American Jeremy Durrin of the J.A.M Fund/NCC team, made his way to Europe last week to race in his first European cross race ever, and not just any UCI race but the World Cup in Igorre, Spain. He finished 35th overall, pulled with four laps to go where the winner did a total of 11 laps on the very fast course.
“The course is way more technical but in a way different way than anything in the US. The straightaways are strangely technical and have lots of crazy ruts, and the corners have one very good line and if you miss it.. then you are screwed.” Durrin told podiuminsight about his experience.
“Every time you mess up, you lose a group and have to work way harder than normal to catch back on… but then you make another very small mistake (like missing a pedal) and all of a sudden you get thrown out the back of another one! so different”
But Durrin was enjoying the post-race activities. “People are very friendly in Spain and the race organization took us out for food and drinks after the race.” he commented. “The tradition here is to drink one drink at each bar, well there were at least eight bars and eight drinks. They know how to celebrate after a successful event.”
So who is this young rider? Before leaving, the 23-year old from Massachusetts had been mounting a PR campaign to get himself noticed – it worked.
“I am trying to do is start my career in cycling by trying to raise publicity for myself both in race sponsorship and hopefully have a career in cyclocross.” Durrin told podiuminsight before his trip.
Part of his marketing plan included a website, a twitter feed, a photoshoot, an agreement to write for online magazines and fundraising activities. One such activity was at the Cycle-Smart International race. “Selling sausages and grilled cheese and I’ll be raising money for the JAM Fund and for my trip.” he said. “And then I have one other campaign going on where I’m just raising money for my website, and every $100 that gets donated, I do an hour at a charity that will be determined once I get back from Europe.”
“I want to show people that I really appreciate them helping me out and I’ve received so much help already and I want to give it back somehow in whatever way people want, that’s where I’m coming at with this PR campaign. I don’t want to be that guy that just asks for money and goes and that’s it.”
What Durrin understands is that in this time of social media, he needs more than results to get some attention.
“Generating results are obviously important for sponsors but I also think it’s having a personality and a voice in the business that people can look to. And having that personality that is something more that someone that can go out and win every weekend.” he commented. “I’ve been coming top five every weekend. Powers is a perfect example, he can win every weekend but he also has one of the best personalities in cycling, that’s why he’s doing so well.”
He started cycling only three years ago when he moved to Amherst. “Then I contacted Jeremy Powers when I moved out there because I knew that he lived in the area. We met at a coffee shop, had a great conversation and he kind of got me hooked on it.”
Jeremy Powers (Rapha Focus) – the the J. of the J.A.M. Fund – has been instrumental in Durrin’s cycling life. We first met the young rider when he, along with his teammate Anthony Clark, had the opportunity to spend a few days at the Jelly Belly p/b Kenda training camp back in February – a visit organized by Powers who races with the team during the road season.
Ever since that fateful meeting three years ago, Durrin has been moving up and now he wants to take it to the next level.
“My anticipation coming into this season was to get some experience but I’ve been up there competing for the win in some races and I just can’t put it all together, I’ve been breaking my bike every week, I’m there, I’m just trying to get the experience that I need to put it all together.” he said. “I feel that I’m having a bit of a Justin Lindine season of last year where he was always racing at the front and always managed to break his bike and come into the top five every weekend.”
After finishing top 10 in many of the New England UCI races, Durrin pulled off a third place at the Baystate Cyclocross last week. “I’m ranked top 200 in the UCI rankings in the world right now which qualifies me to do World Cups.”
Europe. “I’m going to Europe with an open mind, I know I’m going to get my ass kicked in Europe.” he laughed.
And with his 164th World Ranking, Durrin made the trip to Spain for the Igorre World Cup this weekend. There were two approaches that Durrin could have taken, stay in the United States and try to get better results or go to Europe and gets his “ass kicked.”
“I decided to go earlier because I feel that racing with the best in the world. I’ll be able to watch, observe and just learn some basic things that I think I could learn here but it’s almost like diving headfirst into a crash course if I go over there and race in the conditions that they race in. The top of the world race over there every weekend.”
Many have tried in the past and some have come back from Europe, deciding that racing at that level at least is not for them. A fact that Durrin is well aware of.
“That’s the thing, especially one of the things that Powers talks to me all of the time.” he said. “He’s telling me that it will be a really good experience but he’s nervous for me to do the World Cups because when I do the World Cups, he’s like you’re either going to go in with an open mind and know that you’re going to get your ass kicked, or you’re going to expect to do okay and get absolutely crushed, and then realize how far you have to go to get to the top. I anticipate… basically he’s telling me to go over and have fun and have a very good life experience but have an open mind about it. He doesn’t want me to be completely discourage about it.”
“I’m intentionally having an open mind about it, knowing that I’m going to get slapped around a little bit when I’ve over there, I’ll be fighting for the lead lap is my goal.”
Of course, it’s not just the racing but everything that needs to happen before and after a race that has cracked many racers in the past.
“It’s a lot of work” agreed Durrin. “It’s extremely difficult to do it on your own but I’ve made some really good connections with people, there was a huge European group that came over here from England, I made friends with all of them. Either they’re helping me out with housing, or travel to all the races or getting me a mechanic.”
What’s next? “The real goal for this season is to gain as much experience as I can and carry that onto the next season and see how much I can grow with it.”
As for the future, Durrin wants to race both cross and road though he admits that he prefers one over the other. “I like cyclocross a lot more than I do road. Road is a little more intense and the traveling. I really enjoy cross, it’s a lot of fun and I feel the atmosphere is everything that I want to be involved in for the rest of my career really.”
He is planning on staying with his current team for the 2012 road season. “Doing road racing is extremely important for me to get the cross, I’ve been thinking a lot of what I want to do on the road, I think I’ve settled with the idea that getting on a pro team would be awesome, but the adventure of cycling, I think, is being able to travel to different countries, race at the top races. Right now with the J.A.M. Fund team, with what Powers, Al (Donahue) and Mukunda (Feldman) are doing, we have the opportunity to go to South America, race in Europe. And I’m really okay with my team situation as of next year for the road, so I’ll be traveling all over the world.”
He finds his current situation to be ideal. “It’s not a pro team, I want to be on a pro team but I want to have the experience to come into that level and do okay. I race both NRC and UCI races, like Elk Grove, I had some great results but didn’t really get the attention from the pro teams.”
“I’m going to try.” he replied with a laugh when asked if he thinks he can make a living as a bike racer. “Lots of people have succeeded and failed, we’ll see. I’ve housed a couple of professional athletes from Europe, they stayed at my house for a month at a time and they get to not go to work, put their legs up and ride and sleep as much as they want and eat healthy, that’s what I want to do. I have a full time job right now so that makes things difficult.”
“I think that I can bring a positive outlook to teams and I mesh well with others. I think that the important thing is having a team that gets along really well, I get along with most people. And I can race at the top level and be a strong worker and do whatever it takes to get the job done.”
Durrin is not done with his European trip with more racing planned from his homebase of Oudenaarde, Belgium.
“Overall it was an amazing experience.” he said about his first World Cup. “And I realize I have to work on so many things in order to get better. Very excited to see what is to come.”