Early in the season Jeremy Powers was intent on one goal, winning US nationals. He achieved that task with a dominating performance in Boulder, Colorado, and has now set his eyes on succeeding in Europe. After finishing 15th at the Nommay World Cup, Powers feels a top 10 finish in Europe is within his reach if the pieces fall into place.
"I felt like I got my rhythm in the last half, more than I did in the first half," said Powers about his first European race of the season. "Without overanalyzing, it was good. I should have gone a little bit better in the start. I think I was only 20 seconds outside the top 10. "
Expectation management is always something that top US riders must deal with when they head over to Europe. To succeed requires a level head and positive outlook.
"I think I know where I stand here," said Powers. "When I look at results, I think in my head, 'There is a chance I can be in that group.' When I watch the races and I see how strong the top five are, I think, 'I'd need to be really, really strong.' Coming over here, I expect to be in and around 15th or better. Had I gotten 24th or something, I would have been a little bit disappointed in that."
Longer starts, different course styles, and most importantly the weather, mean the races play out differently in Europe. Powers takes a realistic view on how he can perform based on the conditions. The persistent rain, and moisture of the European winters dictate extremely wet and muddy courses, which appear less frequently at American venues. As a result, Powers feels he's less prepared for the European tracks. "If it's deep mud, I adjust my expectations," said Powers. "You are just seeing so much water, and rain, mud, and soft, rockless dirt, it moves and plays so quickly. You are going around corners and the line is literally six to eight inches deep. It's a rut and you just nail it, and it takes you around the corner, and then it's peanut butter through the next section, it's just so much different we don't have that kind of wet."
After racing the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Hoogerheide, Powers will stay on in Europe for an additional two weeks of racing, and return to the US in mid-February. In between races, he is visiting Girona for some warm weather training, and quality time with several friends, including Garmin's Phil Gaimon and Tom Danielson. Intent on racing more in Europe next season, Powers is using his extra time on the continent to get a lay of the land, and do some reconnaissance on how an overseas campaign might come together.
Currently unsigned for next season, Powers has tapped the sports management company KOM Sports out of Colorado Springs, Colorado to put together a program that would further his European racing goals. One that would allow him to race a heavier World Cup schedule, and help fulfill his personal ambition of growing his development program, which is currently run through the JAM Fund.
"The idea is that I'm going to have to go in my own direction," said Powers. "I'm looking to form a team and program that would allow for our non profit JAM fund to share resources and have a wider net," Powers wrote to Cyclingnews. "I think the greatest benefit from creating this is it would provide a ladder for the 'up and comers' to climb up to the national schedule, and eventually the World Cup, over time." While Powers felt it was too early to comment on possible partners, he did write to Cyclingnews shortly after the interview that recent conversations were "coming together nicely."
Forming a new team is a daunting prospect, even for a high-energy optimist like Powers. Expanding BTB TV in 2013 was a stressful time for Powers, and the experience taught him to delegate and compromise. While the expansion of the BTB TV online programming was a popular decision amongst American cyclocross fans, it did have an adverse impact on Powers racing. He is adamant, that it is not an experience he will repeat as he develops a new team.
"I did feel like Behind the Barriers took over my world," said Powers. "To go from one to five shows, and then to go from one employee, which was Sam, who was editor, director, janitor everything, to go to 12, 15, or even 20 different people, with accounting, and logistics, and HR, that was a massive, massive overextension, and I won't put myself in that position again. In my whole life, ever. I think I have learned that lesson one time. So from the team side, I will make sure I don't get in that same kind of place."
Sitting in his hotel room, waiting for the world championship race to arrive, Powers was confident about the next stage of his career. "I want to push myself here and see how much I can get out of it," said Powers. "I'm at my peak of strength. At 30 years old, they say you are the strongest you are going to be. I think I have reached that point, and from what the power meter tells me, and from how I handle and feel on the bike, I think that I'm at a place where I can be competitive over here."