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Breakaway mates Driscoll and Jacques-Maynes each got their start in cyclocross

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Cyclocross fans surely recognized half of the riders in the Amgen Tour of California’s stage 2 breakaway Monday; both Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) and Jamey Driscoll (Jamis-Sutter Home) have hovered near the top of the U.S. ’cross scene in their careers.

Jacques-Maynes, 33, was the 2000 national under-23 champion; he represented the U.S. at the 2000 world cyclocross championships in Sint-Michielsgestel, Netherlands.

Driscoll, 24, was the 2003 junior national cyclocross champion and was national collegiate champion in 2006 and 2007. He was also the 2009 collegiate road champion. During the winter months Driscoll races for the team. He finished second at the 2008 national cyclocross championship, and was the surprise winner of the 2009 Cross Vegas UCI event.

For initiating the breakaway — which drew out Lazlo Bodrogi (Team Type 1) and Timon Seubert (NetApp) — Driscoll was awarded the race’s most courageous rider jersey.

“That was my duty, to try and get in the break,” Driscoll said. “There were four of us on my Jamis-Sutter Home team designated to do that, and it was my rotation that was in the move that stuck. Today was a classic, formulaic sprinter’s stage, so I knew it was almost certain the big sprinters’ teams would reel us in.”

Jacques-Maynes bridged across a short time later.

“It was an opportunistic little thing,” Jacques-Maynes said. “I got a little gap (from the field) over the crest of a hill, did a death tuck on a descent and just coasted into it. It worked out nicely. I knew it was going to be a sprint finish, but it was a chance to give Bissell some time in the sun, to get some publicity.”

While the 2011 edition is Driscoll’s first, Jacques-Maynes is no stranger to the Amgen Tour. A Berkeley native who lives in Corralitos, near Santa Cruz, he’s raced in every version of the Amgen Tour. He placed third in the San Francisco prologue of the 2007 edition behind Levi Leipheimer, and the following day was the victim of a commissaire’s decision to neutralize the GC timing on the stage after a crash held up a majority of riders on the closing circuits in Santa Rosa. Because he had been ahead of the crash, Jacques-Maynes would have assumed the race lead; instead, Leipheimer, a Santa Rosa resident, retained the leader’s jersey.

Jacques-Maynes finished ninth in the Solvang time trial at the 2008 Amgen Tour. At the 2009 Nevada City Classic he took second behind Lance Armstrong in what was the Tour de France champ’s only road victory of his recent comeback. Jacques-Maynes placed second overall at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, in 2010 and again this year. Both times he missed the GC win by a matter of seconds.

Looking forward to the rest of the race, Jacques-Maynes said he’d love to feature in a breakaway again, ideally near his hometown, meaning either on stage 4, which finishes in San Jose, or on stage 5, which begins in Seaside.

“I have a little asterisk next to those stages, but I’d like to get into a break on any day, really,” Jacques-Maynes said. “I just want to race my bike hard. I’d love to get a decent result in the time trial, but I’m not going to pin everything on that. We’ll see what happens.”

Jacques-Maynes and Driscoll have never raced cyclocross against each other — however, as Jacques-Maynes said, “Once a ’crosser, always a ’crosser.”

Driscoll’s collegiate tenure at the University of Vermont officially comes to a close this weekend. He’s skipping his graduation commencement — he majored in mechanical engineering — to race his first Amgen Tour of California.

“I was checking online, and I passed all of my classes for this semester,” he said. “I do not have my diploma on hand, but I should be graduating. I would rather have the jersey than a cap and gown.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.