An interview with Jeremy Powers, December 10, 2005
One of the favourites for this weekend's US national cyclocross championships is Jelly Belly rider Jeremy Powers. The 22-year-old has been racing his first season as a senior in Europe this year, something that puts him amongst the world's best 'crossers. He's one of the brightest hopes for US success at the world championships, and spoke with Cyclingnews' Les Clarke during preparations for a crack at the national title.
Powers is part of a small group of American riders plying their trade on the European 'cross circuit, riding world cup and Superprestige races against the likes of Sven Nys and Bart Wellens. After a solid start to the season, Powers' form dropped off a little with some bad luck and bad legs, but heading into this weekend's US national cyclocross championships he feels the form is there and he can be there at the end of Saturday's race with a shot at the win. It won't be easy, but Powers realises that most good things aren't that way.
Cyclingnews: How's the season in Europe been, and how do you feel at the moment?
Jeremy Powers: The season's been ok, I can't say it's been all bad. It's my first year racing with the pros in Europe, so it's been good. I can't say it's a learning experience every single time because I was there last year racing with a lot of the under 23 guys. I know some of the courses, which helps a lot in terms of going to race and being able to know my chances. If it's the Koppenberg cross, for example, I have a pretty good idea of how someone like Sven's going to ride, and this is the case for other races too.
At the beginning [of the season] I had a couple of decent rides - Ardoois [Kermiscross], where I was 11th or 12th, and then Ruddervoorde [Superprestige #1] which was a decent ride, but I got stuck in a lot of early traffic even though I had good legs. At the first world cup I was in the top twenty then I kind of blew up. I was really happy to be there - I was killing it, really going for it, but that's how it goes sometimes. I blew the engine up, that's what I did! And then after that the form came down a bit, but I felt I was going well at the beginning of the season here [in the US] and carried some of that into Europe. It's hard to keep going well all year; you've got to pick your time.
I feel like I'm getting back on top of being fresh again - I've done a lot of hard training and was happy to get back in there. I've done a bit of racing back here in the States and took last weekend off, which is my first one without racing. It's been nice to be home, and see everyone - the racing's different here; it's not all business and you can have some fun.
CN: What's the difference between the US 'cross scene and Europe?
JP: It's huge; there's no real way to compare. Honestly though, the level here is so much better than the last time I raced back here; last year I returned home and was impressed, and this year I've been even more impressed. Guys like Tim Johnson stepping up again, [Mark] McCormack's doing well and Todd's out there racing; these guys are international guys - the same goes for [Ryan] Trebon and [Jonathan] Page; those guys are all really strong bike riders. Any of those guys could be competitive in Europe.
CN: Ryan Trebon has also made the trip to Europe to race - how's it been riding with him over in Europe?
JP: We're at two different parts of our season - [when he arrived] I was coming off some form I was rolling with, and he was coming over, just really excited to be there. It was tough for both of us. He had some bad luck; just having bad legs, but I was able to help him out, and it was definitely nice to train with someone.
CN: Where have your strengths been this season?
JP:I'd say most of the Belgian races. Anything that's fast - I really enjoy the fast courses - anything that's super fast and not much climbing. I really like the local Belgian races; any of the West Flanders courses; bumpy, quick, lots of corners, stuff like that - a lot of acceleration.
CN: You mentioned on your website update that Sven Nys passed you at the Koppenberg 'cross, breathing through his nose - how was that?
JP: [Laughs]...Everyone's going to have their opinion on that. He's definitely the Lance Armstrong of 'cross at the moment. Obviously I can't compare myself to him. I think about him two or three years ago and I think about where I was - there's a huge difference. I only started racing seriously as a junior, and then I got sick in my first year of college, which set me back, blah, blah...then I was making a comeback and Nys had won like three world championships or something. It's a little demoralising but it's not going to be like that forever...
CN: He'll be commentating for Belgian TV and you'll be winning races?
JP: That's the way I see it - hopefully we can make improvements. Every year I try and make improvements.
CN: Do you see yourself in with a chance of taking a win this weekend?
JP: Absolutely. I definitely plan on being up there. Last weekend [Verge NECC Series final at Rhode Island] was a good indicator - I was up there in the leading group with Mark [McCormack] and Timmy [Johnson], and I think Jesse [Anthony] was in it with a couple of other guys...I ended up fifth [after a fall earlier in the race] which doesn't look good on paper, but from a racer's point I felt like I had those guys. I feel good and have good confidence going into this weekend's race. Do I see anyone matching Jonathan [Page] and Ryan [Trebon]? I don't think so...mathematically he [Trebon] is riding the strongest out of all those guys.
CN: With riders like yourself, Jonathan and Ryan over in Europe, how do you think that will influence the standard of 'cross in the States?
JP: Like I said before, the standard of 'cross in the States is growing - so having guys come over, the level of these guys is the most important part. We've gotta get guys over there for the duration of the year so that when we go to world championships we're ready. You don't want to send guys over just for the experience; you want to get guys in the top part of the race - I think that's important and you don't send guys over just for the experience. Geoff Proctor is having a camp that comes over - that's a great place for guys to just come over.
If you go to Europe and race, you know where you stand; they don't beat about the bush there. If you're not getting lapped you're in with a chance, and even if you are getting lapped, you'll learn from it, train harder. Every year, the levels [of US 'cross] are increasing - you have more guys in the top 20 and last year Jonathan got seventh in a world cup. It's moving up - the progression is happening.
CN: And you're part of that...
JP: I enjoy racing cyclocross in Europe, that's for sure.
CN: Do you think this racing in Europe will really help when it comes to world's?
JP: Yes. At world's as a junior I was 17th the year before last and 18th last year; I always say the world championships is one of the more important races for me. Maybe because I've lost the nationals every year and I've got mad enough to ride well there. I always try to make sure I've got my best form for world's. I do know the course in Zeddam - it's a good course for me, but we'll just have to see what the conditions bring for me on the day.
CN: Can Sven Nys be beaten?
JP: Really, no one can beat Nys. [Bart] Wellens is the only guy that could beat him, but Bart's been very up and down, so I can't say Bart is going to do anything.