This is the time of year when most riders/teams announce via social media they’re roster’s for next year or, which team they will be riding for. I’ve done so the past 3 years as I signed my first professional contract with the 5 Hour Energy p/b Kenda team in ’14, Holowesko – Hincapie Sportswear in ’15, and finally Holowesko – Citadel p/b Hincapie in ’16. I have had many people asking me what I’m doing next year, if I’m back with the team, do I have exciting new options, etc. I’ve kept quiet and responded with, I’m still working on it. But the time has finally come that I can inform everyone of my new plans for next year and why I have chosen this path. I am done with the professional road racing path, and have accepted an editor position over at Road Bike Action. So here’s what lead to my decision to pursue a different path.
I never dreamed up being in the Tour de France as a kid. Honestly I never even started watching the Tour until maybe 2012. I spent my childhood racing motocross and chasing that dream. Well it didn’t pan out. I did a bit of cycling as cross training in my latter years and was advised by my motocross coach at the time to give cycling a try. I didn’t exactly jump on it. It took sometime but finally I bought a bicycle and tried some Cat 5 racing in 2010. It was hard to be motivated to start a new sport at the ripe age of 20 and already living on my own working full time dead end jobs. Racing around in spandex didn’t quite get me too enthused. But I did some local races and started to enjoy it. After winning my second race as a Cat 5 I thought maybe going to a Cat 1 in a season could be fun. Once I did that in a year I thought well maybe I’ll try to get on an elite team. Then a pro team, etc. I never had huge hopes & dreams to make it to Europe and make a career out of it. But as I progressed each year I set bigger goals.
The harsh truth about professional cycling in the states is that it doesn’t give much back. All too often I would hear of the stories of the late 20’s, early 30 years olds chasing that 10k contract living on couches. I made a deal with myself when I decided to pursue this path that I would never let myself get there. As long as I kept improving on the bike each year, and financially improving I would keep moving forward. After a few years I got that first pro contract with the now defunct 5 Hour Energy p/b Kenda professional cycling team. For a salary of $0 dollars. Still though it was a step up. Either that or make the same amount of no money racing amateur. I took the chance, still worked a job and kept going. The following year I signed with Hincapie Sportswear for a salary of $15K a year. My first payed contract as an athlete. Luckily my off season events gave me some money to keep pursuing this path. The following year in ’16 I re-signed with the team for 25K a year. I was also able to pull in some personal sponsorship dollars to bump up my pay. This still may not sound like much but given that your average California resident takes home 32K a year it’s not too bad. Especially for traveling the world wearing spandex. Unfortunately there aren’t many US domestic pro’s that can be given the chance to race on a team of this level and make that sort of money. I had no complaints and am grateful to the team for looking after me.
There is more to it though then just racing and being payed. What do they say? If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing it doesn’t matter what the dollar amount is. Or something like that. There were many times this year that I just wasn’t having fun anymore. Once you get to this level it really is a job, and most people don’t see that. From the outside it’s all glitz and glamour. Traveling around, riding your bike, being on tv, having coffee shop rides. That’s all great but to me I just started to lose the joy in it. It also didn’t help that my results were up and down through the season and all though I had some good times I also had some bad times.
This lead me to not being re-signed by the team for ’17. At this level it is a business and if your not proving your worth and getting results, well there’s someone else who can take your place. Thats life and I respect that. Hunt or be hunted. There are really only two teams in the states that pay a descent wage. I was on one and the other team wasn’t offering me anything. I talked to other teams and had offers, but to step down and take a contract for 10K a year. I wasn’t going to go backwards.
As one door closes another shall open. For a couple months though I was really thinking to myself what am I going to do. And just like that an opportunity came my way which I pounced at. After doing some articles for Road Bike Action this year I built up a relationship with the good folks over there. Just as I was thinking what I will be doing for the future an opening came up. I was able to be hired on in an editorial position and I am more then excited to what lays ahead. I will look to continue to build my SPNDX Stampede events/clothing organically on the side and dive head first into this new role. I will still be on the bike and going to events, dabble in some mtb racing, and having fun with life.
I want to thank everyone who has made these past 6 years a great journey and I look forward to what’s next. Maybe even see some friendly faces at the upcoming SPNDX Stampede Road FUNdo on December 3rd!
Note from SoCalCycling.com – We wish all the best for Jon in this new chapter of his life! We appreciate Jon sharing his racing experiences in his Race Reports that he shared with SoCalCycling.com over the years!