Editor’s Note: Christopher Jones is a member of the Rapha-Focus cyclocross team as well as the road racing squad Team Type 1. He is a true all-around rider, frequenting podiums on both the professional road and cyclocross circuits. This season he and his ‘cross teammate Zach MacDonald will share their journals frequently.
Some wise dude once said, “The best laid plans often go awry,” while another chap said, “looking good is about half the battle.” The first was a Scottish poet, the second, Slate Olson, GM of Rapha North America. Both of these statements aptly describe the beginning of the 2010 cross season for the Rapha-Focus Cyclocross Team. We came in turning heads with our stunning kit design, featherlight bikes, and a plan on how our season would go. Only, we conveniently forgot one thing: this is racing and there are many variables we do not control.
After a rough weekend at the USGP weekend in Madison, we had to take a step back, regroup, and have a group hug before the Oktoberfest presented by Focus Bikes weekend in “helLA.” The phrase helLA originated on a trip home from college to do a semester’s worth of laundry and eat some quality food. My then-girlfriend, who now is my wife and #1 supporter, and I were making the trip San Diego to Nor-Cal and after spending hours stuck in LA’s traffic playing the license plate game (which doesn’t work well when traffic isn’t moving) were delirious and babbled the name.
About a year later I competed in my first bike race, a criterium, in which I crashed while smiling for a picture #1 was taking during the race. I broke my elbow, spent some time in the hospital and swore off bike racing. Can you guess where that race took place? Yep helLA.
All week long I was laughing at the weather reports of torrential wind and rain for New England Worlds, Gloucester, as I daydreamed of ripping around sun drenched courses on a German-engineered bike and celebrating their Oktoberfest. Gloucester was the first cross race where I reached the podium and is the model of what cyclocross is and should be in my mind. The venue is beautiful; one can see almost the entire course from a single vantage point, and an army of fans lines the course, creating a tunnel of noise. It is a race I look forward to attending every year and have unfinished business there after flatting out of the lead with a half lap to go a couple years ago.
Unfortunately, the critical path that leads to this season’s cyclocross nationals in Bend, Oregon, does not contain activities on the East Coast; instead the path led me through SoCal to party with the Germans from Focus.
The morning of the first race we awoke, to the confusion of many locals, to rain. Who would have thought that the first muddy race of the season would be in SoCal?!? Thankfully the rain gave way to sun by race time and those girls in daisy dukes bikinis on top that Katy Perry sings about came out.
Zach and I showed up with our game faces on, completed our patented pre-race rituals, and surprisingly (we are both slow starters) went 1-2 off the start line.
A bit about Z-Mac, not only is the kid talented at racing (see his Junior and U23 World Cup podiums in cross), but he has a huge skill for crashing hard. On the second lap he and a fellow from Down Under had a miscommunication, something about which side of the road cars and bike should operate on, which resulted in Zach breaking both shifters, a rear brake, a frame, and a wheel, all while traveling under 15mph on grass. Now that is what I call skills. After the incident the kid remained composed and fought his way back to the front of the race. When the racing was over, we brought some style back to the podium and started to turn the season’s momentum around.
Special shout out and thank you goes to Dorthy Wong, SoCal race promoter and ‘cross fanatic, for putting together the weekend and the only UCI races in California this season (Come on NorCal, it is time to step back up to the plate and bring UCI racers back to our region and show them that we know how to put on a party).