BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — You sense him before you see him. The energy oozes from his pores, he walks with the confidence of a three-time national champion in the heart of his prime and performing at an extremely high level. He is meticulous at every turn, down to the decaffeinated almond milk cappuccino he orders.
As the 2015-16 season gets underway, reigning national cyclocross champion Jeremy Powers (Aspire Racing) is at a crossroads and attempting to find a happy medium.
Roughly a decade ago, Powers went all-in on pursuing the dream of becoming a professional racer. In 2004-05, he lived and raced in Belgium full-time, both road and cyclocross, building his experience and the mental strength that comes with racing in cycling’s heartland.
“I got my head blown in,” Powers recalls. The grind of living in Europe got to him, and he almost didn’t make it. A brief return home for cyclocross nationals nearly became permanent.
“My mom had to bring me to the airport and literally put my ass on the plane. But I made it back over there and finished the world championships.” That trip has led him to where he is today.
Powers enters this cyclocross season having won just about everything there is to win in the U.S. ‘cross scene. At 32, he is in the prime of his career, and the clock is ticking on his goal of claiming a top-five finish in a World Cup.
Is another full-time European stint in the cards for him? Most likely not.
“I don’t think so,” Powers said about living in Europe again. “I have said it a couple of times, but I never say never.”
The sacrifices needed to live in Europe full-time are extreme, and while Powers is making certain sacrifices this year, he is not going to relocate. A more-intense European racing schedule will see him doing more than just the World Cups this season, but it translates to a potential three trips across the pond during the condensed six-month cyclocross season, a task not for the faint of heart.
“I think that I will race potentially all of February in Europe if I feel good mentally again ,” Powers said. “And potentially, there could be some more time during the Christmas block if I feel I have good form.”
Despite the complexity of his schedule, the extra European races revolve around the World Cups, and this puts Powers at ease. He doesn’t have to commit and can race when he wants to by listening to the signs his body gives him.
An increased European schedule allows him to compete against the top riders, but on his terms, not having to deal with the culture struggles that come with living in Europe full-time. Ultimately, another year in Europe seems unlikely, but Powers was not definitive, “Things change all the time. In a year I could look at this and be like, ‘I was in a different headspace,’ but right now that is how I go.”
Changing the script
While Powers contemplates the European racing scene, there is an outlier in the upcoming season, CrossVegas. The race under the lights in the Entertainment Capital of the World, will turn the tables, and for only the second time in Powers’ career, give him the home course advantage. The Europeans will deal with the struggles of competing in a foreign place — aside from those who were at Louisville worlds in 2013, many have never raced in America, unlike Powers who is in Europe year-in, year-out.
Despite the confidence that comes with a World Cup on home soil and the flexibility in his schedule, Powers comes into the season unsure of how he will perform, having completely reworked his off-season regimen.
Powers brought in Robby Ketchell, sports scientist and data analytics expert currently working with Team Sky, and together they mapped out a revamped offseason. “I would say I changed things more than 50 percent, so that’s a lot,” Powers said.
“I did a lot more core and strength work, and I feel that has definitely paid off. Between that and the diet changes I have made, I feel I am in such a better mental place than I had been in the past.” The New England native will come into this year the heaviest he has been in a while, but not due to too many desserts in the off-season. His summer plan included increased gym work resulting in three new pounds of pure muscle.
“I would say if you are not changing things up then you are staying the same,” Powers said. “I could totally lose every single race, and I might not win a single race this year.
“My point is that if I didn’t change things up, then I would never know, and it’s kind of my little journey here to keep pushing myself.”
Powers heads into the unknown this year, having reshaped his body and training plan, and tackling a tougher European schedule. The sacrifices have been made and will be made, but Powers won’t know the pay-off until the light turns green in Las Vegas.