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Interview with Dane Jankowiak
 
By Jaime Nichols
Date: 5/30/2003
Interview with Dane Jankowiak
 

Photo by Troy Mayr
Schroeder Iron's 20-year-old Dane Jankowiak got his start on the mountain bike at 14 years old. Jankowiak took to the road a few years later, and saw his first big results in the Tour of Atitibi as a junior, at just 17 years old. In 2001, Dane won the Junior National Championships, and was selected to race for the US team at the Junior World Championships in Lisbon.

He comes to Schroeder Iron in 2003 from Mercury's development team, and also rides with the US National Team, based in Izegem, Belgium. He will be in Europe contesting the U23 races during May and June of 2003, where he joins Will Frischkorn, Mike Creed, Saul Raisin, Tyler Farrar, and many more in an all-star cast of promising young American riders. An able climber and strong time trialist, Dane has growing potential as an all-around hardman.

He's also a lanky kid with the laid-back demeanor of a California beach bum. He grew up surfing in Huntington Beach, California, where he was on the surfing team all through his grade school years. When he's not training or surfing, he can be found hanging out with his friends, or trying to beat Frank Schroeder's kids at Tony Hawk, but maintains that his game of choice is ATV Offroad.

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Dane Jankowiak… especially ladies.

How did you get started in cycling, and what made you decide to get serious?

I started out racing mountain bikes when I was 14yrs old, I did both cross country and downhill. I had better results with the cross country so I decided to focus mainly on that. Not to long after that I purchased a road bike from my friend who owned a bike shop. I didn't really know that much about road bikes so I bought the bright yellow and purple Bottechia with downtube shifters and mountain bike pedals. I rode that thing for awhile until I started growing out of it then a Cannondale frame later, I started racing crits with the juniors 15-16 category and I was getting smoked.

I didn't really notice my talent at road racing until I raced sea otter when I was 16 I noticed I was a pretty good climber and could climb with all the big name kids at the time. Basically, after the sea otter classic in 1998 I realized I wanted to take road racing to a higher level.

You won the Junior National Championships not long ago, in a 1-2 over your current teammate, Rigo Meza; tell me about that race.

Yeah, I won the 2001 junior Nationals in Gainsville, Florida. I had no idea what to expect it was my first nationals so I just went out and followed wheels the first half of this race which was really aggressive, but I knew that I had some decent form because shortly before nationals, I finished the Tour le Abitibi in Val'dor Canada with some strong finishes on a couple stages. With about 39 miles to go during the race I decided I would make my move and I went and no one came with me I just kept up a solid tempo until the final lap when Rigo all of sudden came out of nowhere and bridged up to me and we worked together all the way to finish and I got him at the line.

It's pretty cool that the past couple a years Rigo and I have ridden together on the same teams, we've both been the youngest, Mercury last year and now this year with Schroeder Iron, he's a very talented rider and cool kid so we both feed off each other which is important in this sport because were the young kids that no one wants to get beat by.

You've come a long way in a short time, and it's pretty impressive to start on a pro team at 19 years old. Give us a brief overview of your career - how did you do it?

First off, if it weren't for Jax Bicycles in Huntington Beach, California, I wouldn't have made it to the point where I'm at today. Those guys have a great local road team and the guys at the bike shop are awesome. They were the ones that taught me how to ride and race. They would wake me up in the mornings and take me to the group rides and school me: basically show me the ropes.

After winning nationals I received a call from John Wordin, and he wanted me to ride for the Mercury team, and I said Ok. Then, not too long after that I was racing all the early season races with Scott Moninger, Henk Vogels, Chris Wherry, Mike Sayers, Gord Fraser etc. It was probably the best experience an 18 year old that wanted to race bikes can possibly have. After hanging out with those guys for a couple weeks it really opened my eyes to what being a professional rider is all about.

Photo by Troy Mayr

That's good company for a kid just starting out! What was it like riding with all those guys? Was it intimidating at first to be riding with all those superstars? Who on that team did you feel you learned the most from?

Yeah, it was a little intimidating at first to be riding with all the guys at Mercury, but after a few days, especially at training camp, it was all good. Everyone was having fun, and it was a great atmosphere to learn in.

I probably learned the most from Brice Jones. He was living with a good friend of mine during the winter, and we trained almost everyday together. He would share some things with me because we were both kind of the young guys on the team, and he also went through the whole U23 program, so it was cool.

How did you get hooked-up with the Schroeder Iron Team?

I got hooked up with Schroeder Iron in the winter of this year. I was like some of the other mercury riders, seeing what Wordin was going to come up with. I started talking to Frank in the and he said he was interested in me coming over to his program and it sounded like he wanted to really step it up this year and every time I would talk to him on the phone he would get me all fired about the upcoming season.

How do you like it? What's it like riding with the other guys on your team?

My season's going well this year. I'm still learning a ton every time I enter the bigger races. Last year with Mercury I got groomed into doing a couple big crits. But nothing compared to what I'm doing this year, which is great because I feel like I'm adapting well do the longer, harder races that we've been doing. The high points this year would probably be helping Miguel Meza secure the points jersey at Redlands which was really cool; and I've had some top 10's this year which I'm happy with. My form is getting better and better each week, so I hope soon to profit from that.

The guys on my team are awesome. Once again I'm surrounded by a very professional group of guys who know how to have fun and win bike races.

Photo by Troy Mayr

You're riding with the National Team in Europe during May and June; tell me about that. Where are you going, and what are your expectations?

I leave this month for Izegem, Belgium. I've been going over there every year for about 2 months ever since I was a junior. I have some pretty big stage races and one-dayers that I would like to get some results in, and I love the racing over there. No one's afraid to race their bike, which is so much fun. I dig that style of racing where its just flat out for the whole 200k in the rain, and you're flying through these little towns with crazy roundabouts and cars pulling out.

ITS GREAT!

Who are your teammates on the National Team? Do you know what races you will be riding, and what your role will be on the team?

Right now in Izegem there's a really great group of guys, and I'm really looking forward to the upcoming races. We have Mike Creed and his 20,000 ft. altitude tent, Pat McCarty, Jon Retseck, Saul Raisin, Kevin Bouchard-Hall, Tyler Farrar, Mark Fitzgerald, Will Frischkorn, Blake Caldwell, and Oliver Stiler-Cote arrives just after I do.

My first race is the Triptique Ardennes. It's a 4 stage, 3 day race. After that I travel to Limburg, Germany for another stage race, and after that I go to Girona, in Southern France for yet another stage race. Depending on how I'm feeling after this block of races I might be on the start line to give Paris-Roubaix another shot.

Everyone's role in the team varies on the situation that is occurring in the races. If we have someone in the top 5 GC, there's no doubt that we'll lay it all on the line for the victory.

When will you be back in the states to rejoin your Schroeder teammates?

I'll be back in the states on June 29th. My first race back for Schroeder will be Espoir Nationals in Houston, Texas on July 3rd. After that I'll probably take a mini break and get back up for San Francisco and the later NRC races.

With all this training, travel and bike racing, do you ever feel like there are things you're missing out on? What's a day in the life of Dane like?

Not really. I have a lot of fun traveling around and seeing new places and going to Europe with the national team. I always seem to have a good time with whomever I'm touring with. It's better than sitting at home being bored, and waking up going to school and doing the same thing the next day. But it's great to come home to Huntington Beach after long trips and hard races. Then you can find me on the beach marinating with my friends.

A Day in the Life of Dane... wake up around 8:00 am, eat breakfast, ride for a couple hours down by the beach do my training for the day, if the waves are good I try to ride down to where its breaking the best. Then call my friends while I'm riding and tell them to swing by my house and grab my board and gear. And I meet them wherever the spot is, have a surf, then pedal home. That's a pretty basic day.

Do you have any advice to young kids who want to get into bike racing, now that you're such a salty old dog?

I think the main thing is that you have to have fun. You have to use moderation when dedicating your life to something that is as time consuming as cycling. I've always seemed to have a good group of guys, and still do, showing me the ropes and keeping me focused and fired up about the sport, so I've been lucky!

Photo by Jaime Nichols

Dane Jankowiak

Hometown: Huntington Beach, CA
DOB: 4/4/83
Height: 6'
Weight: 150lbs

2001 Junior National RR Championship, 1st
2001 Tour of Atitibi, Stage 2, 2nd
2001 Grand Prix de Marles, 6th
2001 Member of the US Junior Worlds Team
2003 Vuelta a Valencia Stage 2 RR, 2nd

 
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