Ben Jacques-Maynes, of the Jamis-Hagens Berman team wants to enjoy every second of his 10th and final Amgen Tour of California. The 36-year old Californian will hold the distinction of being the only rider that has started every edition of the race.
“At this point I have known for awhile that this was going to be the last one and I just want to soak it all in,” Jacques-Maynes told podiuminsight. “Have a good ride for me and my team. I think the team is well prepared and I’m well prepared to get the job done. But yes, I’m going to pay a little more attention to the ambiance of the race.”
Memories are flooding in. “I’m just having recollections of all the memories that I’ve had on the road, and just make sure that I keep reminding myself that it’s been a good run, that I’ve had a great time doing it. And I have no regrets about my career and how it culminated in this participation in my home tour.”
Surprisingly – or not – Jacques-Maynes named the day that he spent in the breakaway on the stage finishing in his hometown Santa Cruz, as a highlight. Epic has a tendency to be over-used in cycling but that day in 2009 could only be described by that word. Rain, hail, headwind, crosswinds, all in all, horrendous weather conditions, were thrown at the riders at they raced from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. The weather was so bad that the stage was not televised due to the fact that the plane had to be grounded for safety reasons. But fans still lined the road up the final climb of Bonny Doon, many screaming ‘Go Ben Go’ for the local favorite.
“I’d been thinking about it for months, I’d worked with the local organizing committee planning the route into town for months. And to finally get there, and be able to do it, and of course it was hailing sideways, just brutal conditions and kind of epic. To see something that you’ve been thinking about for so long come to fruition felt satisfying and a real validation.”
Another highlight was 2007 when Jacques-Maynes finished third on the prologue. “Getting on the podium of the prologue, in terms of actual race results, was pretty fantastic, completely unexpected. I think both myself and my team capitalized on it.”
The 2007 Amgen Tour of California is also remembered for the “Levi’s Rule” on stage 1 where the officials extended the UCI’s three kilometer neutral rule to nine kilometers out due to a crash. A crash that Jacques-Maynes avoided and that race leader Levi Leipheimer did not. If not for the officials’ calling, Jacques-Maynes would have been in the leader’s jersey, a coup for a rider on a Continental team.
How would his career have changed if he had won the leader’s jersey that day? It’s a question that no one can really answer. “I have thought about it but it’s a pipe dream. It’s one of those things where you could work yourself up and get so angry about something like that. Playing the shoulda, woulda, coulda, and how you were wronged or things like that,” said Jacques-Maynes. “I had some anger but then I also felt that I had been denied because maybe I didn’t deserve the opportunity to wear the yellow jersey whether an actual decision that Levi gets to keep it or just fate. I rode the rest of that year like I deserved it and I think I acquitted myself, I almost won the NRC, I was in the top 10 of every stage race that I did after that point and I had one of my best season and I think it’s because of the anger of riding against that. Even with a seemingly bad hand, I made it work for me.”
He channeled that anger into his racing. “I rode the rest of that year like I deserved it and I think I acquitted myself, I almost won the NRC, I was in the top 10 of every stage race that I did after that point and I had one of my best season and I think it’s because of the anger of riding against that. Even with a seemingly bad hand, I made it work for me.”
The worst moment, by far, was his crash in 2011. His injury, a broken collarbone, developed into serious complications including a bone infection and setbacks making it the worst year of his life.
“At the time, it really wasn’t that bad. I knew that I had broken my shoulder but I was in good spirits, just had a good attitude about it. It’s just that that whole medical intervention spiraled out of control, and that turned into a pretty dark period of my career.”
He was able to turn the corner and get back to racing at the Tour of California the following year, “Get that monkey off my back. The first stage in 2012, I rode the breakaway and felt strong enough. Given the first opportunity to get back there and do it, I capitalized on the situation and proved that I deserved to be there.”
Though he wants to enjoy every single day, Jacques-Maynes is looking forwards to stage 3 that starts and ends in San Jose this year, on roads that he knows inside and out.
“That was a weekly training ride that I would do, out through Livermore and then over Mt Hamilton and back home. I did that ride dozens of time, solo, just escaping the urban nightmare of riding in San Jose. Those one-lane roads out in seemingly the middle of nowhere were my escape from riding expressways and hoards of traffic and a bunch of crazy people trying to kill me with their cars. I have some really good memories out there, and I’m just looking forwards to racing over Mt Hamilton one more time so I might try to do something special there.”
“Any day can be a special day and I’m not going to sell myself short or focus on just one day. If I get into the breakaway on the first day, I’m going to ride that thing for all it’s worth, I’m not going to hold back at this point of the Tour of California. It’s going to be all out there and hopefully get something out of it.”
Jamis is honoring Jacques-Maynes by supplying him with custom Xenith SL frames painted to pay homage to the state that’s been his home and to the most prestigious event on American soil for the past decade.