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A friend recently asked how I was doing in my retirement. I told him that I drove out to Westlake that morning, where it was pouring rain (this means a light drizzle if you live in L.A.), so I was pretty cold in my long-sleeve skinsuit when I started. Then I hit a rock going down a climb and flatted my front wheel, which meant turning around and climbing back up on the rim. I didn’t have my phone, so I hitchhiked back to my car in someone’s horse trailer.
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“You’re retired. What the hell were you doing with no spare tubes, a skinsuit, and no cellphone, riding alone in the rain?” They asked.
“Well I was going for the Strava.”
So that’s how I’m doing, but it’s not as bad as it sounds.
Last fall, when I realized that I wouldn’t be racing professionally anymore, I turned my focus from pedaling, to my future, finishing two books, planning Phil’s Fondo for 2017, pitching the TV show I’ve been trying to sell (this is still in the “might actually happen” phase), and sorting out a job, because none of those are likely to pay the bills (the Fondo is for charity). To get some exercise and enjoy myself, I went on the local group rides, where I accidentally took the Strava for a climb called Nichols Canyon. The previous owner of the Nichols KOM was on top all of the leaderboards in L.A., which had become a bit of an eyesore for the cycling community after his drug scandal, so friends were really happy to see me take the crown instead. Most pros don’t care about Strava, and I’d never paid attention to it, but we all know that generally, the internet is a cruel place, filled with trolls and rude comments, so when I was flooded with positive feedback, I felt like I should respond. In my spare time over the winter, I used my residual WorldTour fitness to peck away at KOMs around the city.
My new job is at Wasserman, a big, fancy sports marketing company in LA. Everyone’s warned me about desks and offices, but this is exactly where I should fit in in the adult world, and after bouncing around the globe and having no idea where I’ll be next week for the last ten years, the truth is, I’m ready to trade the suitcase for a briefcase and a little stability.
There’s just one little problem: It took a crazy amount of work and sacrifice to be one the top 50-100 in the world at riding a bike up a hill, and while it wasn’t enough to stay in the pros, I doubt if I’ll ever be that good at anything again. I know have to let it go eventually, but as excited I am to eat more cookies and stop doing intervals, part of me wanted to hang for a little longer, have goals, and suffer with purpose.
That’s when the word started to spread about my “retirement mission.” There were news articles about Phil Gaimon “cleaning up the streets,” and I was recognized a couple times in L.A. — like, at restaurants, not on my bike. Some people were geeking out on my power files, others emailed asking to me go after famous segments from races, or smaller climbs in their hometown, curious to know what a pro could do on their local hills. I got all the good L.A. KOMs after a few weeks, just thinking it was funny, but it was actually Jonathan Vaughters’s idea that I could take it a step further.
So I’m proud to announce: “The Worst Retirement Ever.” My 2017 will have lots of pain and suffering, with none of the glory of posting up in front of a cheering crowd, or joking around on the bus with my teammates. Instead, I’ll be chasing hillclimb records, on climbs of your choice, with fully dorked-out race gear. I’ll collect as many as I can, but 10 missions will be filmed for my YouTube channel, which might help get that TV show picked up, or at the very least entertain some of you as I make an ass of myself. All I really care about is that there’ll no more hitchhiking.
My new mission is rather niche of course, so I’ll be posting on my own site from now on, and this will be my last blog for VeloNews. I’d like to thank all the editors and interns and kind folks who proofread the blogs I wrote over the years (often on my phone from massage tables at stage races), as well as the readers put up with my horrible photography and sophomoric humor. Sincerely, much love to all of you.