Bissell Pro Cycling Team's Ben Jacques-Maynes is relishing the myriad challenges presented by the toughest edition of the Tour of California, which begins on May 16 in Nevada City.
Jacques-Maynes has a history of strong performances in the three previous editions of the Tour of California. Last year, he placed inside the top 15 in three stages and captured the most courageous rider jersey following a lengthy breakaway in stage two. In 2008, he placed 11th in the prologue, ninth in stage five and 16th overall.
"I'm going to take a lot of opportunities to try things," said Jacques-Maynes. "I want to put myself out there to try, even if it seems like it's a long shot. I'm not afraid to get out there and race my bike to see what I can do."
"With the excessive amount of climbing, every stage is just bigger, with an extra climb and more miles in every stage," he added. "It will be typical late spring racing, with a lot of fit people who are going to be able to race hard all day long."
Jacques-Maynes made name for himself while racing for Priority Health at the 2007 edition of the Tour of California when he placed third in the prologue and 10th in the stage five time trial. He nearly took the yellow leader's jersey following stage one after a series of overall contenders, including Levi Leipheimer, were involved in a large crash on the Santa Rosa finishing circuits. Eventually the race officials blamed the crash on the course condition and awarded the injured riders and the peloton the same time.
"That was good example of being a good bike racer and getting the job done right, which is what you strive for in racing," said a modest Jacques-Maynes. "But that also involved a lot of circumstance far removed from my control. It was not something that I engineered but just barely didn't accomplish. Which was why I wasn't too upset having missed that opportunity. That was something that was a null event, it could have happened but it didn't," he added.
This time around, Jacques-Maynes intends to know exactly what he is up against. He has pre-ridden all of the northern California stages from Nevada City to Sacramento, Davis to Santa Rosa, San Francisco to Santa Cruz and San Jose to Modesto. Over the next two weeks he plans on acquainting himself with the roads from Visalia to Bakersfield, paying a visit to the Crestline and Big Bear ascents, testing out the Los Angeles time trial and the final circuits through Thousand Oaks.
"Whether it will be riding a couple of breakaways, trying for some of the medium stages, a late attack into Bakersfield might be an opportunity," Jacques-Maynes continued. "If I'm well down on GC a break might stick on that last day when all the GC riders just mark each other on the circuit. You never really know how it is going to play out until you get there."
The Bissell Pro Cycling Team patiently awaits an invitation from AEG Sports, organiser of the Tour of California. Bissell Directeur sportif Glen Mitchell is confident that his team will receive the invitation they are hoping for.
"We are in the same position of waiting until they send out invitations, as is every other team," said Mitchell. "We believe we will get an invtation. We have had a good track record in California and in the other bigger tours in America like the Tour de Georgia and Tour of Missouri.
"All we can do is build the strongest team that we can and let the organisers know that every time we line up we are there to race. We'll cross our fingers a little bit and wait until the invites come out."