|1999 saw a very different Mike Jones. 228 pounds, working in New York with no real future in sight, the young man made a brash move that would change his life. He recently signed with the new D-3 Team West Virginia. Mike looks at the past and the upcoming year with optimism and humor.|
Born: January 19, 1978
Hometown: Binghamton, NY
Residence: Tucson, Az (Oct-April)
Weight: 168 lbs
Pro Since: 2003
Teams: 2002 Wheelworks Cannondale
2002: 2nd GC Tour of Southeast Ohio, 2nd circuit race Green Mountain Stage Race, 9th time trial The International
2001: 1st NYS Elite Menís Road Championships, 1st North Atlantic Road Race Championships, 1st Tour de ĎToona (cat.2 division)
Courtesy of Spokepost.com.
Becky Leidy: Where did you grow up?
Mike Jones: I grew up on the mean streets of Binghamton, New York, the "carousel capital of the world." If people donít recognize us for our carousels, they are most likely to know of us from the Chris Thater Memorial Criterium. I have also lived in Lake Placid a couple of times. Now I live with my parents in downtown Harpursville, a unique city just outside of Binghamton.
BL: When did you first become interested in cycling?
MJ: I have been racing bikes since I was about 8 years old. I raced BMX for a few years. I was pretty good. I was tenth in New York state in the 10-year old expert class. I think there were only 12 of us, but it sounded cool to tell the kids at elementary school that.
I grew out of the BMX scene and "retired" at the age of 12. There was a good pro BMX-er named Mike Jones back in those days, and when I tell people that I used to race BMX, they would always get excited thinking I was him. I would never tell them otherwise.
Then my parents bought me a Royce Union mountain bike around the age of 13. I would ride that thing all over our county with my friends on weekends and during the summer. Then, around15, I got into mountain biking. I bought a Cannondale M800, the beast of the east edition. I started riding it on trails on our own property and at the nearby state park. I started doing local MTB races. I still remember saying I would never shave my legs, wear spandex or even lay my eyes on one of those corny road bikes. I held out on the spandex for a few weeks, but the leg shaving resistance lasted until June of 2000.
I raced for a couple of years in beginner junior class and at one point upgraded to the Sport class, a bit pre-mature since I took a nap on the side of the trail in my first race. So after years of litigation, NORBA filled in the punch hole on my license and allowed me to race in the Beginner category once again.
I was pretty good at mountain biking for a while, and eventually I upgraded myself to the Expert class. I raced Expert for a while. By this time I was out of High School and was going to the Community College in Binghamton. On the weekends, I worked at a couple of clubs and bars downtown. I would work till about 3 am, hang out and drink soda till about 5 am and get up and travel to a race with my parents the next morning. My pre-race meal would be a bunch of soda and McDonalds Bacon Egg and Cheese biscuits or Cold pizza. I was often seen at the start line eating microwaveable pepperoni pizza. That was just in case I won, so all the little dorky bikers would think, "Is that the fat kid that was eating the pizza at the start?"
Courtesy of Spokepost.com.
BL: When did you first get your road license?
MJ: I did my first couple of non-sanctioned road races in the spring of 2000. I did well and people told me I should try to do some cat. 5 races. My first USCF race was the Dave Wollet Memorial Criterium in Williamsport PA. I bought my license and did the Cat 5 race. This race is a criterium. I had no clue what was going on. I just rode around in these silly little squares, hitting my pedals in just about every turn for about 30 minutes. On the last lap, I just kind of rode hard and rode away from the field for the win. I did not like crits after that and still donít. I won a heart rate monitor, which I quickly sold to my friend Mitch, because the thought of actually worrying about numbers while riding scared me and still does.
BL: What was life like before then?
MJ: Well, I have already told you about my BMX and mountain biking "careers." Around the age of 20, I moved to Lake Placid, NY. I knew no one there, but thought it was a cool town. So, I picked up and moved. I took a break from college and found a job as a front desk agent at the best resort in the world, The Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa. I basically worked full time and did a bunch of hiking in my free time, since I didnít know anyone. If I wasnít busy doing that, I was probably driving the 5 hours home so my mom could do my laundry. I started making friends and partying quite a bit. I had one friend who had the same job at the resort with me. We were both bellman, and would make "mad cash" at work, spending it getting bombed at the bars just about every night. Along with all the booze came the pounds. Beer, late night pizza, chips and more beer can really put the pounds on quick. I partied quite a bit in Lake Placid. I also had a couple instances where drinking got me into some big trouble. It could have been worse, but those incidents finally made me realize that I was a slob. I was spinning my tires in Lake Placid, especially in the bars. It was some crazy fun, but a bit too crazy. I decided that I needed to do something with my life.
Have you ever seen those commercials for the US Marine Corps where the civilian does something cool and then points his sword in the air and is transformed into a Marine in dress blues? Well, I saw it, too, and so I enlisted. I thought, if anybody is going to straighten me out and make me loose weight, it will be the Marines, and on top of that, I will make some serious "loot" and dress cool. The day I left for boot camp, I weighed in at 228 pounds. In high school, I was pushing 200 pounds, but 228? Had I looked in a mirror lately or what? I was fat. But that was ok, because I was still physically fit enough to go. I took all the physical conditioning tests. My 228 pounds could get me 1.5 miles down the road in less than 9 minutes, a boatload of sit-ups and no pull-ups. I think you had to be able to do at least one pull-up, but the recruiters wanted to meet their quota, so they pretended that I did. So I was ready for boot camp. The first sign that I made might have chosen the wrong career path was on the Greyhound bus ride to Albany. The kid that was "shipping out" with me told me his reasons for enlisting. The most important one, "I just want to able to come home and wear a white t-shirt and my camouflage pants around." What had I gotten myself into? Another bad sign was the rock that was thrown through the window of our bus as we entered Parris Island in South Carolina. I wonít bore you with the details of my vacation on "the island." Actually, the stories are quite interesting but apparently this interview is supposed to be about biking. After a week in the physical conditioning platoon (PCP), often referred to as the pork chop platoon, I made my way home after telling them about a "head injury" I had, and all these headaches I would get from exercise. Somehow, the headaches went away minutes after leaving the base.
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So, I came home and told my parents that I wanted to lose weight, go back to school and ride my bike a lot. For a whole year I basically rode my road bike alone and never did a group ride. It was a good way to lose weight. I was close to finishing my degree and continued working at the clubs downtown. That was the summer of 1999. In the spring of 2000, I was getting pretty fast. I remember after one local race, my friend, Steve Krisko, told me seriously that he had never seen anyone progress like I had and that I should take it seriously. I really look up to Steve as a cyclist, and still do, and took his advice to heart. Soon after that, I wanted to do a stage race really bad, so I quit my job as a bartender and went to the Cloudsplitter race in Lake Placid, which I won in the cat. 5 category and made some cash. It was not even close to the 500 dollars I would have made for two nights of work at the bar, but I was really into this road biking stuff now.
BL: How has cycling changed your life?
MJ: It has totally changed it. It has given me a whole new and better group of friends and a healthier lifestyle. Also, before bike racing, I had never gotten off the East coast or lived anywhere but upstate NY. Itís an interesting lifestyle, but I am digging it for the time being. Less girls too, what is up with that?
BL: What is your "diet" like?
MJ: My "diet" has drastically changed in the past few years. Every year, I get a bit more serious about cycling. Last season, I drank gallons of soda a week. Now I drink gallons of diet soda a week. If itís the afternoon, I drink de-cafe soda. And, only on rides, I still enjoy a regular Mountain Dew Code Red. I donít really eat out too much anymore. I like to eat at home and that includes everything from tofu, eggs, good breads, pastas, and lots of hummus. I love hummus. The lady that owns the house that I live in is a vegetarian, so I respect that and donít eat or cook meat in the house. Luckily, this has changed my diet for the better. I get my protein from tofu and soy products while at home, but I also go to a fast food joint several times a week and get cheap burgers to get my red meat. Whoppers are on sale right now at Burger King, so that has been the choice burger the past couple of weeks. I do crave sweets though. I love cookies and anything dessert-like. The other day, I went to the Krispy Kreme store, bought a variety dozen, and finished them off in 20 minutes. I also sometimes get a bit out of hand on the burgers too. Just the other night, I polished off 4 double cheeseburgers at Wendyís. I can eat.
BL: What is a day in the life of Mike Jones like now?
MJ: Well, I am living in Tucson now. I still work as a banquet server once a week for some extra cash. But other than that, I will ride and then either hang out at the house with my roommate and Wheelworks teammate, Darby Thomas, or go over to some other cyclistís place to watch some ridiculously stupid movie such as Van Wilder or Zoolander. If I am not doing that, I am online either reading cycling sites or RBR. We make daily trips to the grocery store for something to do and to pick up mad chicks. I also have a new hobby of backing my car into trees and then taping the trunk down with duct tape. Itís great. You should try it. If there is absolutely nothing to do, nobody is posting on RBR, and I am not tired, I will ask Darby to tell me his Belgium stories.
BL: How did you become associated with WV/GoMart?
MJ: When Diet Mountain Dew Code Red, first came out, GoMart was the only seller. I would take trips down to West Virginia [from New York] to stock up. One day at the Charleston store, I saw Wes Seigler. He was doing some sort of photo shoot for an ad for the store, and we got talking about bike racing. I got to know Wes better throughout the season along with a few others from the team. But I also got beat by Paul Martin at the Tour of Southeast Ohio this past season. So by the end of that race, I was more than familiar with the team.
BL: When did it become a goal to go pro?
MJ: It never was. I was just having fun racing my bike and riding hard. I was happy where I was at, as an amateur on Wheelworks. I am glad the opportunity has come up to turn pro with such a great program, but "going pro" was never a priority for me. There are too many posers that just care about going pro and forget about the fun things in bike racing. Like making guys cry when they get beat...
BL: What race are you most looking forward to in 2003?
MJ: I think the team has so much diversity that we will be a factor in any race. I really think they will impress many this year and prove to be one of the best, if not the best out of all emerging D3 teams.
As for myself, I am really looking forward to the spring campaign. I did those races last year, but with only one month of riding in my legs after five months totally off the bike. I am going to be fit for those races this year and promise to get a good result. A good result may not be not be a good result for others, but it will be good for me. I still have a lot to learn. Last year, I would say that I am basically a cat 1 with cat 3 experience. Now, I guess I am a pro with the experience of a cat 3. So I will hopefully learn a lot this season from the wealth of knowledge from my experienced teammates on the West Virginia Team.
Races in particular that I am excited about are Redlands, Georgia and San Francisco and defending my Pink Slipper Title against Glenn Swan in Ithaca. I am also planning on peaking right before I leave Tucson to win the shootout. I hope to still be able to do several local races. I really enjoy the racing community in upstate NY. I like racing with all the guys from the Spokepost.com Cycling team, especially my riding buddy, Dan Kane.
One race that I will miss though is The Tour of Southeast Ohio. Although I donít think that there are that many amateurs left so maybe they will allow pro teams this year.
BL: This reporter in Ohio will miss seeing you there, too! Thank you so much Mike. It was a pleasure. You can read Mikeís diary at Spokepost.com.