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Ben Jacques-Maynes, the reluctant king of Colorado’s mountains

DENVER (VN) — Wearing a USA Pro Challenge leader’s jersey can be a heavy burden.

Would any rider in the peloton turn down a shot at the yellow, green, or polka-dot shirts if they had a chance? Unlikely, but once you put on that special piece of kit, responsibilities shift.

Just ask Ben Jacques-Maynes, winner of this year’s king of the mountains (KOM) competition at the Colorado tour. He won’t even admit that he’s a climber, saying, “Absolutely not, no. I mean, I’m an opportunist. I like riding the breakaways, going hard.”

However, after finding his way into the early break on stage 1 and collecting 13 points in the KOM competition that day, the 35-year-old had to find his climbing legs in the thin air of the Colorado mountains.

“You saw in the first day, you know, [I was] attacking and trying to make a good race out of it,” said Jacques-Maynes. “You know the KOM jersey came out of that. I played it day by day, and it was … each day, if the opportunity was still there, I would keep going for it. Fortunately, it didn’t go away. Just had to keep on persevering.”

And persevere he did. The Californian found his way into the 12-man break on stage 2. He scooped up second-place points on McClure Summit on a long, rainy stage. Then, he cemented his lead in the stage 4 breakaway.

At the race’s conclusion in Denver, Jacques-Maynes said, “It got harder and harder. Luckily I made the breakaways on some of the shorter circuit races. Those did suit me quite well. The shorter, punchier climbs are something I can excel in a little bit better. And the long day into Crested Butte, that was a great opportunity to solidify the lead.”

It wasn’t his first KOM jersey — Jacques-Maynes won the classification at Tour of Utah in 2012 — but it still forced a shift in priorities.

For instance, in Colorado Springs, on stage 4, he had, what appeared to be a golden opportunity, to ride with Jens Voigt in a daring last-lap breakaway. Instead, the Jamis rider eased up after winning the KOM and drifted back to the chase.

“No, I knew I had to keep on planning ahead for the rest of the week,” Jacques-Maynes said of the stage 4 break. “I couldn’t go all in for one opportunity and not be able to have the legs to defend later. From the very beginning I was metering my effort, you know, planning ahead for the next day, and being able to ride a breakaway if the opportunity presented itself, and sprint at the top of mountains if I had the legs to do it. I had to take care of myself in order to make that happen. All of a sudden you stop thinking about GC time, you start thinking about what’s it gonna take to keep on sprinting at mountain tops. It’s not riding with the front group, I can tell you that.”

Is he prepared to challenge for KOM jerseys again?

“No, this is terrible,” Jacques-Maynes said. “This is really hard work, I’m really happy it paid off. If the opportunity presents itself, I won’t shirk away, but I wouldn’t recommend it.”

Instead, the 13-year journeyman looks ahead to more of the aggressive breakaway riding he’s known for.

“Getting up on the podium is a great opportunity … whether it’s a most aggressive jersey, a KOM jersey, a sprint jersey, whatever the opportunity presents itself, I’ll go for it,” said Jacques-Maynes.

“I’m pretty much done for the season,” he said. “I’m very happy.”