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Off the Beaten Road with Phil Gaimon of BISSELL: on thrill, cookies, and more

April 26, 2013
Bissell Pro Cycling Team at 2013 training camp, Phil Gaimon center. Photo courtesy of BISSELL Pro Cycling, by Casey B. Gibson

BISSELL Pro Cycling Team at 2013 training camp, Phil Gaimon center. Photo courtesy of BISSELL Pro Cycling, by Casey B. Gibson.

[updated 5/4/2013 — Thanks for your votes, the poll is now closed. Hope you had fun guessing how Phil Gaimon answered the questions below. Check back for how he answered, with lots of new quotes.]

Pro-cycling fans know who “Phil the Thrill” is, but how did Phil Gaimon get that nickname? How did he acquire such a fierce passion for cookies? Would the Athens, Georgia resident ever consider moving to Boulder, Colorado to live near several of his BISSELL Pro Cycling teammates?

Fans who follow the 27 year-old pro-cyclist believe Gaimon is one of the most exciting U.S. domestic riders for several reasons.

First, he’s an early adopter of the green “CLEAN” tattoo, a statement against doping in sport.

Second, he wants to succeed as a professional bike rider as fiercely as he loves cookies – well, maybe even more so. His cycling resume includes overall wins at Merco Cycling Classic and Redlands Bicycle Classic, stage wins at the San Dimas Stage Race, and two victories at the Mt. Washington Hillclimb.

And third, this clean racer has a way with words that treats cycling fans to an honest and very human peek inside the life of a professional cyclist. In 2009 he described the transition from amateur to professional racing in a Bicycling.com Rider Diary during the Tour of California.

Gaimon currently entertains and enlightens readers online in the Phil Gaimon Journal on VeloNews and in the Ask a Pro column in the print magazine Velo.

But there are some things Gaimon hasn’t written about yet. This Off the Beaten Road interview is designed for fans and new followers hungry for more spill on Phil. It ends with a short reader’s quiz to test your Gaimon IQ. And don’t forget to follow Gaimon and BISSELL during the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico, from May 1 to 5.

Phil post-San Dimas crash

The dramatic nature of Gaimon’s crash on March 23rd during day two of the San Dimas Stage Race – a helicopter airlifted him from the event after he made contact with barriers face-first – left the cycling community fearing for his life.

He left the hospital that night, bloody but walking. Last week, with in excess of twenty stitches removed from his face, Gaimon said he looked “very close to normal now, acceptable anyway.”

One reminder of that San Dimas Saturday will stay with the BISSELL rider for quite some time. Gaimon described the scar on his forehead as little, then backpedaled on its estimated size. “…there’s a pretty decent scar on my forehead, like a Y shape. But I figure, scars on the forehead, chicks are into Harry Potter. I think that’s in now. I’m hoping that works.” [the fictional Harry Potter carries a lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead – ed.]

Phil in Big Bear

Gaimon’s temporary training home-away-from-Athens is a friend’s ski house in Big Bear in southern California. The four-bedroom residence is comfortable and he likes the riding.

Phil Gaimon during BISSELL Pro Cycling Team training camp. Photo courtesy of BISSELL, by Casey B. Gibson

Phil Gaimon during BISSELL Pro Cycling Team training camp. Photo courtesy of BISSELL Pro Cycling, by Casey B. Gibson.

“I think it’s a good environment for training. It’s not Boulder – it’s not full of cyclists, which I think is good,” he said. “I want to show up at the race and that’s when I see the guys I’m racing against. Boulder’s like Mecca for cyclists…I think it would bother me if Rory Sutherland passed me on Flagstaff [Mountain] or something. I don’t think I’d handle that well.”

Though when pressed about whether Sutherland would in fact pass him, Gaimon said, “Well, no. Not this year. But he would have before.”

Last week snow in Big Bear and his BISSELL team’s request for blood work led Gaimon to drive down in elevation to Redlands. He described the trip as 40 minutes of hairpin turns that he couldn’t help but take using his bike racing skills.

He laughed while recalling a previous trip. “I’ve gotten really good at it [the descent] except I drive a Toyota Matrix so my car isn’t too happy about how good I am. I got a flat tire the other day just ripping down, I tore the side out of it…Bike racing kind of gives you these weird instincts that you have to apply to everything else…So I definitely take the hot line on the descents in my car.”

Phil the Thrill

Gaimon didn’t earn the nickname “Phil the Thrill” from fast car driving or bombing down hills on a bike.

“I think I came up with that when I was 6 or 7, as I joke – like playing basketball with my friends or something at school,” Gaimon explained. “Pretty much my entire life I’ve been ironically trying to get it to stick, where I realize that I’m not the thrill but it’s funny. So I’ve been trying to do that now for 20 something years…It’s just been a mission of my life to earn the nickname that I thought was funny when I was a child.”

Sometimes people don’t understand the true irony of this nickname. One day at last year’s Redlands Bicycle Classic, Gaimon took a few moments to put the thrill into Phil. He selected what he said was a flat-brimmed hat and super-sized sunglasses for his podium outfit. “…there were some comments, like ‘this guy thinks he’s awesome,’” Gaimon said.

His intention, however, was the exact opposite of what those comments imply.

“I thought it was funny because I knew there was going to be no one watching that podium because it’s a bike race and no one really cares and that’s why it’s funny to be Phil the Thrill, because of course I’m not the thrill.”

Phil the cookie connoisseur

Front and center on the home page of Gaimon’s website, philthethrill.net, are his cookie rankings. He prefaces the list by saying, “I am a firm believer that cookie consumption is directly correlated with happiness. As such, I have had cookies all over the country, and consider myself an expert…”

How did this love affair with cookies begin?

“I wish I remembered. That probably started before I was six,” he said.

“I’m not the first one to notice that cookies are delicious. I wish I felt that way about brussel sprouts and broccoli. I’d be a little healthier.”

Like so many people on the planet, Gaimon simply enjoys the way cookies taste. “That’s been just a basic part of my life. As long as I can remember, anytime there was a cookie around, I wanted it.”

And who supplied those goodies when he was a kid? His grandma gave him a shoebox packed with cookies on his birthday. One day while in college he received a note on the door saying the post office held a package for him. The note included the sender’s name.

“I knew it was a box full of cookies,” Gaimon recalled. “So I brought a half-gallon of milk to the post office and I sat in my car and consumed the entire shoe box. I didn’t want to share the cookies with my roommates so I had to keep it private. That was probably the healthiest thing I ate that week.”

Phil the English major

Aside from cookies, what else is Gaimon passionate about off-the-bike?

“It’s hard. You have to focus on the bike,” he responded. “I think literature. I read a ton. I have an English degree and I want to write some day. I do a little bit of writing but I want to write something legitimate. When I finished college I made a giant book list of all the books I want to read before I write something.”

The list contained about 300 titles.

At the time of this interview Gaimon was reading 1Q84. He called the novel strange and interesting. His coach, Matt Koschara, sent it to him after the San Dimas accident.

“My coach is strange. He’ll send me a YouTube video along with my training of like a Looney Tunes cartoon and – I love my coach – I don’t know if he just thinks it’s funny and I’ll enjoy it or if there is some little hidden thing I have to decipher.”

Phil’s first book

He crossed the final book of the 300 off his list last October. That’s one book a week without any extra-curricular reading. Then Gaimon started to write a book. And finished a draft. He said VeloPress is now reviewing it.

The working title of Gaimon’s book reads: It’s all about the bike, pro-cycling on $10 a day.

Phil Gaimon clean tattoo

His book is a collection of stories drawn from his pro-cycling career and experiences while breaking into the sport.

“It’s a lot of funny stories of just how I got to the point where I could finally pay some bills with this thing [cycling], how hard it was, and how ridiculous it is but why it was worth every minute and what I got out of it. I don’t have a $5 million dollar house in Austin to sell but I have some experiences that I’ll be able to use for the rest of my life. I think that’s the main thing I get from cycling…and I think that’s the message I try to get across. Another angle of it is there are all these books about the fake pro-cycling, this facade of doping. And for there to be a fake pro-cycling there has to be a real one and that’s what I’m going for.”

Phil the observer

As a writer, Gaimon has his antennae up for scenes that best express the reality of being a professional cyclist. One of his favorite observations occurred during dinner at a stage race. Every rider on day one helped himself to a good portion of greens, he said. But that changed as the race progressed.

“Every day you go to the salad buffet at dinner and every day there is less lettuce and more croutons and dressing on your plate,” he said. “You just don’t have the energy to chew all that lettuce, you don’t want to carry it, you don’t want to look at it and you just want empty calories and carbs and sugar. And the idea of something green is just something you’ll have to deal with pooping later; it’s not worth it.”

Reader quiz: guess how Phil answered these questions

How well do you now know Phil Gaimon?

As part of this interview he provided replies to the questions below. Select the answers you believe he chose by clicking on “vote” for each question. At midnight on Friday May 3rd voting will close. Soon thereafter Gaimon’s real answers will be revealed in an Off the Beaten Road follow-up. Be sure to check back because his comments will entertain and enlighten.

How did Phil Gaimon answer the following questions?

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Phil Gaimon’s Team History

2009: Jelly Belly

2010 – 2012: Kenda

Career Highlights

1st Overall, Redlands Bicycle Classic 2012
1st Stage 1, Redlands Bicycle Classic 2012
1st Stage 1, San Dimas Stage Race 2012, 2013
1st San Dimas Stage Race, Stage 2 2009
1st Young Rider Competition, Univest Grand Prix 2007
1st Mt. Washington Auto Road Hillclimb 2008, 2009
1st General Classification, Georgia Cup Dahlonega
2nd Overall, San Dimas Stage Race 2009
12th General Classification, Tri Peaks Challenge
Course Record – Northampton, Massachusetts 9 Mile Individual Time Trial
Course Record – Piru, California 40 k Time Trial

BISSELL Pro Cycling Team Sponsors

BISSELL, Inc.

Advantage Benefits, Pinarello, Campagnolo

MOst, Blackburn, Speed Merchants, Employment Group, Emerald Spa, Giro, SpiderTech, Feedback Sports, K-Edge Cycling Solutions, Stuffits, GoSoap Sports Detergent, Giordana Clothing, Speedplay Pedals, 1st Endurance, DMT Shoes, Finish Line, Echelon Cycle & Multisport, Vredestein, Chamois Butt’r, SRM, Merrell, eSoles.

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4 Comments
  1. MikeW permalink

    I like your personable voice while providing sound coverage.

  2. rusty brown permalink

    WOW! Only one reference to bodily functions in an interview with Phil? Well done, Mary, well done. And Phil, go gator. Great to see you back in action.

  3. Great interview Mary, I enjoyed learning more about Phil

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