Not even a warm California climate could properly prepare Ben Jacques-Maynes for the toasty weather he'll face next week.
On Monday, Jamis-Hagens Berman opens up its season at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina, where temperatures have been hovering around 100 degrees Fahrenheit [37 C]. “It's been decently warm in California, unlike the rest of the country, but this is definitely taking it up to another level,” Jacques-Maynes told Cyclingnews this week from his hotel in San Luis.
“You're in the hot sunshine and it's summertime, but you know what to expect when you come down to the Southern Hemisphere,” he said. “We came down a week early to train, acclimatise, prepare a little bit and to get the team together for the first time. I think we'll be ready to race come Monday.”
Jacques-Maynes will join 2013 teammate J.J. Haedo and 2014 newcomers Gregory Brenes, Daniel Jaramillo, Rob Squire and Eloy Teruel as part of Jamis-Hagens Berman's six-man squad for the UCI 2.1 stage race January 20-26.
Each of the 18 teams at the race – including 12 WorldTour outfits – will field just six riders for the seven-stage race around the central-Argentinian province. Jacques-Maynes said he likes the dynamics when smaller squads are unable to control the race like they do in other events that allow bigger teams.
“You can't just have one team steamroll everyone,” he said. “There's no massive leadout trains or anything like that. It's a bit more of a free-for-all, which is fitting with the South American, Latino style of racing – a real frenetic and energetic type of event.”
Teams don't have the horsepower to control the pack for 120km or more over the stages, Jacques-Maynes said, so there are fewer “throw downs” early in the race or in cases of crosswinds or other challenging conditions that can blow a race apart.
“So you have to pick your battles and choose how you're going to win the race,” he said. “There are three hilltops finishes, so I think teams will be interested in keeping things together for the climbers and just give those guys a fair crack at a finish line in that way. On top of that, we will have a bunch of sprints, which I think will be wild affairs.”
Jacques-Maynes said the team will work to set up Haedo in the sprint finishes and Brenes for the three stages that finish with a climb. “Brenes has been climbing well and should be able to keep the team jersey “in the frame” on the hilltop finishes, possibly even climbing with the best,” Jacques-Maynes said. Haedo is a formal WorldTour sprinter who will have the added motivation of racing in his home country.
“J.J. Haedo is one of the fastest guys in the world,” said Jacques-Maynes. “We just need to put him in the right place at the right time.”
New opportunities in 2014
The 2013 season was one of the best on record for Jamis-Hagens Berman, highlighted by Janier Acevedo winning a stage at the Amgen Tour of California, wearing yellow for three days and finishing third overall in that race. The Colombian also finished third overall in Utah and fourth overall in Colorado later in the season. Jacques-Maynes believes the team can reach those heights again.
“It was kind of a Cinderella moment when Janier took the yellow jersey in California,” he said. “That will be kind of hard to top, but I think we will ride like that kind of situation is possible again and hope for the best. And I think some of the new guys are going to be good enough to maybe produce that kind of performance again.”
And there will be plenty of opportunities for new and veteran riders alike to earn top results in 2014, Jacques-Maynes said, because much of the “cream of the 2013 racing season” has been “skimmed off the top.”
Acevedo has moved to Garmin-Sharp this season, along with former domestic riders Phil Gaimon from Bissell and Nate Brown from Bontrager. Chad Haga has moved from Optum Pro Cycling to the Giant-Shimano WorldTour team along with Bontrager's Lawson Craddock.
But the biggest change on the domestic scene will be the loss of three-time National Race Calendar overall winner Francisco “Paco” Mancebo from 5-hour Energy to a new Continental team in Dubai.
“I think you'll see some new players step into it, and also more opportunities for guys who ave been fighting that,” Jacques-Maynes said. “I've gone head to head with Paco over the years on multiple occasions, and usually he's the one dispensing the pain, although sometimes I was able to do it to him. So I think his removal from the racing scene is going to be a big change in how teams might be playing things out.
“I'm looking forward to seeing the new racing dynamic and style of 2014 domestic racing,” Jacques-Maynes said. “You might see some new winners, and some people who have won in the past maybe get on a new team and step into the fray kind of rejuvenated and capitalize on that. You might see it a little bit more wide open. It's not going to go according to whatever plan has worked in the past. Who knows what's going to happen? That's how racing should be.”