What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ-Clusive Interview: The “Specialized Angel”

She was the roadside star of last year’s Tour of California, and she’s already puckering up to blow more kisses at the riders this year. The “Specialized Angel” gives us the inside scoop on her heavenly assignment, and her plans for next week…

By Bob Cullinan

There is an actual person beneath those wings. In real life, “The Angel” is Jana Ireton, a 5 foot 10, 130 pound beauty who lives and works in San Jose, CA. Jana was probably in more photos than Floyd last year, (PEZ himself confirmed she was the single ‘most-submitted’ Daily Distraction in 2006) and she got more attention than Zabriskie and Julich combined. With the TofC just days away, Jana graciously agreed to answer all of the questions that PEZ could throw at her.

We can all look forward to a return engagement of the Specialized Angel at next week’s Tour of California.

But guys, before you get too excited, you should know something…Jana is happily married. But she’s still our favorite winged creature. We started our interview by asking her how all of this started.

The Angel: Specialized came up with the idea for the Angel as a spin off of the Devil in the Tour de France (Didi Senft). He dresses up with a full devil costume and pitch fork and chants at the riders during a lot of the Euro races. Specialized came up with this idea that if France/Europe has a Devil, California shall have an Angel.

PEZ: When did you first talk to Specialized about it?

The Angel: Specialized works closely with Goodby Silverstein (an ad agency in SF), who does a lot of their website advertisements and campaigns. Specialized called on Goodby Silverstein for assistance with the Specialized Angel campaign and they held a big casting to see who would be the right girl to be the Angel. Fortunately, they chose me. This all happened within less than a month of last year’s TofC.

PEZ: When this first came up…honestly…did you have any idea what kind of reception you’d get?

The Angel: No, not at all. I had no idea that everyone would be so taken with the Angel. That’s what we all had hoped for, but honestly we could not have painted a better picture for the amount of exposure and likeableness that everyone exhibited for the Angel at last year’s tour. Truly, a dream come true!

PEZ: How much support did Specialized provide?

The Angel: Specialized is the ultimate backbone and driving force behind the existence of the Angel. Goodby provided at least three key people along with Specialized’s Chris Matthews and his team. They were the master minds behind wardrobe for the Angel and also one crucial aspect of the Angel that became my signature, blowing kisses to the riders as they raced by. Goodby also provided a full time fabulous stylist to travel with me at all times to assist with hair, make-up, and wardrobe. Specialized provided full time “Angel Support” to transport me, my stylist, and my wings around by minivan. They pulled everything together at the last minute, right before the start of the TT in SF.

Aah – the “signature” move – blowing kisses to one and all.

PEZ: Were you sanctioned/approved by the Tour officials, or was this done outside the organization of the Tour?

The Angel: Specialized did provide official tour passes for the entire TofC, but some of the Amgen Crew were reluctant to having the Angel in certain spots. For instance, we had difficulty at the finish lines in San Jose, San Luis Obispo, and Redondo Beach, in terms of where the Angel could stand. We abided by their requests and they were gracious enough to have fans and photographers welcome the Angel in excellent standing view at all finishes.

PEZ: It seems like the angel would just appear at various spots along the race route. Were those stops planned in advance, or did you make those decisions as the days progressed?

The Angel: Yes, they were all mapped out ahead of time by Chris Matthews. We wanted the Angel to be at most of the KOMs, some starts and some finishes. Although, trying to get ahead of the peloton proved difficult at times, so we had to improvise a lot too during certain stages.

PEZ: What was the best part about being the Angel? What was the worst?

The Angel: The best? Being in the moment with the riders as they sped by, blowing them kisses, talking with the riders at pre start to wish them well in their race and to congratulate them at the finish. Also, the fans were fantastic and so taken with the Angel, especially the kids. It was great to do a walk around and talk with the fans (photogs too) before the riders raced by at certain stages of the race. One more thing – I absolutely love being the one and only Angel!! I feel it’s more intimate that way, with the riders, fans, and photogs, even the police and team cars love the Angel and everyone blows kisses back to me including some of the riders, which makes my heart melt! Everyone asks where will I be the next day so they can look for me. Especially my Gerolsteiner Guys!

The worst? NOTHING! It just keeps getting better and better.

PEZ: How did your husband feel about this?

The Angel: My husband is out of this world – he is just so cool. He absolutely loves that I am the Angel. He came out to San Jose during that stage race of TofC last year and cheered for me. He loves to tell all his friends, especially who are cyclists, that his wife is the Specialized Angel.

Those wings are 5ft high!

PEZ: The angel costume…how much did it weigh…who came up with the design…how much input did you have?

The Angel: The wings weigh 17lbs and are made of real turkey feathers. They were brought to life in Los Angeles by the same designer that makes the Victoria Secret wings for their annual fashion shows. They were already made when I went for my initial fitting and I thought…vavoom!!! I had no idea they would stand 5-6ft tall! When Specialized first mentioned them, they just said “angel wings” and so my first thought was the small pixie wings you buy in a costume shop. Needless to say I was in awe!! They are definitely my signature as well.

PEZ: Did you appear at any races other than the TofC?

The Angel: Yes, Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, Giro d’Italia, and Tour de France.

PEZ: What are the plans for the Angel at this year’s TofC? Any surprises that you can hint at?

The Angel: Yes, of course, there are a few surprises, but you’ll have to wait and see.

PEZ: Have you met Specialized riders Paolo Bettini and Tom Boonen?

The Angel: No, but let’s just say one of the surprises may have to do with one of them!

PEZ: Do you speak any Italian?

The Angel: No, but I am taking Spanish lessons and hope to be speaking the language somewhat by the end of this year.

PEZ: Do you ride a bike?

The Angel: Yes, I have a Specialized Hard Rock MTB and frequent a lot of bike trails in the San Jose, Los Gatos Area. I do not compete though.

PEZ: Are there any funny stories from the event last year that stick out in your mind?

The Angel: Yes, I wish last year we’d had a camera to shoot a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how the Angel gets ready and comments for each day, because there were so may funny things. The driving to each KOM, to get in front of the peloton, was insane and so exciting at the same time. We had to do a lot of “creative driving” shall we say. I believe it was the stage at Big Sur after the KOM, we drove frantically to make it to our next spot, on a side street going uphill, and by the time we got there, the police had stationed a road block and the peloton was like a minute and away! So Chris Matthews throws the minivan in park with cars lined in front and in back shouts “WINGS! Everybody jump out and run!” Chris & my stylist grabbed the wings threw them on me and I ran all the way uphill just shy of the top, and when I turned around there was the peloton! Whew!

PEZ: Has this helped your non-Angel modeling career?

The Angel: Yes definitely. I have a photo of me as the Specialized Angel in my portfolio that when I go on auditions, that is the one photo that people stop on and say, “Wow, where was this taken – nice tear sheet.” I believe it has definitely contributed to helping me book more print/film gigs.

PEZ: Do you have another job, aside from modeling?

The Angel: Yes, on the side I am a certified notary signing agent and do mobile loan signings for mortgage and title companies.

PEZ: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

The Angel: Yes, even though I am the Specialized Angel and Specialized sponsors Gerlosteiner and Quick Step and other individual riders, I am here to cheer for all the riders, watch over and protect them, and wish them well in their race. My signature is standing on top of our Specialized minivan (that was my idea, because I wanted to be in excellent view for the riders to see me as they start climbing) at all KOMs and blowing kisses to all the riders as they pass by. I also blow kisses to the police, motorcycles and team cars too. Lastly, my wings are definitely my signature, along with the Red S logo for Specialized.

Thanks, Jana…you are indeed an Angel. If you want to see even more of Jana, check out her website (www.janaireton.com). And look for her at every stage of this year’s Tour of California.

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