The James Host Interview

04 Nov The James Host Interview

Early April Enzo receives a call from Tom Doughty who is sick of the cold weather. Tom says, “Cory, Jim, and I are going to Carbondale on Sunday and we need a fourth”. Without hesitation I am in. This is a great group to train with and I am happy for the invite. This was the last social ride with Jim while he was just a multiple National Champion, a mortal. Now I find myself sitting across the table having lunch with the recent 2 times World Champion! That is correct, for those that have not heard the great news, Jim Host wins the Individual pursuit in Manchester, setting a new world record in the age group (55-59). Jim rode 2k’s in 2:23.879, breaking the old mark of 2:24.370 set back in 2006.

Again I will remind everyone that Enzo is no journalist, and will do his best. I have an idea what I want to ask Jim, before I know it we are talking about the big boys that race for Great Britain. They are practicing at the track everyday for 2-3 hours, doing four man team pursuit practice, Jim makes comment how impressive they are. Guys like Chris Hoy, and David Millar flying around the track at 40 mph. Jim says they keep this pace lap after lap after lap, that his camera could not capture a shot that was not blurry. I can feel Jim’s excitement, the buzz from this trip was still running high. I decide it is time to ask a few questions.

Enzo, When did you start racing on the track?

JH, 2003 I was talked into racing the ABR Grand Nationals. They allowed you to use a road bike as long as you did not shift any gears. That was my first individual pursuit doing the 3k in 3:59. I did not have any idea this was good, and asked my friend what’s next? The answer was a full track season in the Midwest followed by USA Cycling Masters Nationals. I did have a problem, I was only able to go hard for 1k which was not correct. After winning a bronze at Nationals in the kilo, and being schooled by Kent Bostick in the IP finishing 10th, I went to the doctor. I was diagnosed with celiac disease, which disrupts the absorption of nutrients in the small intestine. This forced me to address my diet, eliminating gluten completely. Things started to improve after that.

2005 Nationals was held in Indianapolis which did not go very well for me.

2006 3rd in the National Points race.

2007 This was the first win in the individual pursuit at Nationals.

2008 2nd in the IP

2009 2nd in the IP, 1st Team Pursuit.

2010, Broken Collar bone, still went to Portugal for worlds.

2011, Best Nationals to date, 3 gold, 1 Bronze.

Jim does not mention this but I know he has had a problem and I ask about his collar bone. He says he has a gap where it did not heal correctly from the 2010 crash.

I will have surgery next week to fix this, finally.

Enzo, I comment about how I have never been drug tested, that this seems crazy to me. How was the drug testing at Nationals?

JH, They increased the testing quite a bit. I am happy they are testing more people. Every time I am tested I have this feeling and thoughts, I hope the manufacturers of my supplements are truthful with their ingredients, that their labels are accurate. I am very careful with this. A masters racer was busted the other day for a supplement that had a very small amount of a banned substance, that is on him, you have to know what you are eating at all times. No exceptions!

Enzo, Did the UCI test you at worlds?

JH, Yes they did. Of course I was not able to pee, so the UCI tester and I hung out while I drank bottles of water. 45 minutes later I was able to take care of business.

Enzo, Nice Freudian slip, hung out together, laughter. What or who prompted you to start going to master’s track worlds?

JH, It was Reid Schwartz during 2007 Nationals, he told me if I wanted to be the best, here is what you do: You have to go to the Master’s world championships in order to race against the fastest guys. If you do this and can find a way to win, you will become world champion, the top dog in that event in that year. So my first Master’s worlds was in Sidney Australia 2007. My goal was to make the podium. I went early in the qualifying round and did not feel great, though my time was holding up. I made it to the final 4 then realized what was happening, then the nerves started to have a negative effect. I was able to go fast enough for a silver medal and understand this new level of pressure. Next time I will be better prepared.

Enzo, How about a quick history of your world championships.

JH, That is easy, the next 3 years 08,09,10, I finished 2nd in the IP. That made 4 years in the gold medal round finishing 2nd.

Enzo, Did you change your preparation from previous years for Manchester?

JH, Yes, though it was not completely by choice. I was working down south and crashed while out on a training ride. I cracked a few ribs and punctured a lung only 8 weeks before the 2011 championships. I was forced to have a number of days completely off the bike while my lung repaired itself. While lying in the hospital I had plenty of time to think, can I still do this? Then adjusting my thought process only thinking how I would adjust my training to fit the now reduced preparation time. Maybe the forced rest was the difference, call it a blessing, though an expensive one I do not recommend.

Enzo, Were the conditions in Manchester a factor.

JH, Yes, the rain made for heavy damp air, what we call slow conditions, though the track itself is fast.

Enzo, What was the length and banking of the track in Manchester.

JH, Somewhere between 43-45 degrees at 250m.

Enzo, what about tire pressures?

JH, 200psi.

Enzo, Are you kidding?

JH, No, the track is a super smooth wood surface, so 200 psi is perfect.

The Manchester Velodrome

 

Enzo, So you break the world record in the IP, posting a 2:23.879. Beating the old mark set in 2006 by Woody Cox @ 2:24.370. Clearly this is an exciting moment for you, is it the highlight of the week?

JH, Yes and no. It is hard to say winning my first world championship was not an awesome moment in time, but winning the points race was incredible as well.

Enzo, Jim has written the points race story for us. Here it is first hand from Jim.

Thought you might like to read my report from the Points Race. I neglected to mention the shredded skinsuit and blood but you’ll get the picture.

Points Race Race Report

Hello Everyone,

Took me a while to get on line today. This will be lengthy so bear with me or just go to the end if you already don’t know the results. First of all, this is a Points Race, some of you may not be familiar. A points race is a mass start event with up to 24 riders on a 250 meter track. We had 17 starters last night. Our race was 15k or 60 laps. Points are scored on sprint laps, in this case every 10 laps for a total of 6 sprints. Points are awarded to the first four riders over the line, 5-3-2-1. 10 points are awarded for riders lapping the field.

There were 10 Brits in the race so it figured that they would try to dictate the pace, etc. I was the lone American. At the start, one of the Brits attacked on the first lap and got a 1/4 lap lead while everyone just sat and watched him ride away. I wasn’t here to let that happen so I closed it up most of the way and the Dane in the race finished it up. Coming into the bell lap for the first sprint, 8.75 laps into the race, I was on the Dane’s wheel and looking to score some points in the first sprint. I was camped out on the upper half of the sprinters lane so if felt anyone trying to come over top of me, I would have room to move over top of the Dane. What I didn’t expect was to have another Brit come underneath me in the sprinters lane, a no no. The next thing I knew I was on the deck and into the infield area. The announcer said track clear and the race continued. I’m not a happy camper. The photog there caught my expression just as I was sitting there and it looked like a combination of deer in the headlights and WTF! After assessing the damage, just abrasions, the official asked if I wanted back in the race. I checked the bike and said yes although I wasn’t sure what I would be racing for.

I got back in with 5 laps to go to the next sprint. I scored nothing on the first one and two riders took advantage of the crash and broke away and were well on their way to taking a lap on the field. This kind of pissed me off a bit. I knew I had to score this next time around but was only able to get one point while the two lead riders took 5 and 3. I kept it going after the sprint, looked back and had one rider with me and a good sized gap. I had to get that lap back. The two lead riders integrated with the field and took their 10 points which meant I was in a big hole. I pulled up to exchange with the rider who was with me and was disappointed to see that it was Dider Ramet from France. I had been in a 3 man break with him in 2008 in Sydney and he either wouldn’t or couldn’t pull and we ended up getting caught with 4 laps to go then.

He did a good 1/2 lap pull and I decided that in order to give him maximum rest, I woud do a full lap. This also meant that we didn’t give up a bike length each exchange. This kept going, my 1 lap to his 1/2 lap and we were making good progress on the field. The third sprint was coming up and we were the head of the race which meant we were going for max points. I took the last 1.5 laps as I figured I had done the majority of the work. He was OK with that apparently because he did try to come around, probably thankful for the extra rest.We took our lap shortly after and I was back in the mix. Four riders all bunched up on the leader board. I couldn’t read the board that well but knew I was still down but in striking distance. However, I was very deep into the pain cave. Didn’t know how dark and deep that can be. I honestly didn’t see how I was going to manage another 30 laps as I had expended so much energy to get into the position I was. I then took minor points on the fourth (2) and fifth (1) sprints. I was 2 points down going into the last sprint. There was only one way I was going to win this thing, I had to win the last sprint. The top four riders were on the front for the last 5 laps or so with the Brit Rutherford, the race leader glued to my wheel and wanting nothing to do with doing anything other than that.

Jame’s torn up jersey from his crash at Worlds. In spite of the crash, he would come back to win the race!

With two laps to go, the pace ramped up and I eventually took the lead with 1.5 laps to go. This is where I needed and wanted to be. I was going to go full gas and if he could come around me, the race was his. I had nothing to save for so it was all or nothing. I dug about as deep as I ever have and he couldn’t even make an attempt to pass, according to Mark Rodamaker. I came across first, tied for the point lead and by virtue of the tiebreaker, highest placing in the last sprint, I had won. I also had the second tiebreaker in my favor, the most sprint wins. I was also exhausted and had to be helped off the bike. I couldn’t do anything but lean on the rail for a few minutes, letting what I was able to do sink in and try to get my breathing under control.

 

This was the hardest I have ever had to work in any race before. Although my win in the Pursuit will always be memorable, this one was particularly special in the manner is which it came about. I have had numerous riders and spectators come up to me and comment on the race. Most had never seen someone crash like that and come back to win. One told me it was a once in a lifetime race. I don’t know. I wasn’t really thinking about doing anything but trying to get back into the race and finishing as high as I could. Never thought I could win after going down but once I saw I had a shot, I went for it.I am a bit banged up. I skinned up just about everything from my ankle to my knee, hip and major stuff on my back. I will bring the skinsuit back for evidence. The photo wanted a shot of me from the back so we’ll have that photo. Just abrasion though and probably some bruising in another few hours. I have decided to withdraw from the Scratch Race tonight, my motivation isn’t there and I wouldn’t be 100%. I have had a good week and am content to leave it where it is.

So, no more reports from Manchester. I arrive in Chicago tomorrow afternoon and my wife informs me that the grass needs cutting. Nothing like coming back to reality! I appreciate all your support and kind thoughts throughout this week. They really mean a lot to me and I have tried to answer all. If I missed some, I apologize but know that I did read them all.

Thanks! Jim

Enzo, Jim that is such a great race story, thank you for sharing it with all of us. After this experience, do you have any advice for us, the mortal racer?

JH, there are 3 things.

One – How many times do we hear more rest is better, the end result kind of sums this up. Most important is attitude, life is always going to challenge us with the unexpected, keeping a flexible state of mind is huge. Seeing these tests as positive, not negative, seems to bring a better result, even if it is not the exact result we are hoping for.

Two – Find a good training partner, someone very close to your ability that will push you when needed. It will work both ways and you will both improve. I am extremely fortunate being able to ride with Tom Doughty all the time. This is a great partnership since I can actually draft while sitting on Tom. You would not be a good training partner. *laughter*.

Three – Giving back to the sport anyway you can, answer any simple questions someone may have, make yourself approachable and most important, look for ways to help the kids of our sport.

Enzo, Jim thank you again for talking with me today. I hope your collarbone surgery later this month goes well. I did not go into detail that you have been racing with a collarbone that did not heal correctly. This makes you even more of a tough guy in my book. Congratulations again, you will probably get sick of me saying this though I cannot help myself; Two rainbow jerseys is just awesome.

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