One month into the cyclocross season and Jeremy Powers (Cannondale prepared by Cyclocrossworld.com) has already racked up 4 UCI wins, and claimed a podium finish in all, but one, of the races he entered. A win and second-place at both the Great Brewers Gran Prix of Cyclocross and the first weekend of the Greenware US Gran Prix of Cyclocross in Madison and two wins and a third place at Cincinnati’s UCI3 International Cyclocross Festival.
A great start to the season, but what is really interesting is the way he has won and raced. Combined with his trademark fast start, the 27-year old battled one on one with his teammate Tim Johnson at both the USGP and Gloucester, and then went head to head with Ryan Trebon (Kona) at UCI3. And, to my eyes, he was showing something different this year that I can’t quite put my finger on – is it more focus? more determination? I don’t know what is it, so who better to ask than the man himself.
Also Powers is one of the most accessible riders out there, fans can interact with him directly on twitter, facebook, at races and now see a glimpse of his life on his new Behind the Barriers video series. He’s a nice guy but is he too nice?
These questions and more, including staying with Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com and the incident with Jonathan Page, were covered in the following two parter, done before the UCI3 races. What can I say, when we get together, we talk… a lot.
As for the title of the piece, I could have gone with Powers – too nice a guy? Powers – passionate about cross. But, when asked him if we was ready, he replied ‘I was born ready, talk to me’ and laughed. And there was the title.
I’ve been watching you this past races and there’s something different. I can’t quite put my finger on it but you seem more determined, more focused, something. Would you agree?
I’m a year older.
Is that it seriously?
Well. I think as a cyclist, you grow, you start to realize things and look at things in a different way. You start to see things as, I don’t know, not as a start paying the bills way but as an athlete and as a person that has goals and wants to be remembered as an athlete and part of cyclocross in the United States, you start to think about what I can do to really make it an impact. Those early season races are serious. Part of Lyne is, when you start out racing as a pro in the United States, there are races that just happen and you’re excited to be part of them. You’re excited to be part of the Tour of California for the first time, you’re excited to be part of the Tour of Missouri for the first time, you’re excited to be part of Tour de Georgia and then you start to say ‘Why am I being part of this?’, ‘Why am I not like really being part of this?’ And that drives ‘I need to be in the breakaway’ and ‘I need to be getting my name out there’ and ‘I need to be trying to win stages’. You get to a cyclocross race where I can actually make an impact and then you start to say I need to be winning these races. Nothing has changed in terms of my serious training or nothing like that but maybe my attitude and how I am going about doing at the races and what I expect from myself right now.
I’m not saying that you were not serious before and you were winning before, but there’s something different. You’re talking about making an impact on cyclocross in the US, how important is that for you?
I think it’s the most important. I think of me and what I want to do and what I hope people remember me by and I hope that the things that I do do in regular everyday life and that’s try to put smiles on people’s faces, be a good person and set a good example. That’s how I keep myself in line, I try to think about ‘oh man if I’m going to do this thing to someone and that’s going to really suck or this is going to be really bad for them’, so then I start to think would I want that to happen to me or what would that be like for me. Then I try to think about when I was coming up as a racer and all these different things that happen to me, that molded me to get to the point that I’m at and I feel super privileged and lucky.
So, for really making cyclocross grow and to make it a better sport, to be more people friendly and to really get it away from that high and mighty road racer attitude that people might associate road cyclists with, I try to get away from that and really bring it to a more human level where there is a lot of interacting and fan participation. Just good events all around so that’s my big goal. That’s why I started “Behind the Barriers” videos and that’s why I like to do so many interviews and that’s why I really go out of my way so that people can see the real side of someone raw, uncut. There’s no stuff there, I’m not lying about anything that’s going on, I don’t have anything to lie about, I don’t have anything to hide, I don’t have any doping things, I got nothing going on, it’s just me, the bike, hanging out, doing whatever I think is the right thing to do.
Could it be that you’re too nice?
Do you think that trying to be accessible like you are, you are one of the most accessible guys. Does that hurt?
I do, I do sometimes think that people think I’m a push over and that I can be manipulated or this or that. It’s a really unique balance. From a racing standpoint, I don’t think Todd Wells goes into a race and says ‘oh I’m going to beat Powers because I’m going to ask him if I can win’, or Geoff Kabush or Francis Mourey say ‘hey I could probably get over Powers or I could probably push him to the tape’.
I think that one thing we saw this year with Jonathan [Page] was, we saw Jon freak out which is fine but one of the things that happened in the race with Jon and I was that Jon put me into the barriers which is not unlike him, he’s an aggressive rider and that’s fine, it’s totally fine, it doesn’t affect me but in the past it has. It’s been one of those things where I’ve gotten nervous or I’ve been very cautious about ‘oh man Jon is going to put me into the tape’ or ‘I don’t want to pass him or come underneath him because I’m afraid of what would happen’ but that doesn’t affect anymore and while that did have an impact before. Nowadays it’s a lot different because I don’t worry about that as much, if you hit me I won’t hit you back but I’m definitely going to go by you three times as fast, or I’m going to make sure that I get past you. I don’t like saying ‘if he did this to me, I’m going to do this back to him’. When he’s saying in the press that my seat hit his bars, well that’s because I was standing up and sprinting past him, like I said about three times as fast when I was going from left to right throwing my bike, my seat did hit his bars yes, but… You have to understand, there is a little bit of a difference in like how I worried I am, I think I feel a little bit more like I have some respect or that I can go and do these races and I don’t have much to worry about in terms of guy coming underneath me.
Maybe that is the difference this year then. Maybe that’s it.
Yeah, I don’t know. I got off topic a little bit.
Got it, you don’t think you’re too nice a guy.
I don’t, I don’t I’m too nice of a guy. I definitely don’t go out of my way to be a super-nice guy but if someone comes up to me. It’s like this in any situation, if someone calls me up and asks me to do an interview or talk to them or come to a school and do something, I’m going to treat them like just they’re my brother that I didn’t even know but that’s just how I am, that’s how my parents were, that’s how I grew up. If someone else said someone was a good person then I’m going to take their word for it, I never try to find the bad in anyone. I just try to find who is this person and I take them for who they are at face value, I don’t try to make them someone they are not, or ask them to be someone that they aren’t. I just hope that everyone is who they are and that’s what I try to do.
And you’re not disappointed sometimes?
In what people?
Yes, once in a while, people are not who they pretend to be.
Certainly. I’m not saying that I’m perfect either. And sometimes I get really bummed out. In cycling, when I see certain guys testing positive, or I see that guys have made mistakes, I’m probably the first guy to say ‘I bet that guy made a mistake and he’s really really sorry for it and I wish him the best’, but by the same token, am I upset with them or am I disappointed by the decision they made to wring the sport through the crapper again? Yeah, of course but everyone has to make decisions and eventually that’s how people learn. If some guy dopes and then he goes on to change his entire life, and that really opens up a lot of doors for him and he can move on with his life, maybe that’s what needed to happen. I don’t know that side of it, I’m just trying to do Jeremy at this point (laughs).
So we’ve established that you’re a nice guy but when you get out there do you think you have the killer instinct?
I do, I don’t know what happens when I’m racing. Sometimes, I don’t know what happens, this cloud just comes over me like you should win – it’s almost like a racing horse – I know how I’m going to start, I know that the start is going to be crazy, I know that I’m going to freak out on my bike right now and I can do that. I don’t think I’m too nice a guy but one thing that I do notice in US racing is that I can get to the front and just go, go, go and in Europe there’s a lot more banging and a lot more bar chopping and stuff like that, I’m a little bit more timid but that’s really just from not having done that repetitiously. I don’t do that all the time so I’m not familiar with that type of racing and that’s a big downfall of me not racing in Europe. When I do go there I don’t like to bang bars and snap around but it’s something that I’m getting better at.
I try to look at my weak points, I try to watch now on video and see and think about my races a lot because I’ve been doing this a long time so it’s easier for me to pick out my weak points. I definitely know that I’m a pretty nice guy and that I would easily put my hand on someone’s back if they crashed in front of me or stop and wait or whatever the case is. I think that that has definitely been brought to my attention in the last year at least in a lot of instances, not just in racing, just in general taking advantage of or felt like that in some way. I’m trying to make a difference, I’m trying to look out for Jeremy a little bit more.
Your face when you’re racing is saying ‘don’t stand in my way’ this year. I’m not saying it’s not good by the way.
It happened a little but at the end of the last year because I really, really wanted to win Nationals. The only thing that I visualize was winning Nationals so when I got to Nationals I was really deep in my brain and I knew what I had come to Bend to do and the only thing was to win that race and the one thing that I didn’t visualize was crashing during that race and that’s something that I learned. I learned that I need to think about what happens if I do crash, or if I do break a shifter or flat a tire. That’s kind of a progression. I was in a position to win though which is a totally different thing too because you almost be in that position to know what that feels like and to know that intense euphoric place ‘I’m going to win Nationals, for Jeremy that’s a really really big deal’. I want to win Nationals, that’s my number one goal for the last five years.
Again, you’re starting this season pretty hot and you’re really fast right now. Are you concerned that it’s too early in the season with Nationals in December and then Worlds?
I’m doing less and I’m going faster. I’m not training and I’m going faster, I don’t know what to do to go slower. One of the things that my coach and I talk about is mojo, the central nervous system and being really excited to be in the races. That’s my easiest thing, I can get motivated for a cyclocross race in the United States any day of the week, if it’s in January, February, March, April, July, it doesn’t really matter for me and I love racing cyclocross. I don’t know what happened at some point (laughs) but it’s just what I love doing, it’s what I’m good at it and it’s my favorite thing to do. So getting motivated is not a problem, it’s when does that form run out and when do I have to start training again. And training up versus racing out is my big things right now, I can’t race down and get beat up, I have to continue to train and that really can’t happen.
If you look at CrossVegas, Francis Mourey, Christian [Heule], Ryan [Trebon] and these guys were on the West Coast racing. But you know, Jamey and I flew to Greenville, flew back home and then we flew to Vegas. Basically, all those guys that were at the top of those races did a very similar program [to us] in terms of total training load and stuff like that. Those guys did two races, we did one, a 200K race and I did a time-trial too. Anyhow I did a lot of training beforehand and I think that when you come into the season, where you’re at is where you’re at. There’s not a whole lot of changing that, I’ve definitely gotten that down. And then last year for the first time I got down how to really get fit for Nationals and it’s so personal and you have to figure it out for yourself.
But you’re changing your schedule this year.
I’m super-excited about that. Tim did a great thing last year, opening the door for change and he thought me you don’t need to go over and do all these races over Christmas and it’s not that important. Truthfully I don’t know how those guys do all those races. I guess if we had 7 or 8 cross races within driving distance of my house, that might be a different story if I think about it like that it’s not that bad. But when I have to take all my stuff and go to Belgium and do that whole thing for 8 races in 10 or 12 days, I don’t know it just doesn’t make sense to me this year. I want to focus on getting a big result at one of those World Cups or getting a big result at Worlds. Now I’m going to do something similar where I’m going to stay and I’m going to do a training block after Nationals, take a little break, maybe hang out on the West Coast and do something there.
Ooh will we see you at Surf City [in California] in January?
Yeah, get some warm training in my legs and do some good rides. I think that at the end of the year the best thing for me is to do some long rides. When you’ve raced now until December, there aren’t a lot of 5-hour rides that I’m able to get in. While there is a lot of motor pacing and there’s a lot of 3-hour ride, there’s not a lot of time to get in long rides and that’s a pretty crucial part. Because we’re flying so much, in the US we’re flying a lot because we’re doing so many events, there’s not a lot of time to say oh I’m going to be able to recover, I’m going to do a 5-hour on Tuesday after a weekend’s worth of races and then do intervals on Wednesday and then motorpace on Thursday, wait hang on and then I got Saturday and Sunday and do an hour’s worth of threshold effort. You can see that there has to be a very specific time to be able to do that stuff. I think that asking my body to go from September all to way to February without real good training is probably short changing myself you know.
Stay tuned for part two where we talk about staying with Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com, battling his own teammate for the win and Behind the Barriers.