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Backstage Pass: A Day with Jonathan Page

If you’re a follower of Tom Boonen on Instagram, you probably think that all professional cyclists that are worth a grain of salt are also worth a fleet of Bentleys and flashy Italian sports cars. But after spending a day with the reigning US National cyclocross champ, Jonathan Page, we quickly laid those misconceptions to rest.

Photos: Ben Kuhns
Words: Ryan Schoeck, and Jeff Stewart

Instead of the Hamptons-white-party attire and booth girls of Cipollini, we found a humble champ whose only concern was bike racing. There was a stark realism and acceptance to how Page approaches bike racing, and we were just about to find out just how real it actually gets.

page1There weren’t any complex strings attached to meeting up with Page. Instead, we sent him an email saying that we wanted to meet him, and he gave us his phone number. And after a few text messages that morning (Page is really big on using emoticons), we met him at the Clif Bar booth at Interbike. In sandals and jeans, Page was rushing through a few handshakes, and quickly, just sort of sat down with us on a step of the booth. He started joking with us about how he didn’t have a ride to the race that night, and for a little perspective, it was already 3:30 in the afternoon. And after a little more chatting, it became clear that he was flying completely solo. No staff mechanic. No pit crew. No manager. No ride. And when we asked him who else was coming to the race, he simply said his mom. It started to dawn on us that we were his support crew. No pressure.

IMG_0935After about ten minutes, our “interview” was more like a structured hangout with the occasional gawker or sponsor-visit to pay mind to. Along the way, we were still trying to arrange a ride for all of us, and we were still left pondering over Page’s nonchalance. He kept calling the race a “show in a show” and was puzzling over the chaos on the floor, stating “all this for biking?” Eventually, he secured a ride from an old East Coast friend, and we parted ways until it was time to race.

We boarded the shuttle at dusk, joined by a large group of Interbike attendees eager to get the night’s party started. The driver pointed it west away from the Vegas Strip, and we soon found ourselves piling out into the soccer complex’s parking lot under a flood of fluorescent lights. Shortly after securing our media passes, taking a quick survey of the course layout, and grabbing the cyclocross fan’s beverage of choice, we were buzzed with a text by our boy Page.

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We slithered back through the growing crowd, food vendors and sponsor booths, out to the front gates where the Spy tent was located. The affable Mr. Page greeted us, like always, with handshakes and a sly grin. He was kitted up in his stars and stripes skinsuit and was receiving a helping hand with his race numbers from a friend.

With his ride-to-the-race debacle safely behind him, and course inspection laps out of the way, Page was in a light mood, with jokes peppering the conversation. He sat in one of those foldout camping chairs and sifted through his backpack, occasionally checking his phone and fiddling with his extra clothing.

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It was during this point in our exchange when we realized that, even with one of the year’s biggest races looming just minutes away, Page somehow managed to possess the same collected demeanor he’d portrayed all day long. I couldn’t help but be reminded of something he’d said to us earlier at the trade show, in that “racing is the easy part compared to all of this.” He’d said it while circling his hand out in front of him, signifying the show, travel logistics, meetings, and everything else that comes with being a professional bike racer. We wished him a good race and left, wanting to ensure that he’d have several minutes alone before the start of the race.

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Sven Nys won CrossVegas’ Elite Men’s class in a rather walloping fashion that night. Second place was claimed by Jeremy Powers, at a distant 29 seconds behind the World Champ. Our friend JP put up a good fight, claiming 16th overall at 2:23 back from Nys. We ended up running into Page the following day at Interbike, and true to character, he was all smiles and wanting to know if we’d had a good time at the race. You wouldn’t know he didn’t win by his super positive attitude and willingness to chat with the group of fans that swarmed him, which further served to show how true professionalism entails much more than just being a guy who’s damn good at racing his bike.