American cross racer Jeremy Powers took the leap this year to headline the Rapha-Focus after four successfully years on the Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com and in the first month of racing, the 28-year old has shown that he’s come into his own. He has handled the mantle of being team captain all the while under the increased scrutiny of Behind the Barriers. With a very clear goal of making it to the top of UCI standings, Powers stacked his early season with races every weekend and even on some Wednesdays, more than any other racer. He raced aggressively, taking risks with bunny hopping and riding certain sections, sometimes it worked but sometimes it did not. In the end, he came out with four UCI wins, all in C2s and is preparing to head out to Europe for the first two World Cups of the season.
In Sunday’s USGP New Belgium Cup, Powers took off in his trademark fast start, took the holeshot but then waited, bidding his time to time his attack. Then a bobble had him on the defensive having to chase down a resurgent Ryan Trebon (LTS/Felt). The two then went to went in a fantastic duel, not their first this year and certainly not their last, until Powers was able to drop him with enough time to enjoy his victory salute when he crossed the line.
During his short stint at home before flying to the Czech Republic on Tuesday, Powers took the time to answer our questions on his season, his approach to racing and so much more. Here is part two of our chat as part of our ongoing One-On-One series of interviews where we go in-depth with riders. (Read part one).
podiuminsight: How much on your pre-ride do you spend checking out those parts, the barriers, the stairs or do you spend more time on the turns, the tricky technical sections?
Jeremy Powers: It does depend. If I look at something the first time and I don’t ride it and I almost know that in the race I’m probably not even going to think about it, so try it. Unless I’m completely surprised by something and I don’t see it or I don’t have a legit shot at it the first time then I won’t go back and do it or even try to ride it. But if I see it and ride it the first time and don’t do it perfect, then I’ll obviously go back and do it two or three times to make sure I nail it and see what the best lines is and I’ll watch a couple of people to see what they do.
And then I can just suss it out and know whats the line, know what the best way to go at it. Like I said, I’ve been feeling really comfortable jumping the barriers, I’ve been really comfortable with all the courses so far. In Madison, they tightened those up so much, I couldn’t clean them every lap, I was also racing against a couple of guys that are top 10 in the World, whereas in the past I’ve had enough of a lead that I haven’t had to go a hundred and five percent into them and I’ve been able to focus on just getting over them. This year, it wasn’t like that, I was in the red almost the entire race.
Do you think that something that you may be pushing too hard?
Like for a section or in general?
For a section or pushing it after the holeshot. Some have said that you’re going to deep in the red, do you think you are?
I think I do do that but I think that’s also my style of racing. I love to be able to win the race outright and just to blow it up right away, that’s something I’m strong at. Sometimes you have to capitalize on what you’re good at. I try not to do that every time although it seems like it. On Sunday, if you look at the race, I didn’t do that, we were all together with three laps to go and then I attacked. I waited a little bit and then I went. I don’t know, it’s just one of those things. I’m still learning about what’s predictable and what’s not, what I should be doing, how I should be racing. Some tactics have come into it this season more than any other season because usually with Tim (Johnson) and James (Driscoll), it’s been so textbook what we’ve been able to do in the last couple of seasons, there were days when we were sweeping the podium first through third. That’s a lot easier to do when you each work over the couple of guys that are near, now it’s just different. The game has changed.
It’s a lot of mental pressure. Being the headliner of the team now, how do you prepare for a race now? How much has changed?
It’s pressure but it feels better to win, it’s really what it is. It’s all on me and sometimes you have to be ballsy about it, you have to go out there and really just fight for it. Actually it’s fine with me because I like racing that way, I like the see the strongest guy win the whole time. Cyclocross is like that, if you’re strong and you can really nail the corners, and if you’re flawless and don’t have any problems, usually you come out with a win barring any mechanical disasters.
There is certainly pressure and I definitely put a lot of myself at the beginning of this year and I think some of it has paid off and I think some of it has been a little detrimental. But it seems like now in my own head at least, especially after this weekend, I feel I’ve fully proven to myself that I have nothing to worry about and that I can finally relax a little bit and just be Jeremy. I don’t need to do anything super, I can relax and go to the races. Even yesterday when I got a gap, I got a little bit of a crash, it was really fast and I got back up, that’s nervous energy, that’s why I crashed. I was off the front, just getting that gap, I’m excited I really want to do it and so that’s my downfall, getting too excited. It’s just one of those things, like I said, I’m still learning, I’m still refining, it’s a new role for me a little bit.
It’s age and experience.
Absolutely, it is.
Any surprises for you being team captain, or was it pretty much what you expected?
A lot of it is very similar to what I was doing before with Cannondale. There are some really nice perks, each program is different. One thing, I showed up yesterday at the hotel and my bikes were packed and ready to go to Europe. I didn’t have to think about it, I’d kill a man for that (laughs), that changes everything, that’s worth so much to me, it’s just such a stressful pain in the butt job.
Being a captain if you will or a leader, basically truly what that means is that Chris (Jones) and I talk before the race on how we can maximize the team, getting the team name up there. And with Zach (McDonald), it’s just a little bit of parenting and coaching, this is what would be better, try to think about this, let’s look at the course. Zach doesn’t have any of the road mentality, he’s very young, he’s 20 years old but that’s fun. I think he can be great, if he wants to race bikes, if he wants to really make it happen in the next couple of years, he’s going to be able to because he does have some natural talent that other people don’t. We’ll see, it’s like every young rider, you just have to hang out with him a lot and just show him the ropes and let them learn at their pace. You give him a bunch of information and see what they do with it.
Who did that for you when you were 20?
Myerson. There were a lot of people but (Adam) Myerson was one of them. We drove around to a lot of races. My first UCI race that I won when I was 20, Adam brought me to it, we drove from Michigan. It’s pretty cool, I couldn’t even drink yet (laughs)
Two World Cups coming up. What are your thoughts going into the races in the Czech Republic?
I don’t want to have any mechanicals. That’s the obvious stuff. Like I said before, I just want to be Jeremy, I just want to go as hard as I can and have a shot at whatever result that is, whether that’s 26th, okay fine, if that’s 12th, that’s okay and if that’s fourth, that’s even better. I just want to be able to go out there and put down as much power as I can and walk away with the best results that I’m capable of. If I don’t have any problems that would be a perfect trip for me. I would just like to have a great race where I could go one hundred and ten percent and see what I come away with.
What does it mean to you that Bart Wellens said publicly, multiple times, that he has so much more respect for you guys now?
It means a lot. He’s been saying that pretty consistently, he’s been on TV in Belgium saying that. Some of my friends are also telling me that he’s been saying that to the newspaper and stuff like that, he really did mean that, he wasn’t just saying just to appease us and make us feel cool. He meant that. It’s great, it’s really really flattering and I appreciate it.
It’s been a lot of learning for all of us, every single one of us that has gone over there has learned about it in a different way. If you look at what Jonathan (Page) has done, that’s his way of doing it, if you look at what Tim did, that’s Tim’s way of doing it. Tim went over when he was younger, came back, he walked away from the sport, came back to it and he started to go over for just World Cups. I was over there where I was young, I did two seasons there. We’ve all had our own experience, our own diving into Euro moment of our life (laughs). So to see those guys coming here and seeing part of what we’re doing and to give us credit for what we’ve done, that means a ton to me, it’s incredible. I’m really, really happy.
I think I feel more comfortable with all of those guys now. Getting to meet Francis Mourey, getting to meet Rob (Peeters) and Bart, hanging out with them at the races, getting to meet Ben Berden a little bit more, getting to know Christian (Heule). I know almost every single pro cyclocross rider, I’ve either hung out with them, had dinner with them or had a conversation with them at this point whereas even two years ago I couldn’t say that. So that’s changed a lot in how comfortable I am there, I think it’s just a change of the times, just being around long enough.
That’s cool. What are you bringing in your suitcase to Europe, anything special in there that you must bring?
Well. I don’t really know yet. I just downloaded this really great program which is a music program that I’ve been playing with and trying to learn. That’s probably my latest and greatest little gadget, I always bring something that will keep me entertained. I never have enough time. We’re going to get there on Wednesday and then we’re going to do a ride and then build bikes. Thursday we’re going to do a ride in the morning and then go get Sam and hang out in Prague all day. There’s not going to be a lot of time.
You’ve got time in between the two World Cups no?
It’s only a couple of days, you have to travel. It really does go by quickly. Before you know it, you’re not even in the Czech Republic.
I was trying to think what question I’ve never asked you. So here’s one. What’s the best or funniest thing that (your dog) Moose has done since you’ve had him.
Oh gosh what has he done? He’s eaten so many socks, I can’t stop him. He loves the tomatoes from the garden.
I’ve never heard of a dog eating tomatoes before.
He loves the tomatoes, he ravages our garden, it’s terrible, he’s a tomato thief. There was something that happened and it was hilarious, I’ll have to ask Emily what it was, we laughed so hard.
He’s become quite famous, a lot of people at the races, from seeing him on twitter, this and that, pick him out of a crowd. I’m not lying. ‘OMG, is that Moose, is that Jeremy Powers’?’ He’s like (makes a noise to show how excited his dog is). He’s got a lot of bling, Rapha scarves. He’s got a bunch of different Rapha scarves, that’s his jam, he’s got red and black.
You sold the Caprice right? What do you drive now?
Emily has an Audi but I drive a 2003 Toyota Tacoma and the dog goes in the back. We have a diesel A3 and a 2003 Tacoma, the dog loves it, he can lay out in the back, four doors, it’s great. We drove it to the cross races, the dog hangs out in the back.
The best part is that I sold the Caprice to Anthony ‘freak out”s brother and he’s completely restored it almost, that’s pretty cool. He’s fixed it up and he’s got all kinds of stuff. I can’t wait to see when he’s done with it, he’s just about ready to repaint it. He’s going to repaint it the same color, pretty cool that he did that. Maybe I’ll buy it back.