Phil Gaimon capitalized on the incredible efforts of his teammates at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, taking home the yellow jersey after five days of savvy, hard racing for the Orange & Black. After ten consecutive trips to the Redlands Bicycle Classic, The United States’ first major stage race of the season, Performance Director Jonas Carney was most certainly hungry for an overall win. Chad Haga, now riding in the WorldTour with Giant-Alpecin, claimed second in 2013 after a hard loss on the final stage. Tom Zirbel suffered a similar fate in ’13, finishing third. In 2012, former team captain Alex Candelario and recently retired Mike Friedman finished fourth and fifth overall, so the time was ripe for a complete defense of the yellow jersey.
In 2015, the team brought a team built for contesting the overall, stocked with savvy climbers and hard working riders, many fresh off a 6-week stint of UCI racing in Portugal. It finally came to fruition for the Orange & Black. With the re-addition of an Oak Glen mountain top finish, the race course was different and more challenging in 2015. The team capitalized on the Oak Glen stage, putting significant time into serious competitors like 2013 Vuelta a Espana champion Chris Horner, back in the domestic peloton for the first time in a decade.
The team first put the hammer down on Friday’s stage 2 time trial where 2013 USPRO TT champion Tom Zirbel took the stage win for the 2nd year in a row with Gaimon in 4th place. Gaimon and Michael Woods then vaulted off of a set-up from the rest of the team on the final climb to Oak Glen on stage 3, finishing 1-2 and giving Gaimon a relatively safe margin in yellow. After a hectic criterium in stage four, which saw Gaimon crash but escape without major injury, the team delivered a flawless defense on Redlands’ infamous Sunset Loop, pushing the pace for nearly every one of the stage’s 12 laps to quash any dangerous breakaway attempts from riders close in the overall classification.
Jonas Carney and Phil Gaimon share their comments on a powerful week of racing in Southern California for the Orange & Black –
With Lachlan Morton in the breakaway, a dangerous threat for the overall, there was pressure on the team to keep him close. Were you ever in doubt?
Lachlan was close on GC, but not so close that we had to panic. Plus, the team rode so well together – everyone rode, literally, perfect. This course has been used for a long time, and a lot of competitors said that yesterday’s was the best defense they’ve seen.
You had a little spill in the criterium yesterday. Did you get hurt at all from that or was it pretty minor? Did it effect your confidence for the Sunset Loop?
I shaved a few grams off my butt. It probably just made me a little lighter.
The team has been riding great this year. We have been very close to winning Redlands in the past but never closed the deal. How does it feel to help the team win its first yellow here?
It feels good. It’s been a strong team for a long time, and I think this year everyone came out of Portugal firing on all cylinders, excited to work together, and I’m glad I could play a role in the long-awaited Redlands victory.
You have come close many times at Redlands in TEN (!) years directing this team. Is this a special win?
I didn’t think it would be such a big deal, but it feels really good to win this race. It’s such a classic on the American calendar. It was my ninth Redlands as a director with the team, and the first time the team has won. I’m really happy with the win and especially proud of how the guys raced this week.
This always gets said, but this seemed like a serious team effort to take home yellow. What were the most important “team” moments this week?
The effort the guys made on the Yucaipa stage was phenomenal. Phil was the strongest on the climb, but the time gaps were much bigger because of the huge pulls the guys took at the base of the Oak Glen climb. That really set up the GC. Then on the Sunset Loop, I witnessed one of the best team efforts I have ever seen from our team. It’s an incredibly difficult circuit, and it would be impossible to defend without a strong team. Every single guy on the team stepped up in a big way, and they never seemed to struggle. Seeing Tom Soladay and Pierrick Naud ride the front of the Sunset Loop lap after lap was amazing. They exceeded all my expectations today.