Phil Gaimon's "Worst Retirement Ever" Continues At The Taiwan KOM Challenge

Phil Gaimon 20171020_112119.jpg

Phil Gaimon is a former World Tour rider, the host of “Worst Retirement Ever” on YouTube, Phil’s Cookie Fondo in Malibu, and the author of “Draft Animals: Living the Pro Cycling Dream (Once in Awhile).” Here, he reports on his experience going toe-to-toe with recent Tour of Lombardia winner Vincenzo Nibali on one of the world’s most iconic and longest mountain climbs.

I remember hearing about the Taiwan KOM challenge a few years ago. A race from sea-level to 11,000 feet with crazy prize money sounded great, except I could never make it there because I was too busy being a pro and pros are supposed to rest and hit the gym in October.

Now I’m done with that life, turning my attention to a silly YouTube channel called “Worst Retirement Ever,” in which I ride up mountains as fast as I can. So when I got an invitation this year, it was a quick “yes!” Then I learned that one of the other invited guests was Vincenzo Nibali, and I saw fewer dollar signs and more pain in my future.

I’ve always been a climber, but the races I won were on 10-20-minute rises and I suffered on anything longer. I can do a decent one-hour effort for Strava these days, but a 3.5-hour effort is far from my specialty. In the pro days, I’d have prepped with a few endurance weeks of 25-30 hours, basing in Big Bear to acclimate to the high altitude.

I’ve been to Taiwan a few times and I always enjoyed it. It’s a good amount of different and weird and fun, without being so alien that it’s intimidating or hard to find what you need. And believe it or not, the bike riding is incredible. Just outside of Taichung and Taipei, there are networks of bike paths and rural roads through lush jungles, and all sorts of crazy climbs.

The landscape looked like Jurassic Park. We raced over rivers and waterfalls, which were pleasant because it was incredibly hot and humid. At 9,000 feet, it was 10K to go and Nibali flicked his elbow again, so I attacked.

The KOM challenge is “sportive-style,” meaning 600 riders start together. The climb only averages 4 percent, so it’s pretty tactical and it took awhile for the pack to shrink from 600 starters to 30 or so. When Nibali attacked, 10 remained. (He was definitely not in full offseason shape, Alex and Mike — you jerks.)

The landscape looked like Jurassic Park. We raced over rivers and waterfalls, which were pleasant because it was incredibly hot and humid. At 9,000 feet, it was 10K to go and Nibali flicked his elbow again, so I attacked.

The Italian burned his teammates and then pulled himself to keep the pressure on, while I sat on his wheel in my cookie-covered San Remo suit and 12-pound Cannondale, refusing to pull or follow his snappy accelerations, which were obviously just trying to pop us. I watch TV, Nibali. I know your tricks.

Most of the front group cruised by me in the final 30 minutes, and I came in sixth — not the result I wanted, but definitely the result I deserved, with big enough time gaps that there’s really no point questioning tactics.

I’m not sure if “Worst Retirement Ever” will return to the Taiwan KOM challenge, because there’s other climbs and events out there that also speak to my soul, but I hope you can ride in Taiwan someday.

Thanks for reading.


By Phil Gaimon

Wiggins Says Team Sky Dominance Bad For Cycling

97d204facec499fa49acfd55bfc40859d5b9fc47.jpg

(AFP) – British rider Bradley Wiggins said on Wednesday that Team Sky's dominance and the controversies surrounding the cycling team have led to a "negative" atmosphere in the sport.

Remembering Andrew Tilin: The Rider, The Writer, & His Call For Road Safety

IMG_5837.JPG

The four of us were at a mid-ride store stop in Lockhart, Texas, when we got the news.

Weekend Roundup: Van Der Poel Gets 30, Cant Clinches Superprestige Series

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 4.19.47 PM.png

Mathieu van der Poel secured victories on back-to-back days at Middelkerke and Hulst in the Telenet Superprestige series this past weekend. Van der Poel’s victory in Hulst, Netherlands, on Sunday was the Dutchman’s 30th of the season, tying Sven Nys’ 2007 record. Van der Poel has piloted his bicycle to a nearly flawless season, only landing off the podium once.

Preview: Cant, Kaptheijns Set For Overall Superprestige Battle

20180210-144433.jpg

The cyclocross season comes to a close this weekend with Superprestige Middelkerke on Saturday and Brico Cross Hulst on Sunday.

Froome Starts Season In Ruta Del Sol Despite Opposition In Madrid

fbf434d6c35065b2796e9df05d369feed694a33f.jpg

AFP – Chris Froome returns to competition on Wednesday in the Ruta del Sol but he will be riding under a cloud after the revelation in December of an abnormal doping result.

At Ruta Del Sol, Froome Frustrated By 'Misinformation'

(AFP Photo/Jeff PACHOUD) froome.jpg

(AFP) – Chris Froome insisted that "misinformation" has led to rival riders calling for him to be suspended after an abnormal doping test, as he started his season at the Ruta del Sol on Wednesday.

Through The Lens: Superprestige Hoogstraten

B. Hamvas – Cyclephotos 20180211-155933-4.jpg

In a showing of complete dominance, Sanne Cant and Mathieu van der Poel led the charge through the beautiful muddy landscape that was Hoogstraten.

Weekend Review: Cant And Van Der Poel Crush, And Compton Is Cut

B. Hamvas – Cyclephotos 20180210-150153.jpg

Mathieu van der Poel and Sanne Cant took back-to-back wins at this weekend’s men's and women's cyclocross races in Lille and Hoogstraten, Belgium, respectively.

Through The Lens: Krawatencross

B. Hamvas – Cyclephotos 20180210-134826.jpg

The final stage of the DVV Trofee Series, Krawatencross takes places along a type Flandrien fast course; through the pines and hits the shores.

Cross Continues At Krawatencross and Superprestige Hoogstraten

B. Hamvas – Cyclephotos 20170204-152142.jpg

The DVV Trofee returns this Saturday for its eighth and final round in Lille, Belgium, with Krawatencross. As the riders circumnavigate a small pond, they will face a course that features a hearty mix of long sandy stretches along the shore, and technical forest trails — typical of a Flandrien cyclocross affair.