Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) may say he's taking his build up slower this year, but after winning three of his last five races, one would think he's off to his customary fast start.
"I'm not razor thin and I feel like I've got somewhere to go from here," said Powers after winning the first day of the Trek Cyclocross Collective Cup. "Where as last year, when I got to the World Cup, I felt like I was already three months into the season."
2012 looked promising for Powers. As the newly minted national cyclo-cross champion, Powers took an early, and unassailable lead in the USGP of Cyclo-cross with six victories in six starts. By all accounts this would have been a landmark year, but his hard work failed to pay off on the World Cup circuit, and by the time U.S. nationals and the world championships rolled around in January and February, his form had become unpredictable.
In previous years Powers would come into September’s races having completed several weeks of intense intervals. Instead, Powers has changed up his summer program in order to stay fresh throughout the season. "I did a good block of riding that was easy and fun for me, and then I did the Tour of Alberta, and some other racing to get ready for 'cross season," said Powers about the changes he's implemented. "I think that was a more organic and natural build. It didn't have to be super taxing mentally."
Powers presents a gregarious and outsized personality on camera and to his fans, but shifts into a more subdued and serious persona as he articulates his career plans.
Power’s first order of business is to cement his ownership of the U.S. 'cross scene with another championship title. After his disappointing national championship race in Wisconsin last January, Powers is completely focused on recapturing the ‘Stars-and-Stripes’ jersey he lost to Jonathan Page. "I'm going to go for nationals. I'm going to do less time in Europe beforehand, and I'm going to focus strictly on nationals,” said Powers. “I believe if I do that, I'll be closer to success, or I'll have the best race I possibly can to try and get that back.”
Powers is planning on racing the first two World Cups of the season, but he views it more as ‘dabbling’, in light of his commitment to win back the U.S. national championship. Powers’ maturing attitude towards his goals is born out of his commitment to his U.S sponsors, and realization that to succeed in Europe he will need to live overseas full time. Armed with the knowledge of experience, he remains committed to achieving his long-term dream of racing in Europe.
“I'm trying to find the right group of people to help me get there. I'm trying to surround myself with the best companies, and the best people, that see I need to be in Europe,” Powers said about his European aspirations. “I just turned 30. I'm not young, but I'm also not old, especially in cyclo-cross. I would like to give it a shot where I'm in Europe and I'm racing an entire World Cup slate, or another series, over there.”
Behind the Barriers
While Powers tinkers with the formula that will get him to Europe the media machine he’s helped create, Behind the Barriers, LLC, continues to grow and emerge into an important outlet for American cyclo-cross fans. After several successful seasons of putting out the “Behind the Barriers’ video series, the BTB team has expanded into a series of several weekly shows, all flying under the banner of Behind the Barriers TV (BTB TV.) Without a national series tying the season together for the pro cyclo-cross peloton, the BTB TV schedule is the one of the few threads, along with USA Cycling's Pro CX Calendar, that is providing a sense of continuity for the 2013-14 season.
"Essentially we are looking to up the game,” said Powers about BTB TV’s expansion.
“We are trying to take it to a professional level, and bring it to someone who is outside the sport. If a Volkswagen, or a Budweiser, or someone sees this coverage they can say, 'Wow, that's cool. There are personalities, there is a real sport here, there are a lot of folks out.'"
Funding the fledgling project is an ongoing process, but to date it has been fuelled by USA Cycling, along with the support of several long-standing partners like SRAM and Clif Bar. USA Cycling’s involvement in BTB TV has been beneficial for both parties. “That was a win for us. They [USAC] wanted to give back to the organizers,” said Powers about the USA Cycling relationship. “They came in and offset some of those costs for the promoters, so that we could definitely give them the coverage.”
Powers speculates that live coverage may be in their future, but the team wants to avoid producing a product that looks like a ‘dot on a screen going by.’ Producing an authentic show, which conveys the excitement and intensity of an event, is a common goal for Powers and his long time production partner Sam Smith. As much of a fixture as Powers at national C1 and C2 cyclo-cross events, the ever present Smith can be seen filming and observing as Powers moves about his team truck. Their common desire to create a product that will stand on its own, with fans and advertisers, has fuelled a partnership that is now entering its fourth year.
As the top ranked U.S. male rider, Powers appears to relish his role as an ambassador for the sport. In addition to BTB TV, the ubiquitous Powers has produced a how to video, ‘Cross Camp with Jeremy Powers’, and recently wrote the forward, and modeled, for a book titled Skills, Drills, and Bellyaches: A Cyclo-cross Primer by Bill Schieken and Dan Tille.
"Ultimately my whole thing is I want to see the sport grow,” said Powers about his current role as the face of American cyclo-cross. “I'm that second or third wave now, after Adam Myerson. There has to be someone that continues to push it up here. So I definitely take that role on. I take it pretty seriously.”