With more than 100 miles to go in stage 2 of the Amgen Tour of California, Bissell’s Ben Jacques-Maynes joined nine other riders in a strong early break to try and win the stage in front on his hometown fans in Santa Cruz.
Jacques-Maynes, along with this break mates, battled the horrendous weather conditions that included pouring rain, hail and more hail, strong side- and headwinds, his own weakening body and the mental blow of learning about his twin brother Andy’s crash.
But it wasn’t to be. The break splintered on the final climb up Bonny Doon and Jacques-Maynes, surrounded by screams of ‘Go Ben Go’, dug deep to pull his way up. He finished 1:52 behind the winner Tom Peterson (Garmin-Slipstream).
An emotional Jacques-Maynes was awarded the Most Courageous Jersey today for his fearless efforts on his hometown roads. The Amgen Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Jersey is a new addition to the tour this year and is given to the rider each day who best demonstrates courage,
“I heard all those people cheering for me too. I was really hoping I would get a good performance for them, I certainly didn’t stop trying to whole day. To get the Most Courageous Jersey is a real honor and it just felt awesome to get in front of the whole crowd there. I looked left and saw people I knew, I looked right and saw people I knew, I saw people I knew up on the balcony across the street, everywhere I looked, it was an awesome feeling.” said Jacques-Maynes.
As a local, Jacques-Maynes along with his twin brother and team mate Andy, had targeted this stage while working with the local organizing committee (LOC).
“Knowing every inch of every road is pretty key, a great trick to pull out of your bag of tricks. I’ve been thinking about this one for a long time.” said Jacques-Maynes.
As a passenger in the Bissell team car driven by Directeur Glen Mitchell, I had a front row seat to watch the drama unfold.
The 115.9-mile (186.6km) stage started off in Sausalito, took the peloton over the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time in history and hugged the coast with a little turn in land to go up Tunitas before the final dash over Bonny Doon to Santa Cruz.
As soon as the neutral section was completed, attacks started and the right combination was formed in the first 10 miles. Slowly the gap grew, and once it was over a minute, team cars slotted in between it and the peloton and we moved up.
With still over 70 miles to go, the break established a 4-minute gap to the field and the combination and power of the riders in the break made it an appealing situation for Mitchell.
“So far this is a good move for us if he can just sit there and only do as much work as the other guys and everyone is motivated in this front group and stay out in front. There’s no threat for GC out here, it’s 5 minutes is the closest rider, in theory theory could make it stick today. Obviously, we’d be delighted if they could do that and obviously hope that Ben has good legs at the finish.” said Mitchell.
After more that three hours into the race, the hard racing conditions of the past two days were taking a toll on all the riders in the break. His features showing the strain, Jacques-Maynes said that his legs were starting to feel heavy while picking up bottles at the car.
“I did say that my legs were pretty heavy but I think everyone else was kind of in the same boat.”
Given the conditions and the early start, Mitchell said that he “wouldn’t be surprised if 99 percent of the riders were hurting at that point and that being cold and wet, the body just doesn’t want to expand the effort.”
“All you can do is make sure he’s eating and drinking and try to stay as warm as possible. We’re in the latter part of the stage now, making sure he has enough calories to make it through and hopefully his body responds to it.” continued Mitchell about his role in this stage of the race.
Then we heard about the crash in the peloton behind us that included Andy Jacques-Maynes. Information was relayed to the car by Eric Wohlberg the Directeur in the other team car and Mitchell made sure to let Jacques-Maynes know by using the radio and when he came back to talk at the car window.
“It was a bit of an unwelcomed distraction in the middle of riding a beak, luckily we had a lot of information straight away for our team doctor. “ said Jacques- Maynes.
“My wife was on the other end in the VIP tent with five doctors with a couple of guys with ties to the Tour of California. So they were sitting around talking, they saw on the TV that Andy had crashed and they all started pulling strings, calling the local ER and finding out information. Basically, my wife Goldi was able to track down more information in the 20 minutes that Andy’s wife Josie took sitting around in the waiting room there. Goldi was able to help Josie everything that was happening and let everyone know that everything was going to be okay. So we had a lot of information straight away.” explained Jacques-Maynes.
Cell coverage was very spotty on the stretch oh coastal roads, and when possible encouragements came in from Jacques-Maynes’ mother and team mates not at the race and were immediately repeated to the rider.
Attacks splintered the group in the final climb and Jacques-Maynes settled into his rhythm. Mitchell stepped up his encouragements ‘you’re looking good’ and ‘it’s all you, keep your rhythm’ to help his rider make it over the climb.
But the legs couldn’t answer and Jacques-Maynes slogged his way up Bonny Doon while crowds cheered.
“It was all about just riding within yourself, not overextending it and that’s exactly what I tried to do on the climb and I knew exactly how I should feel on that climb and how the pacing should go. Having said that, I thought I had a pretty good ride until that first group came by, and they came by with such a speed that I knew I wasn’t able to get on and after that it was all over for me. At that point, I mentally shut down a little bit and just looked to get across the finish line in one piece. “
“When I was up on the podium, I could see that the crowd was so massive, there was not a spot that was empty; it was spectacular to see that kind of response. It validates what everyone on the LOC put forth to make this happen. I’m really excited that it has come about this way; to honor the effort by all of those people who have worked really hard over the past couple of years, to come out and have as good as a ride as possible.” said Jacques-Maynes.
Live to fight another day. “It’s obviously hard when you see one of your team mates crash, all the guys are professional, this is what they do. They’ll get refreshed tonight and they’ll be in the same position to get back out here and combat the conditions again. It’s definitely a battle out there.” said Mitchell at the end of the stage.
“I think there are a lot of dead legs in the pack and you can see that by how big the time splits are in the back. There’s never really been a gruppetto in the Tour of California before and here there’s been one everyday. This rain is definitely taking it out on people and I think we’ll go pretty piano up Sierra Road and if anyone goes on a breakaway, there’s a lot of time to chase them back and get the race in order for the finish in the end.” said Jacques-Maynes.
Andy Jacques-Maynes was taken to the hospital due to concerns of a concussion and soreness to his wrist and ankle. He has since been released and is expected to make a full recovery.