Reigning USA cyclocross champion Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) started off his cross season with back-to-back decisive victories at CrossVegas and the first day of USGP Planet Bike Cup. Not only did he power away from a stacked field but he did it at C1 races. Those races matter because they not only offer more money but more UCI points which are are used to stage riders on the start grid.
He also added to his win column with the C2 Nittany Lion Cross and the non-UCI Tacchino Cross, making it four wins in five races. Already the question has been put out there – is he too fast too early? The same question was asked last year when he started off with multiple wins and obviously it wasn’t too fast too soon, as he finally won the national championship in January following his overall victory, for the second time, of the USGP.
It’s all part of the plan. You see Powers has a one date, February 3, 2013, circled in red on his calendar, the Cyclocross World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky. For the first time – ever – cross worlds will be held outside of Europe and it is the chance for Powers to shine in front of family, friends and the world on a familiar course, with no jetlag. Powers knows it. All other American cross racers know it.
To be able to shine at worlds, Powers acknowledged that it “would be really, really important” to be on the front row at Louisville. That means that he must get good results at World Cups. Not only do the eight World Cups offer up more points – 200 to the winner versus 80 to the winner of a C1 race – but they are not capped off in the UCI standings. (UCI standings are on a rolling 12-month calendar where all the World Cup points are added but only the top 6 C1 and top 5 C2 results are accumulated.)
“I definitely want to do some World Cups, my goal is to hit the top 5 in October; in one of those two Czech races to do really well and just improve on last year.” Powers said after his win at CrossVegas. “Every year, a little bit better. I feel where I’m starting off this year is definitely a good spot and I hope that I can compete over in Europe with those guys.”
In 2011, Powers finished 10th at the first World Cup in Pizen and 15th at the second in Tabor.
He added, “I think a top 5 is in the cards and looking at Louisville this year, that’s my main goal, it’s to do something special there. If things go right and I get that top 5 and I really start progressing in that World Cup, then I’ll have the confidence to go into Louisville and do something.”
Getting on the front row at Louisville was in the plan back in November, 2011 where he told podiuminsight after winning his first C1 of the year: “I need these points for next year and for the World Cups and I need all this stuff. It’s all part of the deal towards Louisville next year because this does makes a difference with the World Cups coming up which are going to help me to get to the front line of Worlds next year.”
It’s not just about points. A re-newed determination was seen last year when Powers headlined the new Rapha-Focus cyclocross team and started to build, for lack of a better word, an entourage around him. They provide a safety zone around him so he can focus – no pun intended – on the racing. The bubble around him can be seen when he warms up, in the safety of the team’s tent, one hour before a race; someone will be guarding the door. But this new mind-set can also be seen in how he handles adversity and issues. In Sunday’s race, unhappy with his tire pressure, Powers fell back after taking the lead at the start. After multiple bike changes, Powers chased back to finish third. In the past few years, issues like that sometimes caused him to push too hard and bobble.
Can Powers crack top 5 at a World Cup?
“If it all comes together, he can yes.” said Simon Burney while commentating at CrossVegas.
Author of the popular book, “Cyclocross: Training and Technique”, Brit Burney is the cyclocross technical delegate to the UCI and has been to over 30 consecutive cyclocross world championships as a rider, mechanic, team manager, or spectator.
Burney continued, “I’ve always said that Americans, physically, technically, tactically are just as good as anybody else in the world, it’s just the whole thing about traveling over to Europe and getting ingrained in that style of racing. I think every year he’s gotten a little bit better, a little bit more experience and I think now is the time. Louisville Worlds is the time for him to step up and show that he’s the guy from America that can repeat what Page did, whenever that was 2008, 2009 when he podiumed.”
So to get back to the question: Can Powers crack top 5 at a World Cup?
We say yes.