Ben Jacques-Maynes pumped to be back at Amgen Tour of California

When the Amgen Tour of California rolls out of Santa Rosa on Sunday for stage one of the 2012 race, Ben Jacques-Maynes will also be
marking a rather unfortunate anniversary.

The Bissell Pro Cycling veteran crashed during the race last year, breaking his collarbone and then contracting a serious infection that knocked him out of racing for the rest of the season. Now he's back and ready to confront his demons at the California race.

"I'm pretty confident that my body is kind of back to where it needs to be," Jacques-Maynes told Cyclingnews. "Now my fitness and
mentality sort of needs to get picked up again, and that just takes time. I've been looking forward to this week with anticipation and excitement, but also some trepidation. I've been basically in pain for a year straight, so it wears on you and you think about it. But if I can get through this next week healthy and whole and finish the race, I'm looking forward to a big mental boost from that."

Beside looking forward to jumping over the hurdle that has been in his path for the past year, Jacques-Maynes has other reasons to be excited about the seventh edition of the Tour of California. The stage two route from San Francisco to Santa Cruz relies heavily on roads that are in the California native's current backyard and it finishes in his hometown. Jacques-Maynes, who helped with the fundraising efforts to bring the race to Santa Cruz, hopes to reward the local residents with a good performance there.

"Everyone's been telling me they'll see me in the breakaway on Monday," he said. "I don't know if that will actually happen, but I know every inch of the road and I'd like to have a good performance, whether that's ride the break and get the exposure or a jersey at the end of the day. If not, if I'm in the pack, then I'll climb as hard as I can to get over those climbs and help out the sprinters at the finish. I think it will be a pretty decent-sized bunch if it's a sprint finish, so hopefully we'll have some of the fast guys there and I can help them, or I'll take my own chance."

Jacques-Maynes added that he believes his extensive knowledge of the roads will reduce his stress about the course, allowing him to focus 100 percent on the racing at hand.

"That kind of stuff adds up, where you're better informed and you're less stressed out," he said. "You know people are talking about the difference in percentages that make a difference between winning and losing, well a lower heart rate from less stress, lower cortisol levels from less stress and being able to tune into the attitudes of the other racers and really know like now's a good time to hit them because they're suffering, as opposed to paying attention to your own suffering and wondering where the top is, because you know where the top is."

He has been riding the stage two route through the Santa Cruz mountain at least twice a week all spring, fine tuning his already considerable knowledge of the area.

"I've made sure that I know that course like the back of my hand," he said.

And, of course, being the local pro has advantages that reach beyond knowledge of the route. Jacques-Maynes said he will be able to stay at home for a few nights and will also have friends and family all along the stage 2 route to boost his motivation.

"You definitely gain confidence from that," he said. "These people are coming out to see me, so I want to do something special for them. So you dig in a little bit more. When you've got a group of friends chanting your name right when you're suffering the hardest up a steep climb, it definitely lights a fire under you."

And having the biggest bicycle race in the US take over your hometown isn't so bad, either, Jacques-Maynes said.

"You're riding on these roads that you ride everyday for training, and instead of riding in the middle traffic and being stuffed over to the side, you're in this parade, and the roads are closed, the streets are lined and people are cheering for you. It's a very special feeling. It's something that I haven't experienced with anything else, and it's something to cherish. However the actual result happens, just coming through town and kind of taking over the town, it's awesome."

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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.