Welcome to the first installment of our Trailblazers interview series. The series as a whole looks into the lives of outdoorsmen who inspire us whether they be athletes, preservationists, park rangers, etc. For our first interview, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Jeremy Powers - all around good guy and multi-time National Cyclocross Champion – to talk about the growth of cyclocross, his season thus far, and some of his favorite outdoor hobbies. Highlights from the interview are below and the entire interview can be heard on our Soundcloud page.
Andrew Sawyer: . . . The 2015 cross season is underway, and it seems that things are going extremely well for you. How have you felt about your results and what’s the outlook for the remainder of the season?
Jeremy Powers: Every year it's about constantly improving. I had some goals that were out there for Cross Vegas specifically. I made the decision that I really wanted to peak in September for the first ever World Cup in the United States and that was in Las Vegas. I was really, really happy with my result, but I would obviously have liked to have been on the podium. I was looking at it, but I just missed it. And so, with that, I think that the season as a whole has gone well, because I've strung my races together.
Although I think at this very second I'm ready for a mid-season rest, which is totally appropriate. This is what happens every year, but more so than other years just because I've I pushed it earlier. That window, as you get older, doesn’t grow longer, you know.
So, as a whole, I've only lost (only) a couple of races here, which has been great. And so, my season has been really successful. My first… my second race that I went to Europe for the Second World Cup didn’t go exactly as I’d like to have had it go, but outside of a couple of small disappointments, I think my season’s awesome. I'm really proud and I'm happy with what’s happened so far.
AS: Are there particular races or events that you’re looking forward to this season? I know you certainly mentioned Cross Vegas and then the event in Europe . . .
JP: Yeah, I had Vegas in the cross hairs. I raced the Continental Championship, which was last weekend and I was able to win that. That was really huge, because that was the first Pan American Championship for cyclocross. And, like you said earlier, the sport is growing like crazy. All these first time things (are taking place) like the first World Cup and now the first Pan American Championship. It’s so great being a part of that kind of that history and growth, which is really humbling and great. I love being a part of it, but there's a lot of goals. How many things can you chase? I'd love to do it all. I'd love to win everything, but I don’t want to be a glutton of goals. I just want to try to stay consistent. So, looking forward, it's about just really about treading water until I can get a good break. My next big ones are two World Cups in December and then we have the National Championship in Ashville that I have to fly back here for.
AS: You were talking earlier about how it's nice to be home. What does your training regimen look like once this season is going and what do to stay fresh and energized amidst all the travel, races, preparation, and promotional events that come with the season?
JP: I think everything is a balance. For me, it's always looking at what’s not where it needs to be. What is hurting me in the races right now? What am I not paying enough attention to? Maybe my riding is good, but my running is like lacking. So it varies greatly. Instead of doing motor pacing hill repeats on Tuesday, I may do an hour of core and go for a run with the dog for an hour. Or, I may not do any of those things and get a massage and spin in the afternoon.
A lot of the year is based around pretty similar workouts. They come in and out of play, but all these things have a place in the year. If I haven’t done something for a week or ten days, then I know I need to add it back because if you don’t do it, you lose it. Cycling is a very specific sport. If you don’t pound on your muscles and don’t do some of these things that we only get exposed to in races, or alternatively if you’re just riding for a cyclocross race, then you’re not doing enough. Then there are the technical aspects that you can’t let get rusty either. You have to be out there training in the elements. When it rains for three days, I'm going to for sure be out there riding around in the mud.
AS: Let's talk about the growth of cyclocross. It has been pretty enormous, and it has a cult like following for those who are into it. How you felt about that growth, and what do you think about the direction that the sport is headed in?
JP: Oh man, it's really fun to be a part of. It has been like a whole identity of mine. This is how I've made a living and that’s what I do, right. It hasn’t always been a beautiful ride. Sometimes we’d show up to a venue then there's a hundred and fifty people there, and we’ve got all the best guys in the country. Like shit, we couldn’t do better than this . . . like all collectively we couldn't. But watching the World Cup come and seeing all (the fans) come out and get pumped for a group of the best riders all across the world . . . and then watching all the American fans like pouring in to watch high level racing . . . I love that. I love traveling as a group whether that’s with a group of Americans or North Americans or as a group of world riders. I love that I've been able to get into that realm, right. I would say it is a small community, but it's also growing and opening up. And I think that that’s something that I worry about as much as I worry about anything else - is that we don’t close off (the sport) to anyone.
I I want it to be open. My personality is very open and so, when someone’s coming into the sport, I really do try to create an environment at my camp, at my tent that allows people to look over and be a fan. I always relate it to like a college football game. I hope that there's the party after and its fun, because I want to do fun stuff too. I want to go and be a spectator at an event (where I can) hang and have some beers with my buddies and watch really good racing. I think we are getting there as the level of American cyclocross is coming back up after Tim Johnson retired and Ryan Trebon has come back from injury. Stephen Hyde and Jamey Driscoll are coming up having great seasons and other guys are coming in, so it's making the racing exciting again. I think that that’s something that’s really important for cyclocross in that people get pumped for rivalry and get so pumped they have to come out to see it.
Yeah, a long winded response, but the truth is it's been cool. We still have a lot of work to do and we still have problems like any sport. I think that hopefully, everyone can all come together as a group and we can all see a longer macro version of this thing happening and we can make good choices to continue to have it grow. That's my philosophic view.
AS: You have your new video series coming out which is great. I think you will get high viewership, because people are generally interested in what you’re doing and the way your life looks like while you’re out there on the road. Tell me more about the series and why you felt it was important to produce.
JP: I want to see these stories (of the athletes and races), so I've always had a really tough time with the media. I feel like there's some really great racing that’s happening that we’re not capturing. I've just seen it decline, and I would say that that’s the biggest red alert for me right now - is that Velonews, Cycling News, Cyclocross Magazine, no one is at the races. There are no reporters physically at the events right now. That’s obviously really dangerous for the sport because the fans can’t be a fan of something that they don't know is happening and we don’t have any coverage. We have very little coverage and that was what Behind the Barriers TV was really striving to create. Not to be too negative, but we are in a bit of a state of emergency with that.
So that’s really where the video series comes out of it. I don’t feel like, "Oh my gosh I have to keep promoting," but my sponsors and my partners and my fans want to be a to be a part of my racing but they can’t because there's not enough intel or coverage. I'm trying to be an athlete first and foremost, but I'm also trying to make sure that these great battles, stories, and experiences are translated.
I'm a fan of a lot of things, and I've always seek out that type of content and then been inspired and pushed by that. So, I just put myself in those shoes, and I realize that people want to see that whether I think it's cool that I hung out in my trailer with my dog. That’s how that project came. I knew that Behind the Barriers TV wasn’t going to exist, and that I would love to do something.
AS: A couple of quick hitter questions for you. This one could be either very easy for you or very challenging. Favorite bike route?
JP: Oh Gosh. The one that I do the most is (the same one we use for) our charity event. It's called the "Grand FUNdo," and that is probably my favorite ride that I do back home here in western Massachusetts. It's got a lot of climbing, a lot of beautiful dirt roads, a lot of nice scenery, a lot of nice like vistas that go up real high and you can look out on the valley.
I have a nonprofit called the "Jam Fund” with my two good friends. Last year had a little over four hundred people come out, and it was a beautiful day of riding and food. We just have a great day, so I would say that my favorite training ride . . . to just enjoy that ride and be out there in my favorite place . . . where I live and train, which is here in Western Mass.
AS: Favorite bike you've ever ridden?
JP: It’s probably the Focus (Mares CX) that I'm on. It's a really beautiful blend of practicality and technology, so it makes sense for a ton of applications. It has a really comfortable geometry, and it's a really great fit for so many different reasons. It seems kind of boilerplate but that's the truth. That's what I do most of my time on, and that's the bike that I really enjoy the most.
AS: If you had to focus on another cycling discipline, which would you choose?
JP: Ah...well, since I have such a short attention span and being a total A.D.D case, I’d probably try B.M.X. to be completely honest. I think that would be fun for me, and I would love to try it out. I secretly want to compete in a couple B.M.X. races before I'm done with my racing.
AS: That would be awesome. If you aren’t on your bike, what are some other ways you like to enjoy the outdoors? You mentioned hanging out with the dog (named Moose) and going on hikes.
JP: Yeah, sometimes we just like to ride our bikes in town, grab lunch or just hang out by the river. Just to have the sun hitting your face and enjoy a sandwich . . . ahhhh . . . with the dog or without the dog. I love sometimes just doing yard work, because it's kind of like meditation in a way. You're not thinking about the ninety emails are or to do lists. So, sometimes I just do yard work or just sit on the hammock to just relax. I don't find a lot of time for myself. I work a lot and stay really busy. So, anytime that I feel the mood change where I want to take a break and decompress for a minute, I usually jump on the opportunity. I'll hang out on the porch with a beer. I'm a bum like everyone else, but I also... I very very seldom find myself doing that.
AS: Any other parting thoughts?
JP: If anyone that's reading this hasn't been out to a cyclocross race, then get out to one. There are tons of small races, and you don't need a cyclocross bike per se. Take your road bike, put some knobby tires on it, and go out there and experience it for yourself.