In the first part of the interview, Bissell’s Andy Jacques-Maynes talked about his return to the pro ranks after years of a 9-5 job, a horrendous racing accident in 2007 and his return to full-time, albeit amateur, racing in 2008.
The conclusion of our conversation covers many topics from the 2008 cross season, to his role with his new team, Tour of California and ends with a discussion about the differences with his twin brother and now teammate Ben.
At the end of the 2008 season, Andy, his wife and fellow racer Josie Jacques-Maynes packed up the RV and went on a cross roadtrip.
At the end of 2008, you went on your road trip with the RV. (laughs) Why?
AJM: The whole 2007 cross season, we were racing every single weekend just locally, just doing local races and it was every weekend. And then we went to Nationals, I had a couple of minor placings and so I was able to get a fourth-row callup and that was pretty harsh and I ended up, I don’t know, sixth or something and was called up twenty-something. It really wasn’t indicative of where I should have been so I was motivated to go try get called up and get the ranking and placing where I was actually kind of placed in the National Championships. So if I’m racing every single event anyway, might as well go do the UCI events so I can amass as many points as possible so I can have that top ranking. And then I get a lot of exposure for my sponsors and I get to travel the country and have a fun time doing all the races that I love to do. I didn’t have anything else to do, it’s my job to race my bike, so I just said ‘let’s go for it’.
Originally, my plan was to rent an apartment in Massachusetts and just drive from race to race to race, and then Josie said ‘I want to go too’, and because we have our RV, it made financial sense for us to just bring it along and drive out there instead of flying out there and renting an apartment. So we just went for that. 12,000 miles later and 10 straight UCI double weekends, we were both ranked in the top 10 nationally, I was in the top 50 internationally, Josie was too actually. I think we represented our sponsors very well, we did a good job, we had a good time, we met tons of people. All the other motivations that were there, to go travel the country, we got to see the sights, we saw lots of places we’d never seen before. It a big adventure that we could go do together and that was a lot of fun, on top of just going to bike races and kicking ass.
It sounded like fun.
AJM: Yeah. it was 3-month road trip.
In an RV.
That had mechanical problems if I remember correctly.
AJM: No the truck broke down, the RV was fine the whole time. Except for when it froze up when it was 10 below. We got a hotel room that night. (chuckles)
How satisfied were you from your cross season? Was that the way to do it?
AJM: I would say break it up into two separate trips. Two weeks back in California to refresh the head and train in good weather would probably have been the smart way to do it. I mean just stash the trailer, fly back to California, train in the sunshine and then go back out again. I think that would be ideal but otherwise no complaints. We got to go to so many races, we got to see so many cool places and I really can’t complain for the whole season, it was pretty awesome.
And then you topped it off by winning Masters Nationals in your age group again. Congratulations.
AJM: Thank you. That worked out well. The course was really easy with the conditions compared to even, I don’t know 12 hours before where it was really muddy and slimy and almost unridable and then by the time my race came around it was like concrete and a road track. It was really easy and not stressful at all which was great. It just turned into a pedaling race and I could out pedal all the guys and so that was that. And I felt confident going into it, I was the defending champ and all the guys that were going to be competitors, they’re all really strong, I can’t say that I wasn’t intimidated because all these guys are really good and they are winning UCI races but I beat them at the other races so I had expectations at least. I just went about what is my job. It doesn’t matter what race I’m at, where I’m at, I just do the same thing every time, I just start really hard, I set a hard pace, I see who’s around, I attack the hell out of them, I see if I can get away, if not they blow me out of the water. And it’s the same effort for me every single time and that was worth the win that week at Nationals, so that was great.
And then you did the Elite Cross National Championship race. [Andy finished eighth]
AJM: Again, the exact same thing. Start really hard and then went really hard up the hill, I held everybody’s wheel, eventually they blew me up. [I] rode by myself for the rest of the time and then I had a lap rider crash into me and he broke my bike so I lost a slot with that. Then finished it out, riding solo for basically two-thirds of the race, except for when I collided with the other rider there was nobody else on the course nearby. That hill at Nationals really sorted everything out really well.
So, 2009, Bissell. You made it.
AJM: Yeah, that internship that I did, it worked out. (chuckles)
Well, you did know somebody that worked there (laughs).
AJM: That is true, I have a couple of ins. But I think I also proved myself on my own as well. I could have raced for a couple of other teams as well, I was talking to some other people but I want to race with my brother more than anybody else. That was an easy choice for me as soon as they said ‘hey we want you on our team’, I’m like ‘alright I’m on your team, no problem’.
And then you have [new DS Eric] Wohlberg in there.
AJM: Yeah, I’m pretty psyched. The last road race we did was the Giro di San Francisco and it was the two of us on a breakaway and afterwards we were looking at each other and it was like ‘okay so now you know how hard I can go, don’t be yelling in my ear from the car that I need to go any harder, come on’ (laughs)
[Note: Andy and Eric Wohlberg have competed for many years on the Northern California and North American circuits. Also, Eric and Ben were on the same team in 2004.]
Yes, he will. (laughs)
What are your goals for the year? And what do you see your role with the team to be?
AJM: I’m basically going to be a support rider. We have better sprinters on our team, we have better timetrialers on our team, we have better climbers on our team but I’m really strong and so I can help out anybody in a sprint, I can help out anybody in a climb. I can’t help out in a timetrial obviously unless it’s a team timetrial but I’m going to be like the super-domestique. I’ll have a chance to do my own race and get my own results at some times, maybe if our sprinters get dropped on a climb then I’ll probably be the strongest sprinter on the team, like if me and my brother go to the line, he’s leading me out because I am a better sprinter than him. I think I’ll have my chances but I’m not counting on it and honestly that’s not very important to me, I want to prove myself to the team, that their investment in me is worthwhile and that I am a good rider and that I’m going to be able to be a productive member of the team. That is first and foremost the most important thing for me. And then, if their idea for me to be a productive member of the team is having somebody lead me out and go get the results for myself, I’m fine with that too, I can do it.
What are you looking forwards to as far as races this year?
AJM: We’re going to Argentina, we’re doing the Tour of California and we’re going to Spain and Portugal.
Spain and Portugal?
AJM: Yeah, in March. That’s going to be our March, we’re going to Europe for three weeks.
AJM: It’s going to be awesome. The whole first 5 or 6 races will be ones I’ve never done before, with guys I’ve never raced with so that will be a very new experience obviously. And then as soon as we get back to the States, we’ll do Redlands and all the other NRC races that I’ve done so many times before that I feel like ‘okay, now we get into our groove, go do our thing and it’s going to be fine, no problem’. I’m looking forwards to some of the races that I’ve done before. I was just having a dream last night about some finishing straight in Redlands and how I was leading out Kirk O’Bee and I was ‘I’ve got to go right here and O’Bee will come by and it will be awesome’. And so, in my head already, I’ve been going through scenarios, doing my job really well so that the team gets a win and that will be … like at the [Elite] Criterium Nationals this last year, my teammate [Ken Hanson] won the crit, and when he threw his hands up, I threw mine up because I had just as big a role in his win as he did. I was off the front until 5 laps to go, and making everybody else chase and as soon as we all came back together after the race, he pointed at his leadout guy and said ‘Steve, you did the most awesome leadout ever, that was perfect’ and then he pointed at me ‘Andy you made easy for everybody else, we just sat in and we could chill’. Good, that was my job and so it’s really gratifying that my hard work turns into a win, not for myself but for the team, that’s fine.
You dropped that little tidbit about training with Ben on the stage 2 climb. Is it as hard as everybody say it is?
AJM: I was not feeling awesome that’s for sure. Levi says ‘oh it’s not that hard’, but he drove it. I don’t think that he knows that it’s a half hour long and also he weighs 120 pounds so that helps (chuckles). It’s hard for me, I’m not the best climber and I’ve never claimed to be but I am pretty strong. It will be, it will sort everybody out, it’s… I don’t know exactly the length from the top of the hill to the finish, it’s not very easy to chase as a team from the top of the hill to the finish, it’s a lot of winding and undulations that can break up a team’s rhythm and so, chasing from behind to bring all back together will be difficult. Whoever totally nails that hill, and it might be a small group or something, or even if it’s an early breakaway that isn’t caught, they’re going to have a good chance to stay away and take the win. It will make for interesting race tactics. It could be totally different where everybody just chills up the hill, and then coasts down the hill and then they all sprint at the end. It can just not go like everyone expects.
I assume that you and Ben have scouted out most of the Northern California stages.
AJM: We’ve scouted just the Santa Cruz stage so far this year. But I’ve ridden all the roads from Davis to Santa Rosa, stage 1 at some point. We go right through the Napa Valley, we go right by this place that I’ve raced mountain bikes I think twelve times. And there was a stage I think in an NRC road race that I did that mimicked that stage almost exactly so I raced all those roads before. Then the stage out of San Jose, I know all those roads. It’s nice just being a local and having an idea of where we’re going and it makes so much easier, I can just relax ‘oh yeah, I know that road’. After the stage in Modesto, I don’t know all the roads and it doesn’t really matter because I’ll have teammates who know where we’re going and we’ll have maps and it’s no big deal.
My last question, people are going to compare you to Ben. It’s bound to happen being twin brothers. How are you different and how are you similar to Ben?
AJM: (laughs) Having people compare us so much for our wholes lives literally, I can only say that we are nothing alike. Obviously, we’re both into sports and we followed pretty similar paths where we started mountain biking, switched to cyclecross and then into road. We motivate each other, I think that’s why we got into the same stuff. I started mountain biking and Ben saw how much fun I was having and he did it too. So we do follow each other a little bit.
But, it’s funny how your personality comes out on a bike in a racecourse and on the racecourse I like to just throw myself at the race as hard as I can, that’s why I like cross a lot because there’s nothing holding you back, you just go as hard as you can until the lap counter comes down and you hear the bell, and then you start sprinting. And I think Ben likes stage racing because he likes to be tactical, biding his time, waiting for the right moment to pounce and totally crush everybody. So when I see his tactics, I say ‘oh dude, you’re such a wussy, just start sprinting up this hill, you’ll be fine’ [and Ben says] ‘dude, you’re such a knucklehead, you’re just leading everybody out, you’re wasting your effort’ and so I think it’s our personalities coming out where I’m a bit more aggressive and he’s a bit more calculating.
And, then obviously there are some physical differences, I’m an inch and a half shorter than him and I weigh probably 5 to 10 pounds more than him so he is our body type whittled down to absolutely nothing but I am noticeably stronger than him and I call him weak in terms of just muscle force and muscle mass. He can out climb me because he weighs less than me. He can out timetrial me because he has many more years of steady hard racing under his legs and each year you improve like two or five percent or something like that. He has several more years of that build up that I have, that’s why he’s a better timetrialer than me. But I’m a better sprinter than him, and a bit more aggressive and willing to just risk it and lay out there and see if it’s worth anything and that’s worked out well for a few times where I just dropped him and everybody else and get good results out of it. There were a couple of races like the road race in Merced this past year, we were in a chase group the whole time and he and his teammate were attacking, attacking, attacking and I was sitting back and waiting because I had no teammates with me and we were kind of switching roles there but we ended finishing second and fourth, we were within like a foot from each other, so we’re pretty well matched and so I’m looking forwards to working with him instead of against him, that will be very cool.
So you do think the whole (the two of you) is greater than the sum of it parts?
AJM: Yeah, the sum is greater than the individuals for sure. We’ve proven than time and again when we raced together. If he’s having a weak moment then I take over and start wailing it and he’s like ‘if he can do it, then I can do it’ and that gives him motivation. I can get strength from him, we can motivate each other to do much much more than normal. Just anybody that so evenly matched with somebody else. If the two of us break away from any pack and we just put our head down and go, they’re not going to catch us, they could be 30 guys chasing us and the two of us will ride away from anybody.
That would be fun to watch.
AJM: I hope it happens, that would be pretty awesome.
I have to ask. Who’s older?
AJM: I’m five minutes older.
(Originally published on PodiumCafe)