To see Jeremy Powers race ClifBar CrossVegas last year was to see a man possessed. He was flying up the short grassy climbs and destroying the downhills at the Desert Breeze Soccer Complex en route to his first win under the Las Vegas lights.
He was good that hot night in Vegas. But was he too good too early? Maybe.
Powers (Rapha-Focus) started last season hot, winning three of four U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross stops before mid-October and finishing seventh in the World Cup opener, but faded as the year pressed on. He was unable to defend his national championship as Jonathan Page (Fuji) took his fourth national title, and the world championships, held on his home country’s soil in Louisville, Kentucky, saw him unable to stay with the world’s best, finishing 25th. It was a race for which he’d chased points all year, flying to Europe four times, but one in which he fell flat.
This year, he’s trying to take it easy in the season’s run-up, and find his razor form a bit later.
“Summer’s been real good. I don’t have complaints, you know? It’s been a really good year,” he said. “I feel like I’ve done a lot less road racing, just from life, you know? I got married, and some of the racing early on didn’t go well because I got such a nasty virus after last year, in February, so it sort of wiped me out.”
Powers raced the inaugural Tour of Alberta last week with his road team, Jelly Belly-Kenda. He cranked up the intensity of his training in August and went on the aggressive in Alberta to build toward his most important season, the one of mud and frozen agony.
“It’s been really good for me,” said Powers. “I think I’ve got a different build than other years, and I’m not coming in as over-ready as I have been in the past. And I think that’s a good thing. I think I’m a couple weeks behind where I’ve been before at this time of the year, which is something I always try for, but with all the racing I’m doing on the road usually, I come in flying and it’s something I’ve had a hard time preventing.”
Asked if he came in too hot last year and perhaps faded late because of it, Powers was honest.
“Yeah, definitely … I’m not going to lie to myself, either,” he said. “I think that I had a strong year all around, I think I did good races all year. I think it just was harder as the season got longer to continue to hold onto it and be able to count on it, as I could in the past. And that’s something that I think — it was one result here, one result there … I basically feel as though I won before Vegas then all the way through the end of the year, so I was proud of it, but like you say, it was definitely more touch and go.”
This year, he’s hoping for consistency above all. That, and only winning every race he targets. “I want to have a great year, start to finish. And I think I’ll pick my battles more wisely. Last year I really chased a lot of points, and was flying back and forth from Europe. I lost something between,” he said. “I look forward to trying to put together a great season. Last year, one or two results here or there, I think I would have had what I would have called my perfect season. I’m still looking to do that again and to stay focused throughout and try — just really try to make a season where I’ve won every race that I wanted to win.”
His Rapha-Focus team will make two trips to Europe this season, down two from last year, when Powers was chasing points to earn a high starting position for the world championships. He’ll target the major U.S. races, among them the new USA Cycling Pro CX series.
“There’s quite a nice overall in the Pro CX now, with USA Cycling coming in,” he said. “I think that’s real exciting. So I would like to focus on those races in the post-USGP world.”
As far as those to watch, Powers will keep a close eye on the usual suspects.
“I think Jon Page is going to have quite a bit of renewed interest, obviously being national champ. Ben Berden (Raleigh-Clement) I know is going good I know. Jamey Driscoll’s got a new team (Raleigh), so for sure he’s riding well … obviously, Ryan [Trebon](Cannondale) is always going to be a big threat to me in terms of my No. 1 guy. I think he’s the most hungry, and we’re pretty evenly matched when it comes straight down to it, just depending on the track,” Powers said. “There’s a lot of Europeans coming over for these early season races. Sven [Nys] (Crelan-Euphony) is going to be in Vegas, and he’s world champ. I’m waiting for the stories — there’s going to be some good stories.”
How the story of 2013-14 ends for Powers, we’ll have to wait and see.