Interview with Modesto Diaz AKA Junior
Interview with Modesto Diaz AKA Junior
By Kristi June
Last Thursday, I met up with Junior at 15th Street Pizza in McDonough, Georgia to catch up and get an interview since he won the Georgia Championship Series in the Category 3 division. The plan was to go home and immediately type up the interview. Really, the goal was to put this written interview up on the Tales on Two Wheels before the Six Gap Criterium so that I could invite everyone out to see him receive his award. Well, all of those plans went out the door once we were having so much fun talking about cycling and drinking beer. I should have known that would happen. Sometimes, it is just more fun to visit with a friend and fellow cyclist!
Although things didn't go quite as planned, it all worked out because I realized that a lot of people from Southern Crescent Cycling were coming out to support him already! Even more good news, Junior gave an awesome interview. For the first time, I used a recorder, an app on the phone. I did not know how it would turn out (which scared me as well since I didn't write anything down). The recorder picked up everything. (Yes, even the background music and at times the people next to us.) In the interview, Junior genuinely talks about his wreck on the bike and the challenges of recovering from an injury while also speaking frankly about his competition and his future goals in racing.
Above all else, Junior says, "This victory was a team effort. I couldn't have done it without those guys (Marcelo, Eduardo, Olbap, and Taylor) covering and doing their attacks, sacrificing their race for a teammate."
Without further ado....here is the interview already: (listen or read)
Kristi June: Today, I am here at 15th Street Pizza in McDonough with Modesto Diaz who races Road Races, Time Trials, and Criteriums for Southern Crescent Cycling Club in McDonough. This year Junior has raced 18 out 20 races in the GBRA’s Georgia Championship Series. It would have been 20 out of 20 races, but on Junior’s 18th race of the season, the East Atlanta Village Litespeed BMW Criterium, he suffered a nasty wreck that broke his clavicle. The wreck abruptly ended his racing season. Despite such setbacks, Junior worked hard enough during his season that he is still in first place for the overall season in the Category 3 division of the Georgia Championship Series. Modesto Diaz will be given his award and get to stand up on the podium (approximately around 5:40 PM) this Saturday, September 28, 2013 at the Dahlonega Criterium, the last race of the Georgia Championship Series. First of all, Junior, I want to congratulate you! I know it will not be official until Saturday, but we can celebrate early when it is a sure thing.
Junior: Thank you…thank you. I’m looking forward to all the yelling and screaming people (laugh). Nah, nah, nah…it’s gonna be alright. I think this coming Saturday, at the Six Gap Crit in Dahlonega, they are going to present the awards at the end of each race…to my understanding. We’ll be there. Check out the races.
Kristi June: Now, I was at the East Atlanta Village Litespeed BMW Crit the day that you crashed. I did not see it, but I remember it was a very overcast day. There had been a few light showers on and off that day. Did the weather play a part in you wrecking? What exactly happened?
Junior: …um...one hundred percent. The weather was definitely...it was real rain. It was horrible that day…maybe not a downpour, but it was consistent. It was raining from morning until dark. Nobody else to blame…except me. I should have recognized at that point that it was a little too dangerous (to race). For some reason, my bike was slipping left and right. I was feeling real strong so every time I was in a straight away I would catch the group and go at it, but every time I would hit a corner I would really, really have to slow down, and I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t keep up with the pack. Honestly, it was my mistake…no one else, but the weather definitely played a major, major role in it (the wreck).
Kristi June: I could definitely see that. So, after you hit the ground, which I am sure was abrupt and unexpected, what was your first thought?
Junior: It happened so, so freaking fast. I didn’t have time to react whatsoever. I remember I’m on my bike. I don’t think I over corrected. I don’t think I leaned too much. It was the fourth corner if I am not mistaken…yeah…it was a five corner crit, so it was the fourth corner. The next thing I know, it felt like someone pulled a rock from underneath the bike. I went on my right side. I couldn’t even…usually, you try to put out your hand. That is why people have messed up shoulders and clavicles. Not even a chance, I just fell. Just felt a big bang. My whole right side went numb. The air got really hot…and numb. All I remember after that was the sound of the helmet against the pavement…just scratching, you know, cause I was sliding. I know I hit the barrier. I know that I looked behind me and I saw some dude flying trying not to hit me, so I know that he hit the ground as well. After that, it was just an immediate…big, big pain…but you have the adrenaline. I remember people running, trying to help me and somebody was fixing the bike saying, “The bike is good, are you going to go or what?” I was kind of…you know…I was there, but not there. The next thing I know, I was like “yeah, yeah, yeah…let’s go, let’s go!” I got on the bike again. They pushed me. I did two laps like that, and by the second lap, when the adrenaline kind of stopped…started dissipating, the pain really, really started to…you know. At that point, the referee (cut him)…cause I was yelling “Don’t, let me finish, let me finish”, but at that point I just couldn’t anymore and I stopped.
Kristi June: After two laps?
Kristi June: Yeah, I can’t believe you were yelling at the referee.
Junior: Yeah…cause you don’t get points if you don’t finish the race. At that point, I was like, “Dude, I am winning the championship. Let me go. Let me finish. Let me finish. I know I am not going to place. Just let me get my 5 points.” I wanted to help Marcelo (fellow SCC teammate). Right now, he is in 3rd position. He was around 5th or 6th position before that race, so I wanted to make sure…and we were racing for him that day. I wanted to help him as much as possible. It was one of those days where you feel good, but everything else tells you, “Dude, don’t do this. Stop.” But, you know, it is what it is.
Kristi June: When did you figure out what your injuries were?
Junior: When I got off the bike and I started touching the area. I had a big bump on my shoulder, and I was just hoping that I did not mess up the shoulder. I didn’t want to have that injury that a lot of cyclist have with the shoulder down here and the clavicle up here…it looks really weird…like a shoulder separation. Someone told me “try and lift your arm.” When I tried, I just couldn’t. The pain was so intense. A couple friends were there…Lino, from Team Mission Source,…Brian and Kimi Steele,…they were there, and Brian is a paramedic. So, he (Brian) started checking out the area…and the pain…and when I touched here (the clavicle), I could feel a part of it was missing. So that’s when I knew. It’s done.
Kristi June: What has your recovery been like?
Junior: Slowwww…..Slowwwww! It takes time. There is no magic bullet to it. If you break a clavicle, you just have to wait. In my case, I was almost two inches shorter than the other side. The bone broke clean. The doctor told me, “You are going to have a shorter arm. You are going to look all…uh…you just aren’t going to look right.” So I told him, “Are you telling me I’m going to need surgery?” He said, “Yeah, absolutely.” Well, I said, “Okay. Cut me open.” So at that point, it was decided that I needed surgery. They went in there and put titanium plate. I think I have 6 or 8 screws. After that, it’s at least 8 weeks of recovery. Your arm should be in a sling. No movement whatsoever. From that point on, some kind of therapy…in my near future. My next appointment will be this upcoming Monday. Since my surgery, I have only seen the doctor one time. They say everything looks fine, but right now, it is really frustrating. I am not cleared even to get on the stationary bike.
Kristi June: So, on the trainer? You can’t even get on the trainer!?
Junior: Nothing. Nothing. I have done nothing but eat, eat and eat!
Kristi June: You can’t even get on a…treadmill?
Junior: Well, I have been walking…but it’s NOT the Same! I mean… we used to train and now I have to walk…and it still hurts because you can’t swing (your arms) like normal. When I was walking, I had the sling. So, you finish walking and you are in pain because of the screws. You just have to wait it out, basically.
Kristi June: Okay. Well, I was going to ask how it has been to be off of the bike, but I can imagine.
Junior: Surprising that I missed it…I know I love what I do, but it has been REALLY hard…harder than I thought it was going to be. I thought, “It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be a vacation and I’ll come back fresh.” But it’s getting to the point that the weather is perfect, and I can’t ride. It’s frustrating! (laugh)
Kristi June: Yeah, It is actually perfect weather right now! I’m sorry. (Pause) So, do you plan on racing in the future? Particularly, next season? It’s kind of hard to plan while you can’t exercise.
Junior: My mind says, “Yes!” Right now, I really want to go back as soon I can. We’ll see when I get on the bike. We’ll see how I feel. I want to race again. No doubt.
Kristi June: Okay. Do you know when will you be able to get back on the bike?
Junior: I have to wait until the doctor clears me, but I’m hoping in 3 or 4 more weeks at least I can start playing around on the trainer. We’ll go from there. I want to make sure I heal right, so it makes no sense to rush things. So, I am just going to follow the instructions, whatever the doctor says, and we’ll go from there.
Kristi June: You are a very smart man. (laugh) It’s better to be able to race one day than rush it to next season (if you aren’t healed).
Junior: Well, I’m a Cat 3 (racer). It’s not like I am a pro. We just do this for fun. Of course we want to do it the best that we can and make sure our sponsors get good representation out there, but we do this (race) because we want to do it…because we like this, and we have this competitive mindset. I want to do the best I can, but, I don’t live from this. I have to make sure I’m healthy.
Kristi June: I understand. Do you think the wreck will change the way you race?
Junior: Heck yeah (laugh)
Kristi June: So, you won’t be racing criteriums in the rain?
Junior: There is a 99.9% chance that I will not be racing in the water anymore.
Kristi June: Well, let’s talk about training since I am talking to the 1st overall in the Cat 3 division.
Kristi June: What do you think is the most crucial part of training is for you?
Junior: That’s an interesting question because everybody is a little bit different. There’s no…people are going to say…of course…there is the commitment. You got to put in the miles. You got to have the sacrifice. If there is a party tonight…and I can’t go because I got to wake up at 6 o’ clock to be on the bike. Commitment is a huge, huge part. Everyone knows that. I’m learning as I go. This is my second season. So, I consider myself a rookie. I am just learning from people I know…that are the real deal (like Andy Scarano and Charles Seward) I try to surround myself with better riders. Try to learn as much as I can. As far as I know, it’s all about making sure you put in the miles. You got to put in the miles. There is no substitution for that. You got to have heart. You can have a lot more miles than I do and you can be a better….rider. (Pause) I am positive that at least fifty percent of the racers are better than I am, but they quit. Not a lot of people can go with the pain. They cannot commit to it. If I can NOT go, I just…when I stop, it’s because I am dead. I cannot even walk. So, that’s the mentality. You got to have the mentality of “Those guys are going hard, so you better go too!”
Kristi June: Never give up.
Kristi June: Since you have completed 18 out of 20 races in the Georgia Championship Series, which races are your favorite and why? (Pause) Do you have a favorite?
Junior: Hmm…I really enjoyed the race in Albany. We (Southern Crescent Cycling Racing Team) did really well. It was the first real race that we looked good as a team. We covered the attacks and had an actual chain of Southern Crescent Cycling cyclists. We arrived riding from the hotel and everybody was kind of checking us out. Nobody knew who we were at that point. Albany was real nice. (Pause) I don’t know if it was my favorite, but one that I will never forget is crazy Twilight Athens.
Kristi June: Oh…Athens (laugh)
Junior: You know you are going to bleed in that one (Athens Twilight). There’s no way, man. There is so many crashes. It is such an aggressive race. There’s no way you are not going to fall. I mean… It’s ridiculous.
Kristi June: Did you fall in that one (Athens Twilight)?
Junior: Oh, yeah. Yeah. In the first one. You race twice in a day. I hit the ground and I still came…I think 17th or 18th and the first twenty-five would qualify for the twilight crit. The twilight race, the finals, is a different thing.
Kristi June: I caught the tail end of that one (Athens Twilight)
Junior: You cannot hear anything. The crowd is incredible and you are so pumped. I was so happy that somebody from our team was actually there and representing. That was quite an experience. Really, really nice.
And…it was not part of the championship, but me, being a new racer, winning the first race in Brooks was big. It may not be a big race, but it was my first win so I am never forgetting that one…especially because I had sprint for that one. On the last corner, there was a guy that was gone, and I had to sprint for him. I was lucky to get him. It was a LONG sprint, so that one will always be a special one for me.
Kristi June: That’s awesome. It (the Brooks race) is not part of the championship, but I think new riders or anyone should probably warm up racing to those first races, Union City and Brooks.
Junior: Absolutely…it’s part of your training.
Kristi June: It doesn’t count at first. Well, it counts towards USA cycling points, but not towards the Georgia Championship Series. Still, they (Brooks and Union City) are good practice.
Junior: For sure.
Kristi June: Now, let’s talk about competition. Who was your toughest competition this year? What person or teams were a challenge to you? I know you have lots of friends that race, but honestly, what team or person are you thinking about when you go out to train and put in the extra hours…because you know that he is out there training too?
Junior: Truth is…there is quite a few. Category 3 is very competitive…very competitive. There is a lot of guys racing Category 3 that should have been racing Cat 2 a long…long time ago. (laugh) I don’t get it. You always have the people that are always very consistent…people that somehow are always top 5...top 3, so, you have to check those people out. The team that we always had to be aware of their position, because not only are they very good racers but they have numbers as well,…was Mission Source. The guys from Mission Source are consistent the whole year. I think Mission Source and Southern Crescent Cycling were present at the top positions in every single race this season. Of course, you also have Round Here Racing and the guys from Peachtree Bikes. Maybe in Cat 3 you could single out a lot of guys (as tough competition), but as a team, I would say Mission Source.
Kristi June: They are a strong team.
Junior: Oh, yeah…good guys too. Good racers…clean racers. That’s another big one, and I like all those guys. It’s just a competition. We like each other. We just go hard at it.
Kristi June: Do you ever ride with them?
Junior: Ride with them? Training?
Kristi June: Yeah…training or group rides?
Junior: Yeah, we do. We do. We do. Basically, the same people that race do the Tucker Ride on Saturday, The Airport Ride in Winter, some of guys do the Athens Winter Ride, the WBL,…um…The Pizza Ride on Thursdays…of course, the Wilson Century. We all see each other. In a way, we are all friends.
Kristi June: Speaking of tough competition, you will have even tougher competition when you move up a category…to Category 2! When do you think that will happen?
Junior: I am not sure. As far as when I am going to upgrade, I got to check how many points I have. I honestly don’t know how many. I will say…I should be pretty close. I think I have to get at least 30 points to upgrade to Cat 2. We’ll see.
I am looking forward to it. You got to understand, when I was Cat 5, I said, “Wow…let me just try this.” Then, when I went to Cat 4, I was like, “This is it. This is all I am going to be.” I knew the Cat 3 guys were killing us (Cat 3) on the rides. So, when I went to Cat 3 and I actually felt comfortable, it gave me confidence. You know what…just train harder and do the best that you can. But, at this point, realistically speaking, it’s going to be a pro 1/2 field. That’s a different monster.
Kristi June: For those that don’t know, Category 2 usually races with the Category 1 racers (sometimes pros). Are they are scored differently (in the Georgia Championship Series), individually, but they race altogether?
Junior: Correct. Correct…so, for the championship and the series and stuff like that, but not for the podium. You just have to go with the pros.
Kristi June: Scary
Junior: It’s going to be more of a personal goal (to become a Cat 2 racer). You know what? I didn’t think that I was going to be a Cat 4, and I made it to a Cat 3. I think it will be more of personal goal. I don’t know how competitive I will be. One thing for sure is that I will do the best that I can, and when you commit and when you do the best you can, you never know. I am not down playing myself anymore. I am realistic, (slight pause) but it is not like I am not going to give myself a chance. Why not?
Kristi June: I can’t wait to see you back on that bike, Junior, and I can’t wait to see you on the podium Saturday, the 28th (September) in Dahlonega at the Criterium (Six Gap Criterium). Around 5:40 PM, he should be receiving his award so be there and support Junior in his victory, 1st place in the Cat 3 division. Junior, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me!
Junior: No…thank you, thank you…I appreciate this. I hope to see you and a lot of our friends up there!