Determined. Hard-working. Intense. Family-man. These are all words that have been used to describe Jonathan Page (Planet Bike), the 34-year old American racer who upped and moved himself and his family to Belgium six years ago to pursue his passion for cross. After sitting down for an interview with the man, I’d add funny, warm, likable and complex to the list.
The first trip to Belgium to soak in the cross scene had to include an interview with Page, especially as my abode for the duration is in Oudenaarde, the Pages’ home whilst in Belgium. After an introduction via a third-party and there I was having lunch a few days before Christmas with not only Page but his wife Cori and son Milo while 6-year old daughter Emma was in school. Cori is expecting the couple’s third child with a due date at the end of January, the same time as the UCI World Championships in Germany.
It’s been a tough season for Page, marred with injuries and bad luck compounded with his three-year sponsor, Planet Bike, leaving the sport.
“That’s been the whole season really. It’s been up and down. There hasn’t been enough ups in terms of results but there’s been glimpses of really good.”
And then just as he as feeling good again, another injury last weekend at the Scheldecross when he hit a post on a downhill.
“I hit the groove wrong, thought I’d made it but just barely clipped the post with the hood of my handlebars and the handlebars went sideways and I flipped over the bike still attached.” he explained. “Basically I ruptured a tendon in my ankle. Which means a normal person would be in a cast or have surgery to repair it and off you go. I don’t have that luxury.”
After the swelling goes down, Page’s ankle will be taped up in an immobile cast which will be switched to a more flexible tape before each race.
“Oh yes,” he replied when asked if was going to try to race at Zolder World Cup, “not only am I planning to try, I’m going to try to kick some butt. Do I know if I’m one hundred percent? I don’t know that. Now I feel that there’s a little piece of my pedal stroke missing because there’s obviously not the strength.”
After a back injury Page has been feeling good again prior to Scheldecross and had skipped the US National Championships held earlier this month. “I actually did miss going but I’m glad I didn’t have to travel so much.” the 3-time US National Champion said. Travel, often a problem for Page, and Cori’s pregnancy were reasons not to make the journey to Bend, Oregon. “Last weekend I was riding well so I tried to plan it with my trainer and tried to plan it correctly. It’s a risk to go but it’s also a risk to stay because you’re not a National Champion if you don’t participate. I would say if I didn’t fall down last weekend then yes it was a great idea but it’s hard to say.”
Handling it. “I just start crying,” Page laughed, “and my wife she starts crying and its all over.”
After another quick laugh, he added, “I just have to laugh now because if I don’t I will start to cry. It’s very frustrating actually, I was riding my bike yesterday and felt very awkward because I have one ankle that didn’t work.”
And not only his ankle injury, he nailed his other calf which was swollen. “Kind of beat up.” admitted Page.
At that point, 3-year old Milo got up and came over to give his dad a hug. It’s obvious that Page gets a lot of strength from his family and that they’re very protective of each other. “Luckily I have a great wife to be honest with you,” he then added with a chuckle, “most of the time. Then it’s me that has to take care of the pregnant lady, we make a good team.”
Page also says that he’s changed his attitude. “Today when going out bike riding in the freezing cold, I said okay today I’m not going to stress anymore, I’m going to stay on my bicycle and the results will come. Just got to relax I hope.”
Even though that have not been superstitious in the past, the family has also embraced “silly” actions to try and turn their luck around. They’ve retired a “cursed” helmet and skinsuit and kissed the numbers before the race on Sunday.
“I haven’t finished a race really well in a good position, well okay I’ve done some smaller races well but I haven’t finished the bigger races well. I don’t know if they are superstitions or just convincing myself.” he laughed.
Pressure is on with two months left in the season before the World Championships. “This whole period is very important to me, the timing of the ankle isn’t very good but I have to move forward as my mental coach would say.”
The pressure to make the Worlds team. “Now that the points are so whacked, I don’t know how they’re going to select the team but I’ve never been really worried about that before but now I am because I haven’t had the results that make it,” he paused. “It’s very important to me, Cori is going to give birth to our third baby so I’ll have a great thing anyway. I’d like to have a shot at the World Championships where nobody falls down and nobody has an issue and I make it to the podium without any so-called problems. Just a shot at it.”
Page does have history with the Sankt-Wendel course where the Cyclocross World Championships will be held. “A Canadian friend pointed it out, that St Wendel was where a first American ever led the World Championships last time I did it, whenever that was. I never thought of it, he had to point it out to me.”
After being the first American to ever be at the front at Worlds, he then “flatted out of the lead, caught back up to lead group of 9 and then flatted, got back up and flatted again.”
And the pressure to find sponsors. “That’s huge.” Page agreed. “I feel anxious to put a result down and then it’s good.”
Finding sponsors is not easy in the best of times. “It’s more difficult when you don’t do well. Planet Bike had been the first sponsor I had that was for three years in a row with no issues, it was great, they’ve been so nice. That’s been wonderful but he’s come to a point in his life where he’s going to do something different. Maybe I have to do something different, if I have no sponsor maybe.”
He then quickly continued, “I am fortunate to be doing this now and that’s another thing that we’ve said to each other ‘wow we’re really lucky to be doing this and okay maybe the weather isn’t very good, this and that and the other thing but when you look at it, we’re pretty darn lucky’.”
For some, it would seem that the Pages have the dream life, but do they have any regrets of moving to Belgium? “I don’t know if it’s regrets.” Page started, Cori then interjected, “We’ll see, I think that remains to be seen.”
Page continued, “We, it’s a team of us, have been successful but now I want to continue to be successful before my career is finished, I’d rather not have my career finish because I don’t have a sponsor or that type of thing. Blue Bicycles, Enve Wheels, Lazer Helmets have all been great, but we can’t afford without a major sponsor to keep on doing this.”
Misunderstood? Does the New Hampshire native this that he may be misunderstood sometimes? “I don’t understand, there are different attitudes in America for some people. I have some really great supporters throughout. Some of the negative racing and stuff like that, I’m over now and I understand that everyone wants to beat me when I’m in the United States that’s plain and simple, that’s the way it is.”
The biggest laugh of the day was when I said that Page was known as intense and serious. “Intense and serious?” laughed Cori, “He wanted to buy a damned disco ball for our mobile home, now it’s on Christmas music in the mobile home, he turns it up, he’s dancing on the seats with the kids.”
“Maybe that’s my race face, I would think that’s me on the bicycle I would guess.” Page said.
“The funny thing here is they call him the most approachable, the only rider not putting tape up, we can come to him and ask questions and he signs autographs.” Cori added.
“I think that most Americans definitely peg me as different. I would like to think that I’m a fairly likable guy.” Page concluded with a smile. “This is not rocket science, it’s just bike racing.”