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Chris Jones diary: Culinary finds on the cyclocross circuit
By Chris JonesPublished Updated
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.
Take a time machine back to our earlier years, back to the days of when a #2 pencil and blue tape were crucial to one’s success. We all endured many multiple guess tests and probably had as many different strategies to properly navigate through the answer sheet without actually having studied or even read the questions. Maybe I am just describing myself during my college years? That being said I did go school where I could see the local surf break from class so I didn’t really have time to study. Here is today’s test question:
Why do you ride? (circle one)
B) Be outside
C) To get your competitive juices out
D) As a mode of transportation
E) All of the above
I’ll go with E and amend A to read: Exercise so I can eat more. Initially I took up cycling as one part of the trifecta known as triathlon, but then realized that if I could eat one burrito as a sedentary creature, then I could probably eat two after spending a few hours in the saddle. This idea has stayed with me from Cat 6 through where I am today.
Being a professional cyclist involves travel, lots of travel. If one doesn’t keep the right perspective on things, the travel can turn a normal day into a dismal affair. I look at the travel as a perk of the job. Sure, most often I fly into a race venue the day or two preceding the event and exit asap after the race, but the perk that I describe goes back to my amendment of answer A; the food. Race Food Inc (a pseudonym created by a former teammate for the generic meal preparation) serves most meals during the road season, we can go to almost any part of the world and there will be pasta, rice, beets, salad, & chicken at the race buffet. The quality of the food varies widely. Let me say that again, the quality varies widely, but at the end of the day most of us are just looking to fuel the fire for the next day.
I had a teammate/hypeman/roommate on the road, who we shall refer to as MC, who always insisted that we go out and walk around after every stage. It didn’t matter where we were, or what happened in the race, he always took me out. There we would be, a couple of gangly guys slowly cruising the streets in matching team-issue clothing, trying to act as if we belonged. Inevitably MC would find some of the local cuisine and somehow we would always end up tasting it. From the sharing of a meal with eight unknown people sans utensils in Morocco (see picture) to the Canadian classic, Tim Hortons, where we went, we ate.
MC’s seeking out of local food antics helped move me beyond my California food roots where everything was wrapped, or double wrapped (trust me you must try the double wrap) in a tortilla. I decided that whenever I was going to visit a new city, state, or country that I would seek out the best of their local cuisine. Thankfully as a professional cyclist one of my other skills (besides driving a bike) is navigating the Internet, so I am able to do exhaustive research from those all-important secondary sources.
As I left for my trip to Cincinnati for the International Cyclocross Festival presented by Bio-wheels and United Dairy Farmers, I completed my pre-flight checklist. Procrastinate, finally pack bag, check-in online, double check bag, and scan for Cincinnati’s cuisine. Thankfully, I didn’t have to look far; Cincinnati is all about their chili. You can have it one of five ways:
2.”Two Way” – Spaghetti and Chili
3.”Three Way” – Chili, Spaghetti, and Cheddar Cheese
4.”Four Way” – Chili, Spaghetti, Cheddar Cheese, and Onions
5.”Five Way” – Chili, Spaghetti, Cheddar Cheese, Onions and Kidney Beans
With so many options I was pleased to know that there would be three days of racing to sort things out.
My initial thought when I arrived at the first course was, “Oh no, this is straight out of my worst case scenario for cross course design.” Sure there was plenty of elevation gain and loss, but it was all through traversing and off-camber riding. To add to my trepidation, Ryan Trebon rolled up and said, “Dude this course is going to suck for you” then made some motorcycle sounds and rode away.
You meet so many interesting people on the road.
After some self-talk, a Clif Shot, and an amazing cupcake from the team heads at My Wife Inc., I was back in the game and ready for the race. The race, and weekend for that matter, turned into a Trebon v. Powers affair while the rest of us battled for the remaining podium spot. Those guys were just on a different level that weekend.
Around the point when half of the race was completed or half of the race was left, I started contemplating what kind of cupcake I had eaten before the race, “Was that cookie dough in the middle?!?” For the remainder of the race I debated the nutritional value and contents of the cupcake. You know your race is not going well when you are thinking about sweets and can hear the announcer talking about the front of the race and that is exactly what was happening to me. After the race, the cupcake lady had mysteriously disappeared and in my post race confusion I blanked on my plan to indulge in the local Cinci cuisine.
My arrival at the second venue was much more pleasant; the course was flat, fast, and wide open, which equals fast racing in my mind. As I navigated my way from the parking lot to the team parking area that I wasn’t allowed to park in (apparently, “hey I’m Chris Jones” doesn’t work on Cinci parking volunteers), I recognized the announcer’s accent as British; bingo. For those of you new to the team, Rapha is a fashionably conscious clothing company from London and the Brits love Rapha clothing only third to their mums and tea. A quick warm-up, course inspection, and delivery of a team cap to the announcer and I was ready to go. The race was quick from the gun and I rolled around better than the first day while JP and Trebon did their thing off the front. The cap worked it’s magic and the Rapha-Focus Team received a disproportionally large amount of attention for the way/position I was racing.
The final day was the reason we had traveled to Cinci, C1 race points. For those of you who do not know starting positions for cyclocross races are based on our world ranking and points collected during races determine that world ranking. And to that point C1 Cyclocross races are the highest ranked race besides a World Cup and occur infrequently in the States. The importance of the opportunity for points was not lost on us riders and everyone seemed to have their game faces on as we lined up in the starting grid and as I glanced down the first row the points seemed to lure a new entry from previous days; Parbo decided to race.
About half way through I felt like I was back in 2009 again as I defended the USA from Canada as Geoff Kabush and I battled it out. He and I have had some great battles over the past two seasons and after struggling for the first couple of weeks this was good sign that things now are headed in the right direction for both of us. Geoff is a classy rider and always races straight up, which I can appreciate. Fortunately, I came out ahead and timed the result perfectly as I came away with the final podium spot and some much needed UCI points.
With the racing completed and successful, it was time to head off for some chili. All weekend long I had contemplated, the question of which “way” to have my chili. The idea of spaghetti was just not appealing, so I created my own method, the Californian way; chili wrapped in a tortilla. After the meal, I felt like President Bush and holding the “mission accomplished” speech — there was still more eating business to accomplish. If you remember, United Dairy Farmers (UDF) sponsored the race weekend and UDF has convenience stores that serve ice cream so I felt obligated to go. It is PRO to support the races’ sponsors after all. Am I right? How good can a convenience store’s ice cream be? Magnifico actually! It was the perfect way to cap off the three days of racing.
I have a weekend off from racing before heading to the USGP in Louisville and plan to ride with the guys who taught me how to mountain bike. The Owen’s Healthcare Cycling Team, or blue train as we refer to them, is made up masters racers who would answer E to the “Why do you ride?” question. Their passion and antics remind me how fun my job really is and at the same time they fill in the void left by MC’s absence.