"If I get in the break, nobody knows who the hell I am"
Sometimes nice guys do finish first. After spending eight years racing domestically in the United States on Continental level pro teams as well as elite level amateur teams, Phil Gaimon made the jump to the WorldTour level in 2014 via the US-based Garmin-Sharp squad.
And in his first outing for his new team in stage one of Argentina's Tour de San Luis, the 27-year-old sporting a "CLEAN" tattoo inside his right bicep earned a stunning solo victory after his four companions in the early escape fell by the wayside. With the addition of the general classification leader's jersey as well as the mountains jersey it was truly a day to remember for Gaimon.
Gaimon perhaps took advantage of his relative anonymity, at least to a peloton with few of his peers from the US, with the rest of the field eyeing his Garmin-Sharp teammates Janier Acevedo and Tom Danielson as the squad's GC threats.
"The team said if I get in the break, nobody knows who the hell I am and we might get lucky," said Gaimon.
Entering the endgame of the 166km opening stage from San Luis to Villa Mercedes, however, amidst blistering heat in the mid 90s Fahrenheit, Gaimon led the then four-strong escape through a roundabout and made a mental error as to which road to exit from. As a result, two of his breakaway companions - Marc De Maar (UnitedHealthcare) and Leandro Messineo (San Luis Somos Todos) - crashed, leaving just Gaimon and the fourth member, Emiliano J. Contreras (Argentina) to vie for victory.
Gaimon would ultimately drop the Argentinean national team member to win solo by 12 seconds.
But in a tribute to his sportsmanship, the first words out of Gaimon's
mouth after coasting to a halt in Villa Mercedes were to express regret that he caused a crash which ruined the hopes of De Maar, the rider who made the initial contact with Gaimon and hit the tarmac,with Messineo then crashing into the fallen UnitedHealthcare rider.
"That was unfortunate and not a great way to win a bike race," Gaimon said later at the post-stage press conference. "I already apologised to Marc [De Maar] immediately [afterwards], but the end result was good and I'm happy to see what the rest of the week holds."
Regarding Gaimon's defense of the leader's jersey, the Garmin-Sharp rider stated at that immediate moment it was too soon to know the team's strategy.
"I haven't discussed the plan with the team yet, I don't know what the gaps are, but I would love to hold on to it. If not, we have one of the best sprinters here and we've got some of the best climbers here so the team has a lot of options still."