Hometown: Annandale, NJ
Residence: Golden, CO
Strengths: Remembering numbers, not vomiting
Likes: Siberian huskies, massaman curry, skate skiing, college football, Swedish fish, suffering
Liking to suffer and having an ability not to vomit are two pretty good attributes to have if you’re a criterium/sprint specialist. They certainly served Jonas Carney well in an illustrious racing career that began with winning the 1988 US Junior Road Race National Championships.
In the next 16 years, Jonas racked up another junior road title, numerous national track titles, the USPro Criterium Championship and dozens of other prestigious criterium victories. In 2000, he represented the United States on the track at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
Along the way, Jonas also bookended his career with two impressive victories in the Gastown Grand Prix. In 1990, at age 19, his lethal sprint surprised a strong field of veterans earning him his first big win against the pros. The next year he helped teammate Lance Armstrong win one of his first important road victories here. Fourteen years later, Jonas showed the cycling world he was still a force to be reckoned with by winning Gastown ahead of one of the most impressive fields in the race’s history.
These days, Jonas is the Performance Director of the Minneapolis-based Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies team, which features Vancouver-based riders Sebastian Salas, recently crowned King of the Mountains at the 2012 Tour of California, and Marsh Cooper, a former Canadian national track team member and a breakaway threat in practically every race he enters.
So let’s hear some more from Jonas:
What was it like in 1990 to line up as a 19-year-old against guys like Tom Schuler, Roberto Gaggioli and Alex Steida, and then beating them all?
I grew up watching a lot of those guys on TV in the Tour de France and the Coors Classic. It was a definitely a strange transition to go from asking those guys for autographs to beating them. I was a junior the year before and I certainly did not start the year thinking I was going to win races at that level. I ended up having quite a bit of success in 1990, but every time I won a race it kind of blew my mind. You can tell by the photo that I was pretty excited. (See victory photo below.)
How did that 1990 race go down?
All I remember is that the race was super fast and I was suffering. I did not think I had a chance as I was in the red for quite a bit of that race. When I was 19, I had a fast sprint but I was not super strong. So a lot of races were spent just trying to survive, and Gastown was one of them.
Who were the favourites in the race?
I’d never done the race before and had no idea how it would go down. But it was obvious that the favorites to win would be the usual suspects…guys like Roberto Gaggioli, Alan McCormack, Alex Steida, Tom Schuler, and John Brady.
We know you’ve done a million races, but is there any chance you remember that last lap?
Leonard Harvey Nitz [Jonas’ Subaru-Montgomery teammate] had kind of taken me under his wing that year. He showed a lot of confidence in me that day and he made a big effort to set me up on the final lap. 7-Eleven had it lined up. I couldn’t win from 6th or 8th position, so I shot inside the 7-Eleven lead out in the last two corners and jumped early. I led it out for quite a ways. John Brady was chasing me the whole way down the home stretch, but he lost control and crashed on the bricks with around 100 meters to go.
You’ve won some pretty big races. How did Gastown compare at the time?
There were tons of famous riders in the race, the crowds were the biggest I had ever seen, and there was tons of prize money. Gastown was by far the biggest win of my career at that time.
That’s some pretty good 1980s hair you’ve got going in those shots. Care to comment ?
What can I say…I was a metalhead from New Jersey, who just graduated high school.
Regarding your equally impressive 2004 Gastown Grand Prix victory, what made you race again in Gastown in 2004? Weren’t you living in Milwaukee and involved in the other Superweek then?
I was living in Milwaukee and racing Superweek there. However, I was retiring at the end of 2004 and wanted to race Gastown one more time because I had such fond memories of the event. I talked Alex Candelario into flying up to BC with me. It ended up being epic, but it was worth it.
How did you like the course compared to the old one?
(For a reminder of the other course, see Gastown Grand Prix Profile #3: The Course)
Both courses were fun because of the bricks and the huge crowds. However, I really liked the old course with the two back to back corners and the chicane in the sprint. I always preferred more technical courses.
You were up against a pretty good Gastown field in 2004 with Fraser, Farrar, Nothstein, Vogels, O’Bee, Dominguez, Frishkorn, Tuft, Sundt and Pinfold, but brought a pretty good crew yourself in Alex Candelario, Caleb Manion, Ben Brooks and Doug Ollerenshaw. Any comments on these guys?
There was definitely a lot of horsepower in the field that year. We had a good team though and as usual I could not have pulled it off without Alex Candelario that day.
With Doug’s $2,000 crowd prime and your $5,000 win, that was a pretty good night cash-wise. Was that a big motivator for coming and did all go to plan?
Money was not a factor. I just wanted to do Gastown one more time. Things did not really go to plan. While I made the break, I was heavily outnumbered by riders who were working together. It was just a matter of time before they ganged up on me. Fortunately Svein’s late attack forced them to burn all their matches chasing him and I was able to focus on the sprint against Marty and Tyler. None of that was planned. Svein wasn’t my teammate, but his attack set me up.
Can’t help asking about the Travis Bickle haircut. Are you a Taxi Driver fan or was there more to it?
My season had been terrible before July, and there was only a few months left in my career. It was important for me to give everything in every race that was left and enjoy every moment. I needed a reminder of that every time I rolled up to a start line, it was the last time I would ever do that particular race. That was the reason for the mohawk.
Anything you can say about the young Lance Armstrong you had on your team in 1990-1991?
Man, we had a lot of fun traveling around when we were 19 and 20 years old. We were just kids and we were having a blast. It’s was crazy to see Lance become such a big deal after knowing him when we were just punks.
What was the plan going into races?
We didn’t have much of a plan. Lance just liked to race hard and I could win the sprint. So he’d attack like a madman and I would just sit back and watch everyone chase him.
As two young guys 20 and under, with thousands in your pockets after the win, how did you celebrate the victory in Vancouver, or were you able to celebrate much with US Nationals coming up two days later in Colorado?
We weren’t of legal drinking age in the US, so we usually took advantage of our visits to Canada. But it was mid-season and Nationals were coming up, so we didn’t get too crazy.
Lastly, was coach Eddy B. involved in any way in your prepping for Gastown? Any memorable quotes from him about you or Lance?
Subaru just sent a hit squad to Gastown so there wasn’t a director. I don’t remember any advice from Eddy about the race. There are so many great Eddy B. quotes, but there is one thing that he always said to Lance and me when he was mad at us. “Eh, you are not the guy!” He was mad at us a lot.
Over his storied career, Jonas clearly proved that, when it came to sprinting, he usually was “the guy”. His Optum Pro Cycling rider Sebastian Salas is already confirmed for Gastown and BC Superweek. Here’s hoping Jonas himself can make it back to Vancouver with his own hit squad for the 2012 Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix presented by Allstream.
Read more about Jonas’ stunning Gastown victories courtesy of the Vancouver Sun: