There’s a well-worn path to Belgium for top American cyclocross racers hoping to hone their form and technical skills during the holidays. Jamey Driscoll, second at 2017 U.S. nationals, chooses to go to the Arizona desert instead.
“To race Europe well and not do it out of a little Europcar and eating peanut butter and jellies, you got to have some resources over there and spend some money,” he said. “We don’t think there’s much to be gained. Whatever race intensity you could get, there’s four days of travel and the lag from travel.”
Despite the allure of racing in Belgium’s biggest races, Driscoll felt the benefits of an overseas campaign wouldn’t match the cost. He hasn’t gone to race the Kerstperiode holiday races since 2009. Instead, he spent two weeks training in the McDowell mountains outside of Scottsdale.
“At first when they moved nationals, I struggled with the prep, but last year I got it figured out,” he said of the early January timeframe. “Hopefully, I can do that again.”
Driscoll is hoping the Arizona sojourn will kick-start his form for a run at nationals. “I was not exactly where I wanted to be most of the season. I felt like I was close but not quite there with the fitness,” he said.
The 31-year-old won the first day at the US Open of Cyclocross in Boulder, Colorado and was second both days at SoCalCross in California. Other than that, he’s finished off the podium in UCI races.
Fortunately, Driscoll has found fulfillment beyond race results in the last year. Fatherhood presents challenges for an elite athlete, but that doesn’t bother Driscoll.
“That’s an incredible part of my life,” he said of his one-year-old daughter. “It’s so much more and so much better at the same time. It’s totally worth it, you just adapt.”
Plus, he has another youngster in his life, under-23 U.S. champion Lance Haidet, who is also on the Donnelly Sports team. He says Driscoll helps him with the intricacies of race craft — pre-riding, how to anticipate course changes due to weather, diet, and even injuries.
“Jamey is super-knowledgeable,” said Haidet, who was 12 years old when Driscoll finished second at Kansas City nationals. “He’s gone through it all.”
Driscoll narrowly missed out on a Stars and Stripes jersey on a snowy track in Hartford last year. To repeat that silver medal result (or go one better), Driscoll needs that Arizona form, but he is also doing a little rain dance ahead of USA Cycling cyclocross nationals.
“I’m kind of hoping some of that snow that typically smashes Tahoe comes a little east and dumps some in Reno too,” he said at Pan-American championships in Louisville.
He is known for diesel-style racing — riding consistently and gradually clawing back competitors on muddy, technical, and heavy cyclocross courses. “That was an awesome race. I just love those conditions,” he says, remembering the 2017 championships. “It’s just a totally different skillset. It’s very challenging to train. You can’t really replicate a bunch of frozen ruts.”
Having watched defending national champion Stephen Hyde (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) finish top-15 at two World Cup races in Europe at the end of December, Driscoll knows he’ll face a stiff challenge in Reno.
“Those World Cup results were very impressive,” Driscoll said.” Getting really good results at each of those shows a very good depth of fitness.”
However, Driscoll says he is feeling strong, rested, and excited for another turn at national championships. He is also looking ahead to next season’s national championships, which will move back to a late-December timeframe. This should make it easier for a rider like Driscoll to prepare and perhaps quell any concerns about missing Kerstperiode.
“I’m definitely stoked about it,” he said. “It might even change up how you prepare — just come in super-hot into September and hope you can ride out the fitness, just race/recover. There won’t be any gaps in the schedule.”