By Neal Rogers
American Ben Jacques-Maynes is quietly having a strong Jayco Herald Sun Tour. Riding in his second Sun Tour, the Bissell rider finished 10th on stage 2, making the crucial 13-man split with 30km remaining before he lost contact with the leaders and ceded one minute. On stage 3 he finished 14th, two seconds behind the winner, and sits ninth overall. A strong time trialist, BJM could vault himself into the top five, or even on to the podium, following the 10km stage 5 time trial Friday.
VeloNews’ Neal Rogers caught up with Jacques-Maynes prior to the start of stage 3 in Warrnambool while standing under an awning, waiting for a rain shower to pass.
VeloNews: Let’s start off with this rain. What does it do for the morale when it’s raining a half-hour before the start? It’s one thing when the rain starts out on the course, but another when it’s raining before you even roll out.
Ben Jacques-Maynes: We were expecting it. It was supposed to be like this all week. If it actually pours on us all day, then we’ve already avoided two days of it, so, we’ve already had a good run.
VN: It sounds like you’re a glass-is-half-full kind of guy.
BJM: You have to be in these kinds of conditions.
VN: On stage 2 we saw the strongmen of the race come to the front. Tell me about that right-hand turn with 30km remaining that shattered the front group.
BJM: I was on the radio with (Bissell team director Eric Wohlberg) just pleading with him for turn information. We were riding straight into a block headwind, and you’ve got to turn at some point, and that’s going to be the race right there, you could see it. I knew about the corner, and I was trying to spread it amongst the guys as well as I could. We hit the corner, and it was already game over for most of the group.
VN: So how can a rider be sure to make the split in that situation?
BJM: We were literally riding 18kph into a 50kph headwind. You just fight your way around and put yourself into as good a position as you can. It was a big fight to get there are super-slow speeds. It wasn’t a big lead-out or anything like that. Whoever bursts around last with a good run is going to be up there. But then half of those guys blew the wheel in front of them because the crosswind was so strong. A guy literally skidded out of control, off the road, into Cody (O’Reilly), and took him into the gravel, right in front of him. It was chaotic. Mayhem. I don’t know if people saw it as the race-defining moment, but the people who knew… you see Garmin moving to the front, you know what’s going to happen. I fought for position, got there, and still had to close a huge gap.
VN: You had to close the gap after the right-hand turn?
BJM: Yeah, because guys were crashing right in front of me. I pulled into the second echelon, as soon as I got to the front I dropped back to the gutter, went as hard as I could, and I just barely made it.
VN: How different is this style of racing from what you’re used to in the U.S.?
BJM: It’s radically different. There wasn’t a single attack yesterday. The only splits were just from people riding hard in a crosswind and people unwilling, or not able, to pedal hard anymore.
VN: It’s a more European style of racing, it looked like Belgium in March.
BJM: I’m sure there would still be attacks in European racing. But it’s definitely hard, and the people with legs were stepping out.
VN: What are you looking at for the rest of the week? You’re sitting in ninth overall, and we all know you can time trial, but Garmin is looking in control of the GC. What sort of position does that put you in?
BJM: I’m not expecting too much, with the legs that I’m bringing into October. It’s been a long season. I started racing in January. I’m hoping for the best, the legs come around, and I can at least get through the days fine. I’m looking forward to the time trial, more because it’s only 10km instead of 160km. You look forward to short days like that because of all the rest you’re going to get. But then Saturday the 60 U-turns is going to be hellacious as well, even in the best of conditions. (Saturday’s circuit in Melbourne has four sharp U-turns per lap, and 15 laps.) If it’s raining on Saturday, you’re going to have a front group of 10 or 15; in great conditions, maybe 30 or so.
VN: How do you see the rest of the race playing out for GC?
BJM: It will probably be a big fight between Garmin and Fly V Australia. I’m in 12th right now, that doesn’t count for much. We’re third team right now, and that shows that we’re riding well. We don’t have as much to defend to defend. If we had two guys in that front group, that would have given us some cards to play. Right now I’m going to be a bit defensive, go where the lead group goes and try to follow on the climb today and in the crosswinds the next few days, and we’ll see what it looks like after time trial.
VN: (Fly V Australia’s Jonathan Cantwell) is not known to be a climber, Zajicek lost a minute on stage 2, Ben Day lost four minutes and Wiggins and Tuft appear to be two of the strongest men here. Do you really see a scenario where Fly V can still won the overall?
BJM: It’s going to be a big push to overcome a team such as Garmin. Chris Sutton is riding well, Svein is always strong and Wiggins is really impressive how much horsepower he is laying down. On top of that they have a strong support team, but Fly V does as well. Now they have Ben Day at their disposal to ride, and that is a huge card to play. That could be the deciding factor, the depth of the Fly V team. I would suggest that they might be deeper in their ability to ride all day. The Garmin kids are strong guys, and nothing against them, Alex Howes is leading the KOM after riding the front all day. We’ll see how that showdown goes. If Garmin takes over the top, I can see them keeping it. But Fly V has a fair chance to hold on to it as well.
VN: Zajicek said it was an impressive push yesterday when Wiggins bridged across from the group of nine with Sutton on his wheel. How did that look from where you were sitting?
BJM: Yeah, it was like a motorbike just taking off on us. He chucked us in the gutter and people were just trying to hang on for what they could. Then we turned into a headwind again, and he just kept going the same speed.