Powers in control. Baystate Cyclocross, Day 1. ? Paul Weiss

Jeremy Powers, shown here in control at Baystate Cyclocross, had an impressive Tour of California © Paul Weiss

by Josh Liberles

Jeremy Powers, who races for Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com during the “real” season, just finished up an impressive eight days of racing with his Jelly Belly road squad. As we at Cyclocross Magazine documented in our Tour of California CX GC very unofficial rankings, Powers was joined by a slew of prominent cyclocrossers in the biggest road event in America – including former world champ Lars Boom, Chris Jones, Davide Frattini, the Jacques-Maynes brothers and 2008 Junior Worlds silver medalist Peter Sagan.

We tracked down Powers (aka JPow) the day after California wrapped up, as he was between flights in Chicago. He shed some light on his ToC experiences, and offers a look ahead at the rest of his road season and his 2010/2011 cyclocross plans.

CXM: Looks like you were riding extremely well in California. Tell us about it! What was it like being in the all-day breakaway with fellow ‘crossers Lars Boom (Rabobank) and Robert Britton (Bissell)?

JPow: California went well! I was really trying to dethrone Chris Jones for the CX GC spot in the cyclocross competition. Boom dropped out, so I slotted in well, I have to say I’m pretty happy … (laughs). In all seriousness, it was a very hard race and it was all really good.

I was in that breakaway with Boom, Britton and a Quick Step rider [Jurgen Van de Walle]. That was hard, but there were so many people standing on the climbs cheering, “C’mon J-Pow, c’mon Jeremy, let’s go!” It’s hard to describe how that feels, it was just really awesome. But to be in the breakaway with Boom was great too. He’s my pal, he’s a cyclocross guy that I look up to, he’s had a great career so far, he’s young, and I think he’s a very talented cyclist. We’ve known each other for a long time, so it was just really cool.

Just to survive that whole thing until the attacks started going off, that was awesome too. I wish I could’ve done more [in the break], but I have to be happy with what it was. Really, I’ve just gotten back into race shape. I’ve done races locally, but I haven’t done anything near this level, while most of these guys have been racing in Europe or Asia or at least big US races. So, I was excited to last as long as I did and to be able to put in the amount of work that I did. The climbs that day were good for me, they were short and pretty gradual, except for Sierra Rd – and I made it over Sierra Rd with no problem with those guys. The course had a lot of sweeping turns and fast descents, but at the end the wind kicked up really hard and that ultimately made the break not stick. We were suffering out there, just the four of us.

We took a left hand turn with maybe seven miles to go for the final stretch, and we had a dead headwind and everybody was just miserable. We’d already been out there over 100 miles – without the wind, I think we had a decent chance of surviving to the finish. Right before Boom started attacking, he made time to thank everyone in the break for the good day, we all had a pretty good time out there.

CXM: The race only had about 35 guys left at the end of the final stage, and you obviously were able to stick it out and make it through the whole tour, moving way up in the overall in the final couple of days.

Jeremy Powers is all smiles at Tour of California. Via flickr by smthcriminal29

Jeremy Powers is all smiles at Tour of California. Via flickr by smthcriminal29

JPow: The GC is still never a goal of mine at a big race like that. Jelly Belly is a very opportunistic team, and we’re going to try to get into a lot of breaks. Kiel [Reijnen] was in the first break of the day [on Sunday’s final stage], which stretched out to about a two minute gap. But then the big teams decided: no more breaks, we’re going to catch them and go straight through the breakaway and turn the last stage into a slaughterfest. I’m really happy that I was able to survive that last stage, which was not at all typical of a last stage. Usually in a race of that caliber the last stage isn’t a death march like that one was, it’s a little easier and the GC is for the most part decided. But yesterday was not like that at all, it had a 15-minute climb in it and the peloton was strung out and whittled all the way down to like 25 guys, it was ridiculous. All I could do was hang on, hang on, and then when I finally got gapped a little, catch back up on the descent. It was cool to be there to watch the attacks start going, Levi [Leipheimer (RadioShack)] went first after he came back up from his flat tire, and I watched him launch off the front.

CXM: Jelly Belly was very active all week against some of the best teams in the world, you guys must be happy with how the race went for the team.

JPow: The team’s psyched, we had a guy in the break for four consecutive days. No other team did that, so that shows the depth of the team. We got the Most Courageous rider award with Will Routley. Will Dickeson almost went to the finish line with his break [on stage 5]. It was sweet, the whole thing was just really cool, we really rallied and did a great job as a team to get the name out there and get into those breakaways, trying for a stage win that way. We’re not gonna put out sustained 450 watts or have HTC-Columbia’s lead out train, so breaks were our best bet. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t. Based on our budget and the level of our team, that was the best way to make that race successful for us.

CXM: What do you and the team have for upcoming road events and goals.

JPow: The team will be split between Tulsa [Tulsa Tough, a three criterium omnium event in Oklahoma] and Philly [Philadelphia International Championship], I’ll be going to Tulsa, then to Tour de Winghaven in St Louis and Nature Valley after that. I think I’ll be getting a break in July when the rest of the guys are going to Asia for the Tour of Qinghai Lake. I really need that break, so I’m looking forward to that.

I’ll take two weeks completely off the bike in July, then I’ll do some small builds back at the end of July into August. Then I’ll hit some criteriums, maybe one or two cyclocross camps, and then we’ll start the cyclocross season the weekend before CrossVegas again.

CXM: Maybe we’re biased, but it seems like your heart may be more into cyclocross. Is that true, or do you enjoy doing the road / ‘cross split?

JPow: If we did races like the Tour of California every weekend, then I’d probably love road racing as much as I do ‘cross. That race is so well put together, and there are so many people that come out for that. It’s very cool to see so many people support the entire scene: following the racing, interested in all the guys, getting autographs – people want to be involved with the riders and learn about them. From that angle, the Tour of California is really awesome. That’s not to say a race like Nature Valley isn’t like that, it’s just as such a high, high level when AEG is involved in putting the Tour of California on.

But, to really answer your question, I happen to be better at ‘cross. It’s not something I chose, I just happen to get better results at cyclocross, my body-type might be more geared toward that, so that’s a big part of how that selection happened. If I were a great road racer and I could climb like Levi Leipheimer, then I’d probably be into the road more.

CXM: Let’s talk about your main goals for this coming cyclocross season. You obviously have some unfinished business at Nationals. Will that be your main focus of the season, or will you target a series like the USGP or NACT as well, or maybe look to repeat as the Cyclocross National Calendar champion?

JPow: Winning the CXNC was cool, but I don’t feel like I need to target that again. That was a show of consistency, racing all the time throughout the year and getting on the podium – that was a lot of race days. But I think the USGP series, if the races fall into place and I do well, would be great. My main goal for this year is to do more quality and less quantity of events. I won’t do as many races and I’ll pick the ones where I want to do well. Last year I was definitely cooked when February came. I have to keep tweaking my schedule to try to get it perfect. I came into Nationals perfectly prepared – I did have a crash and I didn’t win, but I feel I was definitely strong enough to have won that race. So I was psyched with how my preparation for that race went, but then in January and February, I wasn’t as strong as I’d been for the whole prior part of the year.

To improve on that, I’ll not be racing as much early in the year and have more highs and lows in my season – you have to go slower to go faster later. We may go to Europe and do some World Cups in November, or we’re even talking about going over earlier than that. There will be less Jeremy Powers at every single race, but there will hopefully be better results because of that.

CXM: Awesome, Jeremy. Congrats on your impressive showing in California and good luck with the rest of the road season. We’ll be excited to see how you translate it all back into a new approach to your ‘cross targets.

JPow: Thanks guys!

VIDEO – SRAM Road Diaries talks to Jeremy Powers about arm warmers and club fashion before Stage 2 of Tour of California: