One On One With Chris Jones

Posted on 15. Dec, 2011 by in interviews

Chris Jones (Rapha-Focus) at SpookyCross

Chris Jones (Rapha-Focus) at SpookyCross

A roadie first, Chris Jones, of Team Rapha Focus, is no slouch at cross racing. Forced off his bike at the beginning of the cross season due to an injury sustained at the Tour of Britain, he came back strong in the latter part of the cross season. One such race was Friday night at JingleCross where after an early bobble – an endo while at the front – Jones mounted an amazing chase to close down the gap to the two riders ahead. Jones finished second that day.

In his fourth year of cross racing, the 31-year old would love to represent the United States at the World Championships but  there’s a hurdle. For the past years, the same five riders have been part of Team USA, five names that have not included Jones but he’s not deterred.  While racing cross, Jones is also getting ready for another full road season of racing mostly in Europe with UnitedHealthcare.

We sat down with Jones this past Friday, on the eve of the final Exergy US Gran Prix of Cyclocross weekend in Bend, Oregon to talk about his season, Worlds and more as part of our One-On-One series.. And of course, our chat had to include the hoopla surrounding his win at the Single Speed Cyclocross  World Championships (SSCXWC) where the community, known for not following rules, has been upset, some pretty virulent, with Jones’ decision to not get the winner’s tattoo. It got pretty nasty on-line and new official rules for the event have been drafted.

Chris Jones (Rapha-Focus) chasing at LA SpookyCross

Chris Jones (Rapha-Focus) chasing at LA SpookyCross

How happy are you with your cross season so far?
Since I’ve come back, I’m pleased. I haven’t won any races, seconds and thirds and close to winning this and that, but I’m happy with the way it’s gone the second half of the season. The first half of the season was a real disappointment. We brought Jeremy (Powers) on board and I was really looking forwards to have a really strong season all throughout the season so he and I could do the team thing. It’s only been the second half of the season that it’s happened but looking back on it the injury was probably a blessing in disguise. I crashed at the Tour of Britain where I tore a groin muscle, I couldn’t run so I took two weeks off, right after Tour of Britain, tried to race a little bit and then I ended up taking two more weeks off right before Louisville, so I took a total of a month off the bike completely. I think that’s benefitting me now, and I think throughout road it’s going to benefit me too. I’m pleased at this point, if I could get a win before this season is over (laughs), it would be a good year.

So you’re racing here (in Bend) and where else before the end of the season?
Chicago, Nationals and then maybe Worlds, we’ll see.

Let’s talk about that. You want to go to Worlds and there are five men going to Worlds, who are you kicking off the team?
(laughs) I’m not kicking anyone off the team, I’m always that sixth guy because my schedule is so full and we have five really good riders. We’ll be in Europe, we’ll be in Spain living there, getting ready for road season and if someone gets sick, injured or can’t make it, I’ll be there to take their spot. I’m not going to try kicking anyone off, unless I win Nationals and I get the automatic qualifying spot which could happen, or I just win every race from here through the season, that would be an honorable way to do it too.

Is that what you think needs to happen for you to be on the team this year – winning, or somebody getting sick?
I think that I need to put myself on the team by either winning, or consistently beating the guys that are ahead of me which in the second half of the season, I’ve done a really good job of being in the mix every single race but the rest of the guys have had a really good season all season-long. So yeah I just need to finish off the best that I can and then if someone does happen to get hurt, ill or something then sure I’ll take the spot.

I watched the chase you put on at JingleCross. What was going through your mind at that point? You had the early bobble, and then you put on an impressive chase to close that down, that was amazing to watch. Were you pissed off?
(laughs) I was focused on everything, I wasn’t mad, I felt a little silly that I crashed. It was just one of those things that just happened, I still don’t know why it happened, it just happened. It was silly but I felt really good. I knew going into that race that I was going well, and I’d just come from road camp and I felt well, just focused. I was determined. It’s rough when I make a mistake and those two guys, Jamey and Tim, got away and I felt responsible for those guys getting away. I was basically giving them the race so I was just determined to close it down.

They took a different line that you up that off-camber but sill they got a gap quick.
They did. They got a gap and so I wanted to catch them. Tim played it right, he was able to slow me down and the rest is history. Then I rode really strong the next day, and then I rode on Sunday but I was just a little tired from racing all three days. I was really the only guy that raced all three because Ben (Berden) was injured, Todd (Wells) eased up Friday night….

So do you wish you had sat out Saturday?
Not necessarily. I don’t have that luxury because those other guys have maxed out on C2 points, I haven’t maxed out on C2 points because I missed the first half of the season so I have to take advantage of every opportunity.

Didn’t you go to Europe this year too?
I did. I went to Tabor and that was bad. I was pretty fatigued and I still wasn’t one hundred percent. It was a good experience but the racing wasn’t good.

Chris Jones (Rapha-Focus) is chasing Wells in the mud at JingleCross

Chris Jones (Rapha-Focus) is chasing Wells in the mud at JingleCross

We talked two years ago about the roadie doing cross. Are you still a roadie doing cross? Where are your technical skills now?
My technical skills are better. I’m still a roadie first, that’s my main job and that’s where the majority of my salary comes from and that’s where I guess my focus is always, on road. Cross is something I love to do and I’m really fortunate that I have such good teams in Rapha Focus and UnitedHealthcare that allow me to do both. And I guess I have the skillset that allows me to do both and the durability that I can race all year round. My cross skills are definitely coming better. I was second to Todd at JingleCross and I was in the mud, and I was battling in it and Todd is one of the best around in the mud – maybe Tim is better but they’re both really good – to be there, I don’t think a lot of people noticed that, but in my mind oh that’s just really good to be there with Todd in the mud.

Is it practicing and racing that increased your skills or did you do specific skills training? Is it following Todd to see what lines he’s taking during the pre-ride?
It’s a cumulative knowledge. Part of it is technical aspect that I didn’t really know like tire pressure, tire choice and then a lot of it is just experience, falling some many times and figuring out ‘hey maybe you shouldn’t do this’. (laughs) And then another part is following the good guys and just being observant, learning by seeing and doing. This is my fourth year doing cross so it’s finally starting to pay off.

How has cross impacted your road racing?
It actually helps out a lot especially now that we’re doing a majority of our racing in Europe, they’re very technical races, very aggressive and positioning is huge. Cross is given me more technical skills so now the positioning on the narrow roads is not a big deal and it’s given me a broader skillset on the road because not only now am I a GC domestique/helper type guy but I’m also part of the leadout train. I shepherd our sprinter Robert Förster around, I spend a lot of time in stage races on flat days getting him from A to B, and getting him to 800 meters to go with a leadout guy behind me.

No offense but there’s no way that Robert can draft behind you (laughs)
I know, I know, I sit up as tall as I can. (laughs) So that’s become my specialty this past season is taking care of our leaders whether it’s our sprinter or our GC guy and they’ve developed a lot of trust in me to place them where they need to be to win the race. And cross has given me the confidence that I can put my bike where it needs to go.

Is that why you started cross?
I don’t know why I started cross. (laughs) It was originally that I was living in New England, my coach at the time said ‘you need time trial training’, so you’re in New England and you might as well take advantage of it. And I started doing that to get that long hour of power and then I fell in love with it and I’m still here.

We talked about Worlds in 2011 but what about Louisville. You have a full road season before, how are you playing all this? What are your thoughts?
I think that actually that the way the cyclocross season is set up and with Nationals moving to January actually works really well with road season. I come from road and I have this huge depth, a lot of speed and everything so I can race, if I’m healthy, the first month, six weeks of cyclocross without training at all. And I can take a break like I did this year two, three weeks in November or late October and then start preparing for the road and while I’m preparing for the road, I’m actually racing cross. And that’s what we’re doing different this year. I’m not training specifically for cyclocross besides running, I’m just training with road in mind and it seems to be paying off. We’re trying something completely different my coach and I. Last year it was a lot of very specific motorpacing cyclocross intervals and things like that, but this year we’re training just for road with adding some running for cross. It’s paying off. We’ll look back after this season and kind of see how we need to adjust for Worlds and everything next year.

Rapha-Focus teammates Jeremy Powers and Chris Jones at USGP Louisville

Rapha-Focus teammates Jeremy Powers and Chris Jones at USGP Louisville

I think its doable. Again it will come down to the same guys. Those guys are getting better, I’m getting better, there are guys behind that are getting better. I was talking to my wife the other night, a couple of years ago it seemed that I was winning more but I’m stronger now and we were just talking about the depth of the field. There are a lot of guys who are there all the time now. But it makes it exciting for the fans, it makes it exciting for me as a racer and it helps me raise my game knowing that next year, everyone, Todd, guys who normally don’t go are going to want to go. So there’s going to be eight, nine guys vying for five spots so I really have to be on my game.

Will you be vying for one of those spots?
Yeah, definitely. I think that anytime you have a chance to go to Worlds and represent the country is huge. And UnitedHealthcare has been really supportive in recognizing that Worlds is an honorable thing and something that adds to their program as well so they’re very supportive of me wanting of me wanting to go to Worlds.

We talked about you taking breaks but how do you not get tired mentally? It’s fatiguing to be on the road all the time, it’s not easy. You’ve been doing twelve months after twelve months for four years now.
We try and keep it fresh. I definitely have to compartmentalize. When I’m on the road racing road, I’m racing road and I’m just thinking and focusing on the road. And then, when it comes to be cross time, I switch gears and I’m thinking about cross, I’m not really thinking about road as much. They are the same sport but they’re really two different disciplines and the cross scene is so laid-back and it’s so much fun to me. When I get to cyclocross, it doesn’t feel like I’m still racing another three or four months, it’s really refreshing when I come here, it’s like I’m hanging out with my friends every weekend. And then by the end of the cross season, I get excited for road again. And I’ve also learned over the past couple of years that when I’m not on the bike, I need to have something to distract me from the bike, I really have to step away from it. I’ve picked up a couple of hobbies that have enabled me to do that.

Which ones?
I spend a lot of time fly fishing, it’s something that allows me to be outdoors and it’s very therapeutic and it’s something that I can take with me on the road. I travel with my fly road a lot.

That is cool.
So I’ve learned to do that. I just love racing. I had a real job before this, I understand what the other side is and this is a gift that I’m able to do this and make a living at it so, yeah, just trying to do it. There are a few other guys that do it well, like Todd does it pretty well. Jeremy kind of does it but he focuses on cross. It can be done, and I think maybe that’s one of my physiological gifts that maybe I don’t put out the max watts that some put out but I’m able to handle a really high workload year long.

What’s next after Nationals?
(laughs) I actually go to Chicago, I go to road camp (Palm Springs), come back for Madison, go back to road camp and then we go straight to Spain.

Chris Jones (Rapha-Focus) finished 4th at day 2 of USGP in Bend

Chris Jones (Rapha-Focus) finished 4th at day 2 of USGP in Bend

Okay, you know I have to ask about tattoo-gate. Did you even thing that this might happen?
I didn’t realize that people were going to be so upset with me. It was my idea to go into the race, it wasn’t Focus, it wasn’t Rapha, I wanted to go to the race because the people in Northern California were super stoked on the race. I don’t get to race in Northern California very often and that’s my home, so I wanted to support the race. I talked to Focus into setting me up a single speed and Rapha decided to come and they decided to make it a bigger thing for them which was cool. I knew going into the race that Barry (Wicks) hadn’t gotten the tattoo, I had actually googled single speed cross worlds rules to see what the rules were, just so I knew. And there was a rule that Seattle has used that if you won and didn’t get the tattoo, you’d still win but couldn’t the next year. So I thought fine, no big deal, I don’t expect to win, I didn’t go there to win, I just wanted to have fun. And there were a lot of guys, there were two guys that were former World Messenger Champions there, I had never ridden a single speed cross bike, I saw it that day like an hour before the race (laughs)

I didn’t expect to win and I won and that race was the most fun I’ve had in a race in a long time. I was laughing the entire time, some guy did a mid-race interview with me (laughs) it was hilarious. It was just over the top ridiculous, but ridiculous fun. And I walked away from the race and we were having dinner that night, and I told my wife ‘man that was so fun’. I had no idea that the backlash was going to be so severe. I have thick skin, you know when you’re a professional athlete, people like you, they don’t like you for whatever reason but people have been really, really, very mean, aggressively over the top mean and it’s made me wish I hadn’t done the race which isn’t a good way to be you know? I didn’t mean to offend them by not getting a tattoo and I’m still not going to get the tattoo, they’ve come out with their decision. People have been really, really mean which is just weird, which is a bit of let down.

When I left there, (I was thinking) ‘man this is a really cool scene, I don’t understand why more people aren’t doing it’, and now I see that the flip side is the way they treat other people. They don’t want other people, I feel like they don’t want people like me, whatever I am (laughs). They’re not very inviting. It’s a great event, I know that the single speed community isn’t really keen on me and they’re not very happy with me but I’m really happy they let me do the race. I guess we learned our lesson.

Jones’ next cross races will be the Chicago Cyclocross Cup New Year’s Resolution on December 31 and January 1.

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17 Responses to “One On One With Chris Jones”

  1. #Hatersgonnahate

    15. Dec, 2011

    Chris Jones is one of my favorite riders and I applaud him for not giving into peer pressure. SS riders hate everyone anyway and they were even more upset because a NON SS rider whooped them and whooped them good. Chris is a classy rider and I Iook forward to seeing him on the road scene.

  2. Ryan

    15. Dec, 2011

    I was just wondering- as I haven’t heard a confirmation- did Chris Jones actually qualify for SSCXWC? Because as it was- he was signed up in my group and didn’t show.
    Just sayin…

  3. Scott

    15. Dec, 2011

    wait, Wicks didn’t get the tattoo but they didn’t go nuts over that?! That’s a whole different side of this story isn’t it.

  4. P. Mooney

    15. Dec, 2011

    Great interview! I was glad you raced single speed worlds. That was rad and you kicked ass.

  5. W4

    15. Dec, 2011

    Got to meet Chris at Louisville and roll around the course with him before the P/1 race. What a good dude. If people are going to hate on him, they’re the types that will hate on anyone for any reason. I have nothing but respect for this guy and proud of him for supporting another scene of racing just for the fun of racing.
    Good luck for the rest of the ‘cross season, Chris, and have a rockin year on the road!

  6. smartypants

    15. Dec, 2011

    wicks did eventually get the tattoo. and no, chris jones did not participate in the qualifier. organizers let him into the championship – as a friendly gesture.

  7. lyne

    15. Dec, 2011

    I still don’t understand some of the virulence in the whole tattoo thing. Oh and Barry said that he did not have the tattoo.


    15. Dec, 2011

    Great interview of a great guy!! Glad you stood up against this kind of MOB. yOU SHOWED YOUR OWN CLASSY SELF! We are proud of you!!

  9. Name Don't Be a Hater

    15. Dec, 2011

    It’s lame to read about all of the aggressive, mean &^$# being thrown at Chris. Jeremy Powers said the same thing about BtB on his last interview on Cyclingdirt. Weak sauce. Keep up the good riding and rubber side down. Don’t let the hater’s get to you.

  10. Name Kathleen

    16. Dec, 2011

    SSers being mean/aggresive? Please. The community was simply calling the Rapha riders out on not honoring the SSCXWC tradition. The community was staying real, and were expecting accountability from both winners. Accountability for qualifying and getting the winner’s tattoo. Nothing to do with ‘hating on’ pro riders.

  11. Ryan

    16. Dec, 2011

    Chris, you are a strong rider to be sure. Nobody can deny that.

    You’ve done well for yourself in both road and cross and we look forward to seeing you continue to do well in both your road and geared cross categories.

    That said, if you didn’t qualify- you should not have been racing. Or you could have poached the race (which is unofficially, officially encouraged)

    Knowing that Barry Wicks has been banned from racing SSCXWC until a tattoo has been bared, you really still wonder why you weren’t welcomed with open arms? Really?

  12. Sally

    16. Dec, 2011

    Ugh…this is the ONE and ONLY time I’m going to comment on this topic.
    1) Chris and Julie, I’m glad y’all showed up to SSCXWC and had a good time. It was fun and its always an honor to have that stupid event recognized by the uber fast.
    2) To everyone saying he didn’t race on a true SS. Shut up. He had one gear. That’s all that matters.
    3) Barry won the Inagural year. We had no idea there would even be a second year of SSCXWC. He does NOT have a SSCXWC Tat and is theortically banned.
    4) Everyone since has recieved the ink.
    5) Trying to use a loop hole is weak sauce, and the gloating that went on the Rapha site is what got people riled up.
    6) Nicole Duke said it best. “You went to their event. You should respect their traditions”

  13. Heidi

    16. Dec, 2011

    Ugh, people seem so obsessed with the notion that we care he’s a pro cyclist. No one cares. I think it’s awesome that a pro cyclist came and tried out the race, that’s rad.

    What we care about is that he didn’t bother to qualify, and then won the race and left before the awards ceremony/tattooing. I get not wanting a tattoo, but if you don’t want a tattoo, don’t participate in a race that awards a tattoo to the winner.

    There are plenty of other people who really did want the tattoo, who really did try to win. Yes, Chris is a great racer and a nice dude, but he’s not a very good SSCXWC winner. I want a better SSCXWC winner. please.

  14. Name Patrick

    16. Dec, 2011

    Chris didn’t participate in the qualifier. He showed up and only raced the main event, won, accepted the prize money, didn’t attend the podium and didn’t get the tattoo. I don’t see what the confusion is about. I understand that some people will zealously defend his actions without understanding this. Still, some of the things he said in this interview are just as ridiculous as the blanket statements and caps-lock abuse in the comments. “Oh, they just don’t like me, they’re mean to people.” Nice try. Take some responsibility for your actions.

  15. Dave

    16. Dec, 2011

    It’s hilarious that a bunch of non-conformists are continuing to complain that someone didn’t, you know… conform; and the continued bullying is some how justified and proves that they’re warm and welcoming.

    I just drank a large amount of coffee and against my better judgement would like to defend Chris a little (and hope I’m not fanning the flames too much), at least against some logical fallacies in most arguments against him. Not showing up to podium, I don’t know much about that, I did see the gold brief/bikini photos my so I can’t speak to that, but the rest…

    @Kathleen: there’s calling out, and there’s what’s been going on which has long surpassed a simple call-out. Barry blogged about the win AND got 14 comments with only 1 callout about the tattoo. In 2008, he was still referred to as the reigning champion in cyclocross magazine and other outlets covering the event.

    @Ryan: Barry raced again in 2009. He finished next to last, and probably took many more tequila shortcuts than 2007, but he still started.

    @Sally re #3: Where’s the Barry Wicks lynch mob then? He raced it again in 2009, so much for being banned.

    @Sally re #5: Wow, their sponsored rider did something and they’re excited about it, shame on them.

    @Heidi: no one is claiming anyone is hating on him for being pro, you’re manufacturing a position and arguing against it. The SSCXWC organization said themselves that Chris and Julie maintain the title, I don’t want to believe in global climate change either, but it’s still happening.

    @Patrick: no qualifier, take it up with the promoter that let him start… you’re argument is totally valid, but this is the wrong place, wrong time, and wrong target. Caps Lock abuse, where?

    I’m not really trying to nitpick (even though I just did, sorry), but it’s clear to me that people are searching hard to find a reason to hate on Chris, he just wanted to have fun at the event like anyone else; but taking it out on Chris to the extent that has been happening (for the past few weeks whenever Chris is mentioned somewhere, someone feels the need to ask about the tattoo: facebook, blogs, news sites – we don’t tolerate this type of bullying elsewhere, why is it okay here?) does not reflect well on the single speed community, or cycling community at a greater level, at all; no matter how justified all the haters clearly believe that it is.

  16. Dave

    16. Dec, 2011

    @patrick oh, and apparently there was no prize money… so, yeah.

  17. Kro

    23. Jan, 2012

    Not having tattoos is the new having tattoos. Its a way to mark yourself as distinct and an individual.