When the 128-rider field rolls out in Nevada City to start the 2010 Amgen Tour of California, Ben Jacques-Maynes of the BISSELL Pro Cycling Team will be there once again. His goal, a stage win.
“I would really like to win a stage at Tour of California, I’ve been looking forwards to it. There’s a lot of hope and dreams pinned on certain things and you just have to take it day by day, hope a good day on the day that you make it in the breakaway.” said Jacques-Maynes.
The California-native has raced in every edition of the event. “The Tour has been growing every year and this is another leap and bound that is going to be easily measurable. Only the last day is under 100 miles and if it’s a repeat start & finish [city], they’ve put in harder hills in between, longer distances, and then a couple brand new stages with massive amount of climbing.”
It is a tough course this year and finally we have a mountain top finish on stage 6 from Pasadena to Big Bear Lake. (Note the conversation occurred before the news about the change to stage 6)
“People are talking about the hilltop finish up to Big Bear but they don’t realize that you go all the way up to almost 8000 feet on the first climb. You look at that and you look at all the days that add up to it, you do 195 km, you do 195 km again. 213 km that day only at altitude, you start at sea level only climb to huge amount of altitude so that’s going to be trying. There’s a lot of bike racing that will be going on.”
From February to May. “A lot of guys coming in from Europe are going to have their A game ready and it will become like Tour de Georgia racing,” replied Jacques-Maynes about the impact of such a move.
“A lot of guys, maybe American fans haven’t really heard of, you had Sivtsov win Tour de Georgia last year and everyone was ‘who is this guy, where has he come from?’ well if you had been paying attention to European racing, he’s one of the best hilltop climb finisher possible.”
In 2008, Kanstantsin Sivtsov (Columbia-HTC) seemingly came out of nowhere to win Brasstown Bald and the overall at the Tour de Georgia. The change in dates might also bring about a non-American winner, for the first time ever or a surprise winner. In the last two editions of the Tour de Georgia, the overall winner was not a favorite going into the race and not an American.
“It may not be the all American all the time show that previous Tour of California have been, there could be a random guy. That’s the thing about European racing, everyone is good over there, there are so many people that you’ve never heard of that have a good chance of winning just because they’ve had a good training block or are on the way to good preparation, have their team support, you get HTC-Columbia behind you there’s a good chance you’re going to win.”
Santa Cruz is back. Last year, Jacques-Maynes had his eye on stage 2 which ended in his hometown of Santa Cruz. He made his way into an early break where he, along with the peloton, battled horrendous weather conditions that included pouring rain, hail and strong side- and headwinds. Added to the physical misery on that day was the mental blow of learning about his twin brother Andy’s crash back in the field.After slogging their way down the coast, five of the six riders in the break were caught on the final climb up Bonny Doon. An emotional Jacques-Maynes was awarded the Most Courageous jersey that day in front of friends and family.
“I guarantee it’s going to be a nice day.” smiled Jacques-Maynes about this year’s stage 3 which ends in Santa Cruz. “I’m going to be on better form, I can pretty much guarantee that everybody else is going to be on better form. “
On that fateful day last year, Francisco Mancebo of the Rock Racing team had the yellow jersey after soloing to victory the previous day, once again in pouring rain.
“You won’t have a weird happenstance like a guy getting away and keeping it the day before or a random team on the front like a Rock Racing, then a big breakaway going and hitting the bottom of the hill. I don’t think a situation like that will ever eventuate, if you look at Tour de Georgia, it was very controlled, long days, the breakaways… with over 200k have a very low chance of lasting that long. The sprint teams get on the front, we’re doing 55k an hour and it’s easy for them [to catch us].”
You can count on the Jacques-Maynes brothers going for the win again on the Santa Cruz stage.
A stage win has eluded the 31-year old rider, but for many, Jacques-Maynes should have worn the yellow jersey after stage 1 in 2007. He avoided a major crash involving around fifty riders in the finishing circuits with 10 kilometers to go to finish safely ahead of the field in Santa Rosa. With his third place finish in the prologue that would have put him on top of the leaderboard, but the commissaires decided to extend the neutral final 3-kilometer to where the crash occurred.
In 2008, he finished ninth in the time trial and sixteenth overall. This year it’s about stage wins and taking a chance.
“If things don’t happen…. you can still have the best day possible, the best situation and those ProTour teams can still mow it down, they don’t care about your hometown status, they’re there to win the bike race too so even in the best of circumstances it has a 98 percent chance of failure but that’s not going from me from trying, at least stepping out.”
And if it doesn’t work, try again.
“If it fails on one day, I’ve proven over the last couple of years that I’ve been able to take a day or two off, rest and recuperate and go at it again. If it doesn’t work one day, keep on going, maybe I’ll lose some time on GC, they’ll give me a little bit more leash, who knows that’s how racing goes. You know how to bike race, you know how to put yourself in a situation where things have a better chance of working out.” concluded Jacques-Maynes.
His preparation for the big race included Merco Cycling Classic where he won the Foothills Road Race and the overall and the NRC opener Redlands Bicycle Classic where he finished second overall in a virtual tie with overall winner Ben Day (Fly V Australia). Next up is Sea Otter Classic followed by Tour of the Gila.