CBR Interview: Reid Mumford
I’d like to use this new site to occasionally introduce some of the people who contribute to the local racing community, from racers to officials, from coaches to promoters.
I’m starting with one of Chicago’s great success stories: Reid Mumford (Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast).
Mumford, 31, started road racing in 2000 with the Johns Hopkins collegiate team. After he moved to Chicago to do research at Fermilab, he raced with XXX Racing-AthletiCo from 2002 to 2004 and for Athletes by Design in 2005 and 2006.
His third-place finish at the 2006 Snake Alley Criterium, in which he was the only amateur who could hang with Toyota-United’s best, remains the most exciting thing I’ve seen in a bike race. He went on to place 6th at the national elite time-trial championship and 2nd in the road race championship.
Mumford continues to work toward his PhD in high-energy particle physics, but this off-season he signed a pro contract with Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast, a new professional team out of Minneapolis.
Disaster struck in April, however, while his team was training in advance of the Tour of Virginia. Mumford overshot a turn on a descent and crossed into the path of traffic. He narrowly missed hitting a minivan head-on, but the vehicle’s rear wheel caught his bike. The ensuing accident left him with a 10cm laceration in his shin and a broken tibia plateau (the part of the bone right below the knee).
As soon as he returned to Chicago, surgeons screwed a plate to push the bone back into place. Mumford will remain on crutches for another 4 weeks, but he’s already been working out on the trainer. He expects to be racing by July, and because of the great support he’s gotten from his team, he plans to return to Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast in 2008. “It’s good to be riding for a solid team. It takes the panic out of the injury situation.”
When you started racing road in 2000, how far did you think you’d take things? Did you ever think you’d be a pro someday?
I never really thought about being a pro until last year. I always wanted to be faster than I was and that meant upgrading. No matter how good I was as a category 4 or 3, I always knew that the really fast guys were pros. Those were the guys that I wanted to be racing with and against.
I had some really good role models when I started. I raced for the Johns Hopkins collegiate team for a couple of years. We had a great team and took home four national titles in the two years that I raced for them. We had a great time racing, training and traveling together too.
When I moved to Chicago, I got a lot of motivation and energy from the XXX team.‘I always wanted to be faster than I was and that meant upgrading.’ A couple of us were pretty new to the scene and we kind of learned the ropes together.
The past two years, I was able to develop well under the Athletes by Design organization. It’s a really well organized program, in the business of preparing and developing riders for the professional level. I had great teammates and I think that also made a big difference as well in terms of results.
When the opportunity to race professionally came, it wasn’t an easy decision. I had a couple of offers and I wasn’t sure about the time commitment to race professionally. I decided to ride for Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast because it was a really good situation. I have always admired Jonas Carney, and to have him as the team director is great. All of the management staff and behind-the-scenes people are great. It was a good fit for me, so I decided to give it a shot.
Most people are lucky to train 8, 10 hours a week. How on earth does one balance life as an elite cyclist, atomic physicist and husband?
I don’t think that there are any secrets to the balance. It’s tough. Most people have it a lot worse though than I do though.
I am lucky to have a wife who supports me and my cycling. She encourages me to do the training that I have planned for myself. She is willing to send me out the door to do the training that I need to do even though it would be more fun to just hang out together. She is great. I couldn’t do what I do without her. The most difficult part of being on a professional team so far has been all of the travel and time away from home.
I try to get my riding in first. I think that the training quality is
better and it gives me a little more time I think. If I can train first, I have the rest of the afternoon and evening to recover, work, and spend time with my wife. Luckily my job and my boss are pretty flexible. Most of the time I don’t have to be anywhere at any given time; I just need to get the work done. A blessing of the internet I guess.
Winfield is this weekend. You’ve done well there in the past, getting third the past two years. Any advice for racers?
The two Winfield courses are very different. The twilight race is a lot of fun. That is my favorite of the two courses. It’s fast and technical. It has the longer hill of the two courses. It can be pretty selective, especially if you can nail the technical turns at the top of the course.
The day-two course is fun too. All of the action tends to take place on the last half of the course. The hill is the launchpad for a lot of action. It’s good to notice that the the hill doesn’t end until sometime after turn 3. A lot of people race to turn 3 and then think that the effort is over. After turn 3 is an excellent place to launch an attack.
A lot of beginning riders beat their heads against the wall trying to get breaks off. You’re an ace time trialist and a breakaway artist. What’s the trick? Can breaks work at that level or do riders just have to learn to cope with the field sprint?
I won most of my races as a Category 5, 4, and 3 in solo or small breakaways. It helps that I ride a strong time trial, but breaks are certainly possible in the amateur ranks. I wish that I would have tried to contend more bunch sprints when I was racing as a Cat 3. I think that I could have experimented a bit more and learned how to sprint smarter.
I would like to see more “experimental” racing in amateur races. Try something that you’ve never done before. Solo break, small group break, try launching one of your teammates in a move, try the bunch sprint if you’ve never really tried. If your fitness is good, then you can use each race to try to learn something.‘If your fitness is good, then you can use each race to try to learn something.’ Every bike race is hard, but it gets harder to learn skills in a race as the intensity goes up.
The last question I ask partly out of self-interest, having just broken my clavicle. What do you say to a someone sidelined so early in the season? When do I get to stop feeling pathetic every time I see someone having fun on a bicycle?
The injury was really hard for me too at first. It was a big lifestyle adjustment. My advice would be to start in on the trainer as soon as you can. Set some realistic goals for yourself and get back at it. To me, being injured is no worse really than training through the winter in Chicago. Every day is going to suck a little bit but with your mind set on your goals, each day goes down as another little piece of the puzzle.