„I will suffer. But when you get a great result, that feels amazing.“
Jeremy Powers, well known for his awesome riding style and inspirational spirit, finished sixth at the first Cyclocross World Cup this year. The best result in JPows career by now. The right moment to talk to him about his next goals, cyclocross in the US and his short attention span.
The first World Cup this season in Las Vegas was the first one in US history. As you have shaped US Cyclocross over the last decade, what does that mean to you?
JPows: It is incredible and a good sign that the sport is growing internationally. It was really great to be a part of that, and being part of Louisville World Championships [ed.: in 2013] and now Vegas as the first World Cup, I feel like I had a small part in that and that was really rewarding. In retrospect, to be able to turn a good result, a career best and an American best, at the home race—I was proud of that.
You finished sixth in Las Vegas, your best result at a World Cup race by date. Are you at the prime of your career right now?
JPows: I think that there’s still room to improve on ninth place overall in the World Cup last year. My goals are very much oriented around the World Cups, and if I’m able to improve on my sixth place in Vegas, that would be an incredible feat for me. I’d like to podium at a World Cup before I retire, that’s no secret. In Vegas, I was, for the first time in my career, in position to podium, where I was looking at third place in the race. So I do feel like I’m getting closer. You never know if you’re at your peak: maybe I am, maybe I’m not, but I hope I continue to improve.
The podium in Vegas was close. Is the podium at the next WC in Valkenburg a realistic goal?
JPows: Last year, I was turning lap times that were similar to the third place finisher, so I think anything is possible. But it would take an absolutely perfect day. It’s a very difficult course with a lot of elevation, but it’s suited well for me if the conditions are right. I think I have as good a chance as I’ve ever had. My condition is at the same level or better than last year. I feel like I’m in a good position and at a good place in my career where I have a lot of momentum.
This season you will concentrate more on European races. What are the differences between the US and Europe in terms of Cyclocross?
JPows: The courses in Europe are more challenging, whereas we have more "driving" in the US. And in the US, it’s very much a participatory sport. I think we’re growing, but we’re growing a fan and rider base, which is different than the Belgian model, which is very pro-specific. I think that there’s a happy balance that we’re finding in the US that achieves the wow factors as well as the participation aspect of an event. You don’t pay to go watch, you can go and bring your kids and eat food and race and it’s a party. There’s a lot of growing to do in the US, but it’s been great to be a part of that and to see it happening.
You are one of the few top athletes that is not from Belgium or the Netherlands. How does that feel?
JPows: It feels great. It didn’t happen overnight. To be able to have relationships with any of these riders that I’ve known for the last 12 years… It’s not just an overnight success. I think it’s a lot of time invested and it makes me feel good to be able to feel like they respect me enough to welcome me and greet me at the races I attend! I feel over the years I've earned my place in the international ranks.
You did a lot of road racing as well. Why did Cyclocross become your true passion?
JPows: My attention span! The shorter races in cooler temperatures suit me perfectly. I have a short attention span, and memorizing 8 minutes of track and being able to master and replicate that is very much in line with my personality. Road racing, I’d find myself bored after three hours, and in mountain biking, I was often times too hot. Cyclocross is that short race that I excel in—short, punchy efforts—plus cool temperatures.
So how do you feel about mud, cold and pain?
JPows: I love mud. More than I ever have, because I’ve become a racer in it. It can be extremely difficult and a real game-changer though. Cold, I like, to a point. Not when it’s extreme cold. -10 degrees Fahrenheit is too cold to be racing in. I’m not the abominable snowman, I’m a cyclist. I like to be able to race and go hard, and when it’s that cold, it’s all about trying to stay alive. And pain, it’s been said many times: how much can you suffer? I like that because I will suffer. I’ll sit there and suffer. But when you suffer and you get a great result, that feels amazing and it’s worth it.
Cyclocross is great, but the actual season is not very long. How can you motivate yourself throughout the year?
JPows: The season is starting so much earlier, so now I’m doing camps and test events in August and racing through the middle of February. That’s a long season! Then, I race about 20 road and mountain bike events in the early season—April through August—and go straight into cyclocross, so while it seems like a lot of down time, the end of February is just laying on the couch like a mummy, March is getting myself back together, and then I start training for April.
What are your experiences with the FOCUS MARES cyclocross bike?
JPows: Having been involved with Focus since the new Mares’ inception and working with the designers and engineers on this bike, having had so much testing and experience on the previous models, this bike is very complete and I think easily the nicest cyclocross bike that’s available on the market and uses the most current technologies available. I feel really lucky to be able to ride it. The higher bottom bracket, the geometry, the integration with the disc brakes and R.A.T. thru axles have been incredible for my team and I to use to make our wheel changes so much faster. I could go on, but I’ll just say I feel great on the bike. It’s ridden me to many victories in the last couple seasons and it speaks for itself, I would encourage anyone who hasn't ridden one, to test one and see for themselves how great they are!