a ‘real killer’

Bissell rider talks about racing in the California heat and bumping handlebars with Tyler Farrar

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On paper, it looked like the first couple stages were going to be all about the climbs, but then the paper spontaneously burst into flames, and we learned that heat was the real killer.

We’ve all been dumping water on ourselves a lot at the Amgen Tour of California. At one point, I realized I was dumping First Endurance drink mix on my head. “Whatever,” I thought, and kept dumping. It was cold, and it’s not like I wasn’t going to take a shower after the stage.

The race is going pretty well for Bissell. We’ve put a guy into the break both days. Carter Jones is wearing the KOM jersey and he gets to wear a sweet polka-dot jersey, which goes well with his youthful, rosy cheeks. I was 15th on Monday, which is decent, but not what I hoped for or expected. I’ve had some allergies or a lingering cold or something and it’s taken an edge off me, so that’s my excuse. Kinda need to be firing on all cylinders to do well at this sort of race, but I’m still doing alright. I’m not giving up just yet.

So far, the highlight of the week was watching USADA grab the Bontrager team in the hallway. They were on their way to dinner and had a make a U-turn to donate some blood for the cause. Poor guys looked hungry, too. I hope they made the buffet before it closed.

It’s been a couple years since I raced in a field of this caliber, and I have a few observations I’d like to share.

1. I’d gotten accustomed to a constant scrum of fighting for wheels and bumping handlebars, but no one was fighting for the front like they do in the NRC races. If you have a reason to be up there, you’re there, and if your team isn’t chasing, you chill out. It all so civil and calm, with one exception: when we were approaching the base of Monday’s climb. At that point, it went from civil to doors opening at Best Buy on Black Friday.

2. Guys know how to ride their bikes. When I look ahead and see a big group of dudes in the U.S. races I’ve been doing, they all look like sharks to me, like they’ll try and kill me any second. Here, you can trust the wheel, and if someone bumps into you, he’s not going to freak out and crash. He’s Tyler Farrar.

3. There are some famous dudes in the race. At least, famous for bike racers. It was odd looking over and seeing Andy Schleck, for example, but I didn’t have time to be starstruck.

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