Meet Optum Pro’s Carter Jones
New Jersey Native Developing into one of Nation’s Top Stage Racers
As a kid, Carter Jones’ sports interest was more focused on the Bronx than Boulder. The 25-year-old Optum Pro Cycling rider grew up in Maplewood, N.J., a 40-minute train ride to New York City. Jones said as a youth he was fixated on playing baseball. His favorite team was in the Bronx... the Yankees.
Then Jones discovered cycling. He started mountain biking. His dad was a recreational road rider. Jones started racing with a local junior team and went on to ride for the U.S. National Team. He’s developed into one of the country’s most talented young climbers and stage racers. And -- you guessed it -- he now lives in Boulder, Colo., along with so many other pros.
He’s accumulated impressive results in some of America’s top stage races. In 2013, he won the Mountains Classification at the Amgen Tour of California. This season, he finished 11th at the ATOC, 7th at the Tour of Utah and 10th at the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado. At 6-foot (1.82 m), 148 pounds (67.1 kg), Jones definitely has the build of a climber. He’s learning to deal with the extremes of life in the pro peloton. This season, for instance, riders in the Tour of California faced temperatures of more 100 ºF (38 ºC) but also rain in the mid 40s ºF (7 ºC) at the USA Pro Challenge. Riders going for GC placings have to be at their best, no matter the conditions.
“I definitely do a lot better in the heat. A skinny guy like me means that when I get cold it’s a bad, bad situation,” Jones said. “It’s all about the clothing and just being prepared that way. But there’s only so much you can do, especially when you’re out on the road. I prepare for the heat and then you dress for the cold. That’s kind of my logic.”
Success, he said, is all about preparation, consistency and attitude. “It’s kind of a combination of everything. Sleep is important, but you’re up at altitude and that definitely affects the sleep. Nutrition and recovery are massively important. You’re in a stage race, and feeling good day to day is key. If you’re not feeling good one day, you’re not really racing. You just hope they don’t go hard because you might not be there. I think that a race like the USA Pro Challenge, every day is hard. Every single day is a potential GC day.… If you have a 40, 60 man bunch sprint a lot of fans don’t realize is when there’s 40 guys in that group, we went really hard for a really long time. So you have to be on top of your game every single day…. Riding for GC is very stressful in that you have to essentially ride a perfect race and make no mistakes and be aware all the time.”
Photo by Darrell Parks Photography
Boulder provides Jones with a dynamic place to live and train. In Stage 1 at last month’s USA Pro Challenge, Jones rode his way into contention for the victory, finishing fourth behind some familiar faces from the Boulder scene.
“I was sprinting for the podium against Ben Hermans and, had I made that podium, it would Alex (Howes, who was 2nd), Kiel (Reijnen, the winner) and myself,” Jones said. “We were literally out for coffee the other morning doing a nice easy spin. We’re all friends. We’ll all barbeque after the race. It’s cool…. All sports are small communities… Everybody knows everybody. It’s important to have those connections. Out on the bike, business is business. But when you’re off the bike you’re friends.”
And when it comes to the business of bike racing, Jones said the pressure he feels comes from within. “The thing about the team is they have more confidence in me than I do in myself,” he said. “As long as I try my hardest, they’re happy. But I have my own goals, my own expectations and that’s the pressure I put on myself.”
More about Carter Jones
Pro Since: 2010
Education: Graduated from University of Colorado at Boulder in 2011 with degrees in Physiology and Sociology
Team Twitter: @OPTUMpbKBS
Thoughts on SRAM RED 22: “RED 22 is amazing. We run the 11-28 rear cassette for most every race. You have the 11, which is important sprinting, downhills and really just riding along in the bunch. You find yourself in it a lot. You need that 28 for climbing. We use it all the time, and for a race such as Tour of Utah, which has climbs that I don’t know who built those roads, you put on your WiFLi cassette (11-30 or 11-32). Again, it’s important to have that 11 for racing and you have that 32 to get up some of those climbs.”
Top photo by Darrell Parks Photography