With only a few months to wait for the kickoff to cyclocross season, many diehard ‘crossers are biding their time scanning eBay for the next amazing buy while others are spending most of their summer atop a bike, plowing their way through yet another road race season. Jeremy Powers falls into that latter group. Cyclocross Magazine contributor David Hutton caught up with pro ‘crosser Jeremy Powers during his Colorado vacation as he prepared for his upcoming trip to Asia with his Jelly Belly Pro Cycling teammates to talk road racing, music, and even NASCAR. This is Part I.
CXM: So, you’re a few months into your road season riding for Jelly Belly. How has it gone so far transitioning from cyclocross back to the road?
JPow: This year was very easy for me to transition back to the road racing scene because I had my director at Jelly Belly, Danny Van Haute, give me a small break before I started full on in the road season. Then, he decided he wasn’t just going to give me a little break but a full break, so I didn’t start racing again until May. I think my first race back was Joe Martin, which is in Arkansas. It’s a three-day stage race – it was really good for me. Before that I got to take a nice month-long break and hang out at home with no roommate for an entire month. That was a nice solid base and easy miles for six or eight weeks, with no intensity. I just got a little bit of racing in before I went to Joe Martin. It’s been a phenomenal year for me that way to be off a lot and I think I am having a better season because of it. My transition to the road was easy, but my cyclocross transition won’t be that easy. It will be a little quicker. Actually, a lot quicker.
CXM: Any big races in store for you and your Jelly Belly friends this year?
JPow: Yeah, this one coming up in China, Qinghai Lake, is going to be a big one for us. We are sponsored by Champion Systems is one of our big sponsors and they have all of their headquarters and employees in Asia, and it’s a big opportunity for Jelly Belly. You know, we’re a division three team. There are a lot of bigger teams going to this race, so it’s good. Obviously, anything we do in the states holds more or equal weight. Like Tour of Missouri and I know the guys are planning on going to the Sun Tour and things like that. I won’t be going to the Sun Tour but there are some big races coming up.
CXM: What are the chances you’ll get some of your pro road guys out getting dirty on a ‘cross bike this season?
JPow: Brad Huff is going to be doing some. We are going to build him the Huff ramp. See Brad’s not much of a runner so he asked promoters at select races to build the Huff ramp that lets him just jump over the barriers. I think he’d be good in the whole shot so I’m thinking he’d be a good teammate to have and bring him to a couple of races. We’ll see what happens… [Laughs] Obviously, it’s a joke!
Really though, none of those guys really race cyclocross. I think cyclocross is becoming more popular because every year at training camp and throughout the season guys ask me more and more about how they could get into it or what they would need to do. Bernard Van Ulden as a professional was the California State “B” Champion. He told me that he won the “B” class a couple years back.
CXM: Do you consider yourself a ‘cross racer that rides on the road or a road racer that races ‘cross?
JPow: I am definitely a ‘cross racers [who] races on the road. I enjoy them both, but I definitely get more out of cyclocross and am able to use my talents a little bit better when I am racing cyclocross. I grew up racing mountain bikes, I really love being outside, and I really love the technical aspects of cyclocross. For me it’s awesome, and I love those skills. On the road or in a criterium it’s about throwing down the power on the hard climb and stuff like that. With that said, I love the team stuff that goes on in road cycling. I like having a big team and even though we have our CyclocrossWorld.com team with Tim Johnson and Jamie Driscoll, it’s not the same having six or eight guys at a race and we’re all communicating through the radios and working together. So there are things that I love about both but I think cyclocross is really my passion, I love racing it, and I love watching it grow and things like that.
CXM: Do you do any mountain bike racing also?
JPow: Yeah, actually I just did a mountain bike race here in Durango, the Durango short track series up on the college. That was my first mountain bike race in a long time. I borrowed a mountain bike from Todd Wells so it was sweet! But I am planning to do Mt. Snow this year also. I want to do more mountain biking in the future to try and keep those roots alive.
CXM: What does this season hold for you in regard to ‘cross? When are you kicking off the season?
JPow: It’s going to pretty much be straight forward. We’re probably going to do every single race that has ever been known to the UCI calendar. If there’s not a race on Sunday we’re going to fly to Europe and do it and fly back on Monday. [Laughs] Really though, we are starting at the Star Crossed race I believe, then we are going to move along to Vegas then the first USGP’s and then it’s back east. We’ll go full bore and do Gloucester, I know Providence or Ohio. There’s just going to be a slew of races, I mean an absolute onslaught every single weekend is going to be raced. I am even doing one of the two weekends that we would technically have off. I am going to at least one of those days at Northhampton because that’s my hometown and I think it’s kind of lame if I don’t show up to my hometown race when I’m going to be sitting there. It should be awesome. I am looking forward to a good long season and I think I have done the right things on the road to be able to go full all the way through.
CXM: Any big ambitions for ‘cross in 09-10? Europe? Nationals?
JPow: Yeah. We’re doing Worlds for sure. World’s is definitely happening and the trip beforehand is definitely happening too. I always go over for December for those races and then we’ll go over for January and train their while I am getting ready for Worlds so I don’t have to deal with it. I always go, I always want to go, and I want to continue to keep going. The option is never to do less but maybe to do more is the only way I look at it right now.
CXM: You came out to support the Ohio UCI weekend last season that a good friend of mine put on, will you be back?
JPow: I’ll know in the next weeks really what I am doing.
CXM: Where would you as a seasoned vet in the sport like to see cyclocross in 5-10 years in the US?
JPow: NASCAR baby! I think it’s going to be awesome. I think ‘cross is definitely going to be growing and is going to be growing from here on out. I think it’s going to be growing more than 10%…it’s going to be growing 15-30%. I think there is going to be a lot more coverage and really I think it’s the only game in town, when you talk about cycling in the winter in the States, you know there’s not a lot of track and things like that aren’t really popping off, so it’s cyclocross. It’s so fun to watch, and if you talk to anyone at any race that’s ever gone and seen one they’re always saying how much fun they had, how much of a blast it was and I think that promoters are really upping their games and letting the other promoters do their thing. I love seeing the progression cyclocross is making. It’s not going to be Europe this year, there isn’t going to be 20-30 thousand people paying 15 bucks a clip, but it’s definitely getting there. I have a lot of ideas, and promoting is a huge thing, and it takes a real ton of energy so I can’t say that I don’t have any cards on my chest but I have people that are interested in making things happen so I think it’s going to be awesome. I hope in the next five years, so by the time I am 30 years old, it will be pretty sweet. I think we are going to have a real following, a true series of our own in North America. That’s my vision, and my goal I guess but promoting and racing at the same time is kind of a bomb.
CXM: If you could win one race in cyclocross what would it be and why?
JPow: Nationals. That’s an easy one because I have never won a National Title. That’s the one race that avoids me. I have never had a chance or I have always had something happen whether it be nerves that day or maybe I have too much form early in the season and I come out kind of coming out faster than I wanted to instead of saving that stuff for December. That’s a huge goal of mine this year is not to come out of the gates flying. Although, you come out of a race like Missouri and what are you supposed to do you know. That race is hard and you’ve got a lot of fitness so why not use it. The good news is I am definitely aware of my not having won a National Championship and I know I did it every single year but I am truly trying to treat this year differently and really trying to have something left so I am the best I can be in December.
CXM: There is a lot of young talent coming up in the states these days. Who do you see the next big names in American cyclocross being going forward?
JPow: Someone’s going to get pissed that I don’t say their names and it makes sense to get pissed off at someone. So if I didn’t mention your name you’re probably still awesome I just didn’t get a chance to think of you at 9 a.m. on a half a cup of coffee. Obviously my teammate Jamie Driscoll is someone that comes to mind immediately, and guys that are a little bit older like Troy Wells is someone [who] I think has a lot of potential especially on like a muddy and technical course, Troy is always someone that I think of. He’s already got a podium at some USGP’s but really everything needs to click with Troy and he’s going to be really awesome. Also Danny Summerhill if he wants to take cyclocross seriously, a guy like Bjorn Selander, if these guys want to take cyclocross seriously then those are going to be guys that we are looking at in the future and are really good riders. There is a slew of other guys, and I won’t be able to remember his name but the kid that was the Junior National Champion last year [Zach McDonald], I heard he’s really talented. I wish the best for all those guys. Cycling is such a hard sport to make it in and I never wish anyone ill luck, I only worry about myself and hope that everyone else out there doing it try their best and get the most out of themselves. It’s just one of those things. Cycling is such a hard sport, and you want to help everyone along the way, but how much can one person do. You can only give so much advice and help in so many ways before you have to start taking care of yourself.
This exclusive interview with Jeremy Powers is continued in Part II.