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

At NCAA XC Nationals, Reflecting On From Where We Came

Ian Dille IMG_7F6788077D4F-1.jpeg

Ask any bike racer how they got into the sport, and they’ll often name a former competitive endeavor. Activities preceding cycling frequently include running and swimming. But I know racers who played hockey, competed in Celtic dance, or were freestyle inline skaters.

On This Day In 1902, The Idea For The Tour De France Was Born

Wikipedia Desgrange.jpg

In the offices of a struggling French sports paper 115 years ago today — November 20, 1902 — the idea for the Tour de France was first born.

Former U.K. Coach Sutton Used TUEs To Gain Edge

AFP c418c95f1d8ac08258b2ef671cac2e2adf6324c7.jpg

LONDON (AFP) – Former Great Britain and Team Sky coach Shane Sutton has admitted to using therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) to give the cyclists he worked with an edge.

World Cup Overall Standings Ahead Of Bogense

B. Hamvas 20171112-140030-6.jpg

Americans Arrive For World Cup Stop In Bogense, Denmark

B. Hamvas IMG_0840.jpg

The UCI World Cup resumes on Saturday in Bogense, Denmark.

Wiggins Responds To Result Of U.K. Anti-Doping Investigation

Lwp Kommunikáció/Flickr 18229221928_1938e17561_k.jpg

LONDON (AFP) – British cycling great Bradley Wiggins said he and his family had been subjected to "living hell" after United Kingdom Anti-Doping said on Wednesday it would not be charging him over a mystery package he received in 2011.

For The Love Of Mud: Reviewing Gavere In Images

B. Hamvas 20171112-140030-6.jpg

On Sunday, we witnessed the first blessedly muddy cyclocross race of the season.

FloBikes Seeks A Rights Acquisition Manager

2017 Ronse - CVV Trofee

FloSports Inc. is seeking to hire a Rights Acquisition Manager to lead FloBikes. 

Elle Anderson On Superprestige Gavere, And Her Belgian Family

B. Hamvas 20171101-143211.jpg

During the spring and summer, American cyclocross racer Elle Anderson lives in the Bay Area and works for Strava, where she helps manage the tech company’s community forums.

Superprestige Overall Standings Ahead Of Gavere

B. Hamvas 20161113-154531-2.jpg

At the midpoint of the Telenet Superprestige series, UCI World Cup leader Mathieu van der Poel and world champion Wout van Aert remain tied on points. Lars van der Haar sits only six points back in third place.