Jeremy Powers races through the mud in Hoogerheide. © Bart Hazen
Jeremy Powers (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) is in St. Wendel now as part of the US Worlds team, checking out the course. The USGP Series Winner and star of Behind the Barriers took a moment out of his last minute preparations to share some his thoughts about Sunday’s World Championship race.
Hi Jeremy, how are things in St. Wendel?
Things are going well today, just normal stuff. I did a pretty hard workout with some intervals and try and get opened up pretty well – 30 or 40 minutes of hard riding. Thursday I did some hot laps on the course. Tomorrow we’ll check out the course again to see what the situation is and how it will most likely look for Sunday’s race, we’ll ride it at a similar time frame to the race.
How did the course feel on those hot laps?
You know, it was different than it is now because it was muddy. I felt really good on it, I like this course, it’s really good for me. It’s hard. Not super technical but with some features that suite my style, like wide sweeping corners that I really like. I’m excited.
What are your thoughts on the changing weather?
It’s good. I’d be phsyched if it was frozen. It’s even better for me then. I did really well here last time – 18th – when it was frozen. But it depends on what happens. If it’s frozen, if it’s muddy, if only the top’s thawed, well then we have a different race. But right now, with the ruts frozen the way they are, it’s like slot cars out there – pick a line and do a hail mary.
What are your goals for Sunday? Take me through your ideal first lap.
I’m starting second row, so I’m hoping for a good start. You do about three quarters of the running track, and then you come into a hot, tight left hand and then a sweeping right. Then it gets really tight into a set of barriers and then a tricky off-camber section followed by a super steep downhill. So, if you get into those barriers anywhere after fifteenth place you’re going to be compromising your chance to have your best race. So it’s really important to be up there in the first few minutes, and that’s what I’m going to try for even if I have to suffer for it a bit. I think that it will pay off a lot, because it will be strung out once it goes down. But I guarantee you at least one very good rider is going to get pushed to the back there. For a guy like me, whose got to make zero mistakes to have a good race, with a good start position I’d like to get in there in the top fifteen and then hang on and jockey for position from there.
And we saw at Pont-Chateau that you’ve got the kick off the line to hold your spot…
That’s the thing, you’ve got to take your strong suit and use it, especially over here. If you’re good in the starts you better use it, because there’s not going to be a lot of forgiveness. In the States, these sorts of things really separate the guys – this guy is very good in this type of situation, this guy is really good on the climbs, this guy is a really good technical rider, the differences between us are drastic, one obviously outshines the others. But here, you know, you have five guys of equal skill and fitness as you are at any given moment, which just makes it that much harder.
So you were racing in Europe as junior, you’ve lived in Belgium, what have you seen change since then?
Well its bigger. Even here in Europe its bigger. Especially from when I was a junior. ’Cross has become more popular, more riders and teams. But it’s a lot of the same characters, though, from when I raced Worlds in 2001. The bikes have gotten a lot better, and my life has gotten easier in terms of getting things together. One big thing is that US cyclocross is getting much, much closer to being similar, but in its own right having a different set of legs than here in Europe, but just as good ones.
The more that we do here, the better it will be for the younger guys that are coming up. I believe that, well I wouldn’t say paving the way, but we’re past the point where Americans are just showing up to finish a World Cup. I mean, Jonathan’s been able to do that, to get some good results, but I know I’ve tried to do that in the past, but you’re saying one thing and thinking another and I just didn’t have a big enough engine. But this year, I’m not just saying something, I’ve gotten top twenty in a World Cup twice, and it’s not just me. So we’re going into Worlds this year with more mental energy and enthusiasm to get some real results. That’s progressive for the US and cyclocross in general, the fact that we’re being competitive at the world level is something that needed to happen and is happening, and I’m proud to be a part of that.
Thanks Jeremy, and good luck out there!