Phil Gaimon goes uphill faster than some WorldTour pros. In fairness, he was a WorldTour pro last season with Cannondale, and now that he's targeting Strava KOM records for his YouTube show, he is doing the intensity training without the huge endurance miles he did as a professional.
Gaimon rides a unique machine for his Strava KOM attempts too, with chopped handlebars and a rear brake caliper that he removes for certain climbs.
Why Strava KOMs?
But why would a guy who used to race for a living bother with Strava records?
"Last fall, I was still under contract with the team and was just kinda bored," Gaimon said. "There was a guy who had a [doping] history in LA, and conveniently all his KOMs were like four miles from my house. I started taking his records and my friends loved it. I was sort of just responding to what people were responding to."
Gaimon's crowd-pleasing antics have since ballooned into crowdsourcing requests for tackling popular climbs around the United States, which he is showcasing in a YouTube show called The worst retirement ever.
In December, journalist Peter Flax profiled Gaimon's quest for CyclingTips, and many readers responded to the anti-doper vs. doper element. (Gaimon has a tattoo of a bar of soap with the word 'clean' on it). But Gaimon says the idea is now bigger than that.
"People like seeing what pros can do on their local climbs," Gaimon said. "The idea is not just going after dopers' records exclusively. Tommy D [Danielson] has all the hill climb records in the US. He’s my buddy. I can’t get those. I can get doper masters, but not the best hillclimbers in the world."
For any one of these regional benchmark climbs, Gaimon says his efforts give local riders context for their local heroes.
"People think that they can be pro, or that their local Strava star could do the Tour de France," Gaimon said. "Uh, no. I can blow their doors off, and I got dropped in the WorldTour. For example, Mt Mitchell is the most contested KOM east of the Mississippi, and there is a race up it every year. I took 11 minutes off the record."
Enormous power output
Gaimon's engine is remarkable. At 150 lbs / 68kg, he can put out 480 watts for 10 minutes. He can hold over 400 watts for an hour.
"My power profile looks like I should win the Tour," Gaimon said. "My 5- to 60-minute power is world class and better than it ever was when I was racing. I train at about half the volume, and I go hard on uphills only. I have no endurance. I am making myself more specialized. I can do maybe 5w more. I think if you put me in a WorldTour uphill time trial I would do better, but would do worse in an actual race. It has been interesting."
Gaimon's long term coach Frank Overton of FasCat Coaching verified Gaimon's improvement for these shorter efforts.
"Most of our training concentrates on maximal steady state full gas efforts 10–30 minutes in length, plus sweet spot training for the longer climbs," Overton said. "We'll do bottom-to-top repeats of a shorter climb in order to train for longer climbs. For example, we'll go for a 10-minute KOM, then repeat two more times, to train for a 30-minute KOM."
"Phil can do 7.1 w/kg for 10 minutes. That's what a Cat 4 can do for about a minute," Overton said. "Similarly, Phil's FTP is 6.0 watts/kg, whereas a good Cat 3 might have an FTP of 4.5 watts/kg.
In tackling Old La Honda this May, Gaimon put out 6.9w/kg for more than 13 minutes. Suffice it to say, that was more than the other 18,757 riders who had attempted it before could produce.
"6.9w/kg — that is shit that no one publishes because it’s so high," Gaimon said, meaning that typically only doping professionals achieve such a high output. "That is off the charts."
Off the charts here isn't just a phrase. Dr Andy Coggan has in fact created a power profile chart now used by TrainingPeaks that ranks riders based on their best power output over various durations, from five seconds up to an hour. The eight classifications go from Fair/Cat 5 up through Excellent/Cat 1 and onto World Class/International Pro and the top World Champion/World Record Holder. The numbers are based on scores of recorded power files Coggan assembled over the years.
"My power profile chart says World Record Holder all the way across, which is hilarious," Gaimon said.
The bike Gaimon rides for his Strava KOM attempts does not look like that of a World Champion. It looks like a bit of a science experiment. Which, in effect, is what it is.
To remove weight, Gaimon chopped the ends off his handlebars — "drops are dumb anyways," he said — and for certain KOM attempts he removes his rear brake caliper and water bottle cages.
The brakes are eeBrakes, which weigh less than 200g for the pair.
But the bike isn't strictly a weight-weenie machine. His ISM saddle, Mavic Cosmic Ultimate wheels and SRM power meter are not the lightest in their respective classes. Total bike weight is 6.13kg / 13.5lb.
"I'm not trying to have the lightest bike; I'm trying to have the fastest bike, and sometimes aerodynamics and comfort matter," he said.