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Jones stoked for Auburn tour stop

By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Chris Jones wasn’t a part of the official lobby for Auburn’s bid to host a state of the 2011 Amgen Tour of California. But the pro rider plugged his hometown at every opportunity before, during and after last year’s Tour and was thrilled to hear Thursday’s news that Auburn will host the start of the third stage next May. “I’m proud to live here and I’m always an advocate,” said Jones, who finished 16th overall in the 2010 Tour of California. “When I first heard Auburn was trying to host a stage, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s really ambitious.’ They made a really good case for the city with all the endurance sports here and the historical things that have happened in the city.” Jones will be beaming when he lines up for next year’s third stage start. He’ll also be wearing a different jersey. He recently signed a new contract with United Healthcare presented by Maxxis after riding the past three seasons for TeamType I. The new deal has Jones joining a team that has dominated the national scene in recent years and has its sights set on improving its standing in international competition. “”It was a big opportunity for me and I just had to take it,” Jones said. “United Healthcare has been the premier team in the U.S. for almost 10 years. I’m really excited about next season.” A spotlight fell on Jones during the first stage of the 2010 Tour of California when he pedaled through town in the middle of the peloton. The race route took the field t through Meadow Vista and looping through Auburn before heading over the Foresthill Bridge and up Highway 49 to Cool. The first stage finished in Sacramento. “Last year was great. Riding through town, I just had chills,” said Jones, who took seventh at the U.S. Road Racing Championships earlier this summer. “I was doing a lot of different media appearances and always pushing Auburn, telling people it’s a great place. I hope I’m a good resource and I hope Auburn uses me. The training here is unreal.” The 31-year-old guided many of his teammates on training rides in and around Auburn last spring prior to the Tour of California. He said some of the riders were so impressed, they returned to town throughout the summer to ride. Jones went straight from the road racing season to cyclocross, where he is one of the top competitors in the country. He rides for the Rapha-Focus team and this weekend Jones will compete in the Cincinnati International Cyclocross Festival.