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Jones family keeps up with Auburn rider

Wife, parents and others will follow United Health Care rider throughout the Amgen Tour of California
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Cassie Jones spent much of March in Europe, following her husband Chris at professional cycling races in Belgium, Italy and Spain. Tuesday morning she got the chance to watch him work just a few miles from their home in Auburn. After accommodating camera crews and autograph seekers Tuesday morning, Auburn’s Chris Jones made three gratifying loops through his hometown as about a dozen family members waved signs and voiced their support, as they will throughout the eight-day race. “It’s what we waited for all year,” said Cassie, who works as a nurse practitioner at Sutter Roseville Medical Center. “It’s an exciting day. To have it right in our hometown with all our friends and family here, it’s probably a once in a lifetime thing.” Jones’ parents Bill and Cindy still live in Redding, where Chris was raised. They’re following their son on motorcycles all week long with aunt Diane and uncle Bob Jones, who rode in from Texas for the festivities. Sister Jennifer Hullinger, her husband Shawn and their two children are also following the Tour through the finish in Thousand Oaks on Sunday, staying in hotels along the way. “It’s a big week for all of us,” Cindy said. “Especially today, it’s cool to have it start in Auburn, where he lives.” Jones took an unusual route to the top level of professional cycling. He was 23 when he first started cycling and he had a stable job as a civil engineer before giving it up to pursue life as a pro athlete. “We weren’t nervous,” Cindy said. “We had confidence that he’d do well. We were just proud of him for being brave enough to try this. He had a lot of people telling him there’s no way he’d make it. But he’s pretty much met all of his goals.” Jones rode for Team Type I last year, when he had his most impressive performance as a pro. After passing through Auburn on Stage 1, Jones placed 16th overall in the 2010 Tour of California. That helped him land a contract with the United Health Care Pro team for 2011. The UHC squad has spent most of the year in Europe, taking on the top competition in the world. The team, which is based in the East Bay Area, has high hopes for the Tour of California, as do all of the American teams. “This year, this may be the only race I get to see him in the (U.S.),” Cassie said. “I spent March in Europe with him and I’ll probably go over again in the fall to watch him race in Italy. “It’s fun to be here because I know a lot of guys racing in the peloton. It’s like a close family because they travel and they race so much together. It’s nice to see the guys that I haven’t seen in a long time and see their families because most of them are following the tour too.” Jones was an avid skier at Foothill High in Redding. His sister never imagined she would be seeing him on national TV and in newspapers and magazines all over the world. “He’ll be in Europe and I’ll read something about him and e-mail him and tell him what my favorite quotes are from him,” said Jones’ sister Jennifer Hullinger. “In high school he dabbled in a lot of sports. We never imagined he would turn out to be a pro athlete.”