Teammate to Teammate: Seven Questions With Masters National Crit Champion Jason Walker
Chris Lyman to Jason Walker.
Q: How was your season leading up to nats?
A: It was a bit rough actually – up and down. I had a couple good results, 2nd at Cat’s Hill and 4th at Nevada City, then I got really tired. I raced the Little City Stage race hoping to build some form for Cascade and Nats but I couldn’t suffer like I traditionally can. So I was concerned. Then I got really bad news: Chris Lyman breaks himself badly. It was hard to get passed all the “Is Chris going to make it… Oh my god, this biking thing is dangerous…” And then it became really selfish; Chris and I are a great 1-2 punch for Cascade and Nats, and that’s now gone. Cascade became training for me, which was fine, but I still didn’t feel good. I got a boost of confidence the next weekend at Tour De Nez and got focused on good training and losing some weight. I started feeling really good the couple weeks leading up to Nats.
Q: Between your family and career, like many masters riders, your schedule is pretty full. How do you approach the racing season to balance all aspects?
A: I wrote out a plan, set goals for myself, put all my races/rest on a timeline and posted it on the refrigerator. I then talked about the season with my wife. She’s supporter/enabler #1. I also had to get much smarter about my training. I thought I got that all figured out last year but realized this year (see note above about being tired) that I have a lot to learn.
The really interesting variable this year was the impact both kids being a year older would have on me, my wife, being a family and trying to race. It was exponentially harder this year compared to last year. Our oldest son, Louden, is 3 and wants to be really active. It’s rough taking off on the bike when he’s holding his helmet or going away for the weekend to pedal circles. Then our youngest was just entering full danger-zone, needs 100% supervision 100% of the time during the summer; he was falling off curbs, putting rocks in his mouth – doing all the things that freak out parents and I’m off worrying about my tire pressure. It was rough on my wife. So we changed the plan. We decided I would be going to nats solo among other things.
Q: In the crit at Masters Nationals you went solo about 20 laps in. What was going through your mind? You had lots of time to think…
A: At first I was just trying to keep the race hard, making sure if there was a break I was in it. It was the only chance I had to win and played very well into our teams #1 strength, our sprinter, Dean (2011 Masters National Crit Champ). I was fine doing work all day knowing Dean was in the pack waiting to do his job.
Not only was I not trying to go solo I was 99% sure I’d be joined at some point by Demarchi, Andres, Johnson or more. After a few laps I said “uh, oh” to myself. I won the TDN in basically the same way, so I knew I could do it but this was Nats – whole different ball game.
Mostly I thought about being efficient and keeping my head low but yes, a million things go through your head. Examples:
· Wait – they just said 12 seconds but the previous corner said 22 seconds – which is it?
· I think my tire is soft
· Don’t hit your pedal on turn 5
· The conversations will be so much better if you just win.
· Roemer (teammate) looks awfully comfortable over there drinking wine
Q: Bigger win: 2011 Masters Nationals Road Race or this year’s Crit?
A: They are both so different but if I had to pick one I’d say this year’s crit but let me give a bit of context.
Last year I had my entire family with me, and I mean entire: Mother, brother, sister, all the in-laws, nieces, dog and of course Kerri, Louden and Lander. I’m not sure I can properly explain what it meant to win the RR in front of them. They’ve all seen me race but I think they understood how different this was. I mean, they were all there to watch and support ME (okay, grandmas were really there for the boys). I got “close” in the crit and they all knew I was a bit disappointed. To win the RR and be able to share that experience with them was really special.
This year was a 180 – not one of them was there. Sure, they all wanted to be but it couldn’t be expected. The hardest part was Kerri and the kids but we’d already made that decision. So how could this be better? A few reasons: Bubba (Melcher, teammate) and I had a conversation last December about Brian McGuire – arguably one of the best masters racers ever and how he’d never won a national title. Brian had stressed to Bubba how special it was to win one but also how “any jackass can win one.” Bubba then expressed this to me but what they were trying to say is that winning the 2nd one was harder, and if you can do it, it says a lot.
Secondly, I was bummed after the road race this year. I knew the course didn’t favor me because of the longer climb but I was much closer than I thought I would be. To be that close again and watch the awards presentation got to me a bit.
Finally, there’s really no feeling like winning a crit solo. Crits are hard, scary and so fast you don’t usually have a lot of time to focus on the crowd. I had about 35 laps to focus on the crowd. Bend came out in a big way to support all the races and I love the place. It was amazing to hear all the cheers, see all the faces, get all the splits, etc. When the gap got down to around 10 seconds with 8 laps to go I could see it in their faces. Everyone kind of got bummed; they stopped giving me splits. They were feeling bad for me but in a good way. That really fired me up.
Q: You’re a bit of a gearhead. What was your race day setup?
A: 54cm Specialized Venge Expert with SRAM Red, Zipp 404 Firecrest clinchers, Quarq power meter with Rotor Qrings.
Q: Fall/winter is the time to chop wood for the following season, but you take this to a new literal truth. What are you up to during the offseason?
A: Chopping wood, turning over the garden, watching football and getting ready for ski season. I like to build my base in the backcountry of the Sierra so hopefully we’ll get some snow this year.
Q: What are your goals for 2013?
A: Honestly, I want to camp more, mtn bike more and be a better father/husband. I know this sounds cheesy but I had some good revelations this year thanks to my wife. Really, I’m not bad but I can do better.
On the bike specifically I want to do the following:
1. Have fun with my teammates and pay them back.
2. Do better at Nevada City.
3. Be a factor at Cascade.
4. Either win or help a teammate win a national championship.
5. Top 5 at mtn bike marathon nationals.
Jason Walker and Chris Lyman are teammates on Team Specialized Racing. Based in Northern California, the team is one of the top junior development cycling programs in the nation, and among the most competitive masters teams in the world. Facebook.com/TeamSpecializedRacing