Phil Gaimon (Cannondale) is a long and lanky racer, well suited for long climbs and fond of smooth pavement. On Sunday he found himself at the starting line of Paris-Roubaix staring down a list of firsts: first time racing on cobbles, first time racing a Cannondale Synapse endurance bike, first time racing on low-psi tubulars. Gaimon did his job, though, getting in the early break before crashing out.
At the finish, Gaimon was upbeat after getting patched up by the team doctor.
"It was about as crazy and ridiculous and awesome as I had been expected and hoped," Gaimon said of his first Paris-Roubaix. "Being in the break was cool. At the beginning that was my job. They said get in the break and I went in the break."
Many riders are assigned this job, however, which is often much easier said than done. For Gaimon it was a matter of right place/right time, and gutting it out.
"A few guys went really hard and I was hanging on for dear life and then it was a split," he said. "Four out of five years I think that would have been the day's break and they would have given it ten minutes. But there were a couple of guys in there that the bunch didn't like so they brought it back. I did my job and survived. And then it was chaos."
After being swept up, Gaimon found himself caught behind a few crashes and fighting to chase back on with a group multiple times. His own crash snuck up on him, as such things do.
"I was in a group, and just kinda ripped a corner and went down," he said. "I have never... That was my first time on that bike, on wheels with like 25psi or whatever [editor's note: Gaimon is joking; it was more like 70psi]. I literally don't know how to rip a corner on cobbles on that setup yet, so it was bound to happen."
Gaimon was called into the Roubaix squad at the last minute as many of the original starters fell sick. So while the main team did the customary cobbles reconnaissance on the Friday Paris-Roubaix, Gaimon did not.
Despite the rough course not suiting his strengths as a racer, Gaimon said he was glad to experience the Hell of the North.
"It's fine. They told me, your job is the first 100k. It's not cobbles, you're not ready for that. But you have a legitimate job to do and I'm stoked that I did," he said. "And I now have torn-up jerseys that I can hang on the wall with my numbers on it."
So, would he want to come back?
"Nah, I wouldn't go that far," he said with a laugh. "Actually, yes, I do. I'm stupid that way. It's a joke that I'm here in a way. But the night before, just like every one of the 200 guys here, I'm thinking about winning it, and I'm super pissed now and thinking about coming back and doing better. That's how it works."
Dylan van Baarle was the best-placed Cannondale rider at 16th, finishing in a group with world champion Peter Sagan.
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