A Conversation with Cyclist Jon Hornbeck
Hailing from the Golden State, professional cyclist Jon Hornbeck took his first spin through the Amgen Tour of California this year as part of the Holowesko-Citadel p/b Hincapie team; a youthful crew of contenders on the rise. Though he’s continually on the roster for both domestic and international races, it’s Hornbeck’s background in motocross and outspoken humor—plus the ability to climb with fervor—that distinguishes him from other emerging talents in the professional peloton. Focused on bringing his own flavor to the community with the Spandex Stampede—a “GranFUNdo” that promises good times and scenic routes for riders of all levels—we caught up with Hornbeck on his way to Tour de Beauce to find out why the TOC ticked the box as his hardest race yet and what life really looks like between stages. – JK
There were talks about this year’s TOC being one of the hardest yet. How did this race rank for you in comparison to others?
I don’t know the exact mileage or time on the bike from this week compared to the Tour of Utah, but it was close. Even so, this was still by far the toughest race I have ever done. It was nice hearing from the Worldtour riders that this race was difficult for them as well. TOU was tough last year, but that race is more of a challenge in who can hold out the longest on the climb before being dropped, and the altitude plays a big role in results as well. At Cali we went full gas for quite a while, and after you add in all the transfers and little rest, it definitely makes for a hard but memorable experience.
With this being your first year in the TOC, which stage did you find the hardest?
Stage 7; Santa Rosa. This day was total anarchy, and the hardest day I’ve ever endured on the bike. The fact that we had 40 guys at the finish doesn’t give enough credit to how hard those first 3 hours were. It was total hell.
What was the highlight of the race for you?
Knowing that I can climb with some of the top guys when I’m riding well, and finish within the top 20 during my first TOC, was nice. It’s no result worth bragging about, but considering how hard and stacked the field was, it’s a result I can be proud of.
What is the hardest part of a race like this when you’re off the bike?
The transfers. The transfers this year were insane, so we’d typically wake up early, have breakfast, then do a short or long drive to the start. After that, we’d race for 4-5 hours and then get back in the car for another 2-4 hour drive to our next location. Typically you’d hit the massage table once you arrive then head straight over to dinner. By then, it’s almost 10 pm and it’s time for bed. It varied slightly, but this was more or less the schedule for 8 days straight. After stage 3, I lost track of anything going on besides what was right in front of me.
What’s the best part about the Hincapie crew?
We have such an awesome team and staff, which makes all the difference when the racing is brutal. When you’re going through a tough week of racing, having a great support system and fun people around to keep the vibes up is essential.
As a Californian, did you feel any extra support during this race?
Well, I had chalk on the road written for me, so that was a first. There were some friends and family that followed a couple of stages, but unfortunately with how busy we were and the long transfers I barely got to catch up with them. I did have plenty of family come out of the woodwork on Facebook to support me, which I’d never seen before. Unfortunately I don’t have any cool or crazy stories from fans though…maybe one day.
What lead you to create the Spandex Stampede and what else can you tell us about it?
Participating in a races and fondos over the past few years have lead me to create my own event, the Spandex Stampede. I haven’t quite ventured into the races yet, though one day I’d like to, but expanding the fondo is the current course I’m on. I’m fortunate enough to have been a part of a number of events, which means you find out what does and doesn’t work. Listening to people’s suggestions and thinking about what I’d improve also helps guide the type of event I want to create.
These rides are centered on good times with great people, but I’m also finding a way to give back to the community. Part of the Spandex Stampede proceeds will go back to helping grass roots cycling teams, since everyone knows how hard it is to get cycling sponsorship in today’s world. Last year was the first-ever Spandex Stampede in Temecula, but I’m looking forward to having three separate events this year that will all be different in their own way, and with different cycling/clubs teams on hand to represent their club and receive some extra financial support.