After taking the mountains jersey on stage 1 of the USA Pro Challenge, Jamis-Hagens Berman rider Ben Jacques-Maynes was pessimistic that he could keep the jersey until the end, but through a series of strategic breakaways and conservation of effort, the 35-year-old was able to hold on to the title in Denver today.
"I didn't think I could do it, to be honest, but I'm very happy. I kept persevering, and taking the opportunities that presented themselves. I kept stepping out in the breakaways and battling for the KOM points."
Jacques-Maynes entered into the stage 1 breakaway with teammate Matt Cooke, but the pair was foiled in the first two of four mountain sprints by Drapac's Lachlan Norris. But before the third climb, Jacques-Maynes was having no more of it, and he attacked ahead of the sprint, took the points, and then held on to the wheel of Jens Voigt to win the last sprint and take the mountains jersey.
On stage 2, he entered into the breakaway again, taking points on McClure summit and Kebler Pass, but it was the fourth stage in Colorado Springs that Jacques-Maynes pinpointed as the critical stage.
"If I didn't make the break on that stage, then it wasn't going to happen," Jacques-Maynes said of winning the classification. "I scouted the start, and made a plan to attack from kilometer zero because I knew if I could attack with a teammate on my wheel, and have him ease up and set the gap it might work. I did it, and I looked back and it worked!"
The points Jacques-Maynes took on that stage at the Garden of the Gods vaulted him back into the lead, one stage after overall race winner had jumped over him in the standings. The lead that he took, 35 points to van Garderen's 27, held through to the finish in Denver.
"Every day was a race to the mountain sprints, and then it was all about conserving my efforts. I knew I wasn't going to do anything in the overall."
Taking home the final mountains jersey was made even more special by its sponsor, Sierra Nevada, the sponsor of Jacques-Maynes first professional team. "I started my career in a Sierra Nevada jersey, so it means a lot."
Jacques-Maynes also understands how special it was for the local Colorado riders to perform in front of their home crowds, and is planning to have his own moment at next year's Tour of California.
"It's spectacular to have such a great race to highlight these guys in their home state," he said. "A lot of these guys are from Colorado, and I'm from California so I know how they feel."
He later revealed to Cyclingnews that he plans to retire after next year's Tour of California.
"My wife wanted me to retire this year, but then I heard Voigt was retiring, and if I race Tour of California I will be the only rider to do all 10 editions."