Michael Jones interview

Above: Mike (L) racing the 2009 NZ champs

CRANK recently caught up with ex-Capetonian Michael Jones, who was a well known name in Western Province cycling circles for many years.

Now based in New Zealand, he is still training and racing as much as ever as well as having just qualified as a Level 1 cycling coach through the Australian Institute of Sport.

CRANK chatted to him about his racing days in Cape Town, as well as gaining an insight into the New Zealand cycling scene.

Job Description and Location:

Principal Planner, presently with the Thames Coromandel District Council in New Zealand.

CRANK: Could you tell us a bit about your sporting background before cycling?

Michael Jones: At school played all sports cricket, rugby, squash & tennis and didn’t really excel at any I guess the saying “jack of all trades master of none” applies. I also did a bit of surfing and the odd cycle race, but nothing too serious.

CRANK: When did you start riding seriously?

MJ: I rode some social tours called “Apple Tour” organized by WPPA way back in 1980’s which was from Newlands to Ceres and back over a weekend. I did my first Argus Cycle Tour when I was 14yrs old and managed to do 3hr34 on an old steel Peugeot Sting. Due to a growth spurt I quickly outgrew the bike and only started riding again after my 2 yrs National Service in the Navy around 1989. Guess I was a bit of a late starter as most athletes at the age of 20yrs old were in prime fitness. I recall doing the Argus Tour that year starting from U group I somehow managed to do a 2hrs54min so was pretty stoked and that’s when I kind of got serious about bike riding.

CRANK: You rode at an elite level in Cape Town for a number of years in the 1990s – could you tell us a bit about the scene back then? The Saturday afternoon registered races in Durbanville?  Who were the top riders? Did you ride for a team? What bike were you riding then?

MJ: There were lots of “funrides” around the southern suburbs that were a climbers’ delight and riders like Mark Blewett and Douglas Ryder usually dominated these races demonstrating their class. There were a few teams but I think the sponsorships were pretty low key in Cape Town and a few riders went to Gautang to pursue their careers in the sport. The racing was bloody hard: I recall doing a criterium around Rondebosch common and got lapped by Blewett and a few others so it was a steep learning curve and basically one learnt how to race the hard way on the back wheel.

I rode a few Boland Bank Cycle Tours (I think 4) and the Giro del Capo (also 4?) which was tough racing as there were a lot of pros that came over from Europe, like Team ONCE, Collstrop, TVM, Telekom etc . I was working at the time so basically only managed to train about 80k per day which showed when you’re racing some of the best riders in the world. I rode for a few local teams like Telegames and Coroma Doors and a Western Province team. I remember having one good stage in the Boland Bank Tour where I finished 6th on the stage but ended up with loose toe nails as I was riding new shoes and my feet swelled in the 40 degree heat in Malmesbury, ended up cutting holes in my shoes but got shelled the next day when team ONCE smashed it up Mitchell’s Pass. I was riding a Cannondale in those days with Shimano 105.

Mike on the podium - 2nd in the 2009 NZ champs masters category (40+)
Mike on the podium - 2nd in the 2009 NZ champs masters category (40+)

CRANK: When did you make the switch to sub-vets racing?

MJ: Gee good question! I can’t actually remember, which is probably a sign of my age. I think it was around 1998 when I rode the “Junior Vets Tour of the Wine-fields”. I still rode elite races so was a bit of both.

CRANK: How did you come to ride for the Virgin Active team?

MJ: I think word got out that I was keen to be part of the Virgin Active team and I met Tim and Trevor aka The Beast for coffee at the Mug and Bean in Constantia and the rest was history.

CRANK: Could you share with us some of your highlights riding in the VA team?

MJ: Having bronchitis and digging in deep for the team at the Tour de Eden, man I felt like death and surprised I finished: it must have been Chad Gordon’s good cooking or Trevor’s tribal counseling that got me through.

It was a great team to ride for in which was run with military precision by Trevor. We had some classy riders so at times there was a bit of tension on who the leader was as I guess you would have in any strong team. Besides that we all trained hard and raced harder which I think set the bar in vets racing.

My main highlight would undoubtedly be winning the National Road Champs in Pretoria in 2005, I think our team came away with 5 medals that weekend so we were stoked.

CRANK: You now reside in NZ – could you tell us about the racing scene there? How does the racing differ to SA? Do you ride for a club/team? Are there age categories or to vets and elites ride together?

MJ: The racing is flat out from the gun and basically a race of attrition you don’t really have time to attack because the pace is so high guys just get ridden off on uphill, flat and downhill. I rode a race last year where 35 riders got dropped in the first 5k’s and never saw the bunch again: they were handing out bottles to their team mates I somehow managed to hang on and finished 23rd. Most of the guys here race in the States or Europe for pro teams or are on the NZ Olympic track squad so the standard is very high. I rode for a team called Torpedo 7 but due to the financial situation they pulled the sponsorship and am just riding in club kit at the moment. I had a good result on the weekend racing SRAM Tour of Ranges with the Elites and managed to finish 11th overall and 1st in the Masters category, so perhaps I might get offered a ride with one of he local teams: we’ll have to see. My local club is Morrinsville Wheelers.

Mike amongst the starting lineup at last weekend Sram Tour De Ranges
Mike amongst the starting lineup at last weekends Sram Tour De Ranges

CRANK: Are there any other SA riders in NZ that you connect with?

MJ: I saw Shaun Batty (ex Cape Town) at the Auckland 1000 race a year ago but never managed to get his contact number. There’s probably quite a few ex South Africans here but I haven’t really looked into it to be honest.

CRANK: Could you talk about your approach to training – scientific/basic? Indoor trainer, or mainly road? How do you cope with balancing work, family, training and everything else?

MJ: Time management is the key. So up at 4h50am do 1.5hrs then 2hrs after work 3 – 4 days in week. Usually race on Saturdays and 4-5hr ride on Sunday or vice versa, this mileage drops off towards winter where I do my training indoors. Luckily work hours are flexible so I get home early and still have plenty daylight to do stuff with the kids.  I’ve just completed a 9 day coaching training course run through AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) for Level 1 & 2 coaches and so I’m busy fine tuning my own training program for the Northland Tour in March and Nationals in April. Yes, it is more scientific and mostly done on heart rate although I’ll be switching to power training, which was the basis of my training in SA. I generally do more training outdoors than indoors. However I’ll be getting a BT trainer soon so will be establishing the “house of pain” in my garage soon. My training programs are very specific depending on the type , distance and profile of the race and are quite detailed, but simply put involves: 8 weeks E1 gradually increasing intensity then 8 weeks high intensity endurance and anaerobic training then the final 4 weeks involves speed and power.

CRANK: What bike are you riding now – could you tell us about your equipment preferences?

MJ: My road bike is a Colnago carbon with Zipp wheels and my time trial bike a “Planet X” with Zipps.

CRANK: Last book you read.

MJ: Presently reading Level 1 coaching manual prepared by Ron Bonham of Australian Institute of Sport