Jeremy Powers celebrating pro cyclocross retirement with 10th Anniversary Grand Fundo

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  • Professional cyclocross champion Jeremy Powers stands amid a collection of bikes he has used over the years, Thursday, July 11, 2019 at his home in Southampton. He has announced his retirement and is celebrating on Saturday at the JAM Fund Grand Fundo which gathers at Glendale Ridge Vineyard in Southampton. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Professional cyclocross champion Jeremy Powers holds a baseball bat from his 2013 national championship in Louisville, Thursday, July 11, 2019 at his home in Southampton. He has announced his retirement and is celebrating on Saturday at the JAM Fund Grand Fundo which gathers at Glendale Ridge Vineyard in Southampton. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Professional cyclocross champion Jeremy Powers holds a jersey from his 2018 national championship in Reno, Thursday, July 11, 2019 at his home in Southampton. He has announced his retirement and is celebrating on Saturday at the JAM Fund Grand Fundo which gathers at Glendale Ridge Vineyard in Southampton. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Professional cyclocross champion Jeremy Powers holds a Fender Stratocaster guitar he won in his 2015 national championship in Austin and a jersey from his 2015 Pan-American championship, Thursday, July 11, 2019 at his home in Southampton. He has announced his retirement and is celebrating on Saturday at the JAM Fund Grand Fundo which gathers at Glendale Ridge Vineyard in Southampton. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Professional cyclocross champion Jeremy Powers holds a sweater made for him by Rapha Clothing with four stars representing his four national championships, Thursday, July 11, 2019 at his home in Southampton. A red star on the back of it symbolizes his Pan-American championship. He has announced his retirement and is celebrating on Saturday at the JAM Fund Grand Fundo which gathers at Glendale Ridge Vineyard in Southampton. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Professional cyclocross champion Jeremy Powers, center, stands with Alec Donahue, left, and Mukunda Feldman, Thursday, July 11, 2019 at his home in Southampton. He has announced his retirement and is celebrating on Saturday at the JAM Fund Grand Fundo which gathers at Glendale Ridge Vineyard in Southampton. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Professional cyclocross champion Jeremy Powers shines a trophy from the 2014 Boulder Cup, Thursday, July 11, 2019 at his home in Southampton. He has announced his retirement and is celebrating on Saturday at the JAM Fund Grand Fundo which gathers at Glendale Ridge Vineyard in Southampton. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Professional cyclocross champion Jeremy Powers holds a guitar pick bearing his nickname, Thursday, July 11, 2019 at his home in Southampton. He has announced his retirement and is celebrating on Saturday at the JAM Fund Grand Fundo which gathers at Glendale Ridge Vineyard in Southampton. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Professional cyclocross champion Jeremy Powers, of Southampton, rides at Nonotuck Park in Easthampton, Thursday, July 11, 2019. He has announced his retirement and is celebrating on Saturday at the JAM Fund Grand Fundo which gathers at Glendale Ridge Vineyard in Southampton. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Professional cyclocross champion Jeremy Powers, of Southampton, rides at Nonotuck Park in Easthampton, Thursday, July 11, 2019. He has announced his retirement and is celebrating on Saturday at the JAM Fund Grand Fundo which gathers at Glendale Ridge Vineyard in Southampton. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Professional cyclocross champion Jeremy Powers holds magazine covers featuring him, Thursday, July 11, 2019 at his home in Southampton. He has announced his retirement and is celebrating on Saturday at the JAM Fund Grand Fundo which gathers at Glendale Ridge Vineyard in Southampton. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 7/12/2019 7:02:19 PM
Modified: 7/12/2019 7:02:07 PM

NORTHAMPTON – Jeremy Powers pined for an exit.

Injuries and illness derailed the opening section of the Southampton resident’s final professional cyclocross season in 2018. A serious infection closed off his throat. He couldn’t breathe. It took over a month to recover

His body hinted he should stop racing. Powers also wanted to spend more time with his wife, Emily, and their infant son, Finn.

“I was looking all season for a way to get out. My body was telling me things, my family was telling me things,” Powers said this week, seated at a Woodstar Cafe corner table. “I felt this big pull to step away from it, as much as I love it.”

He could have easily stopped before last season. Aspire, the professional cyclocross team Powers owned, folded after the 2018 UCI Cyclocross World Championships because key sponsors dropped out. He’d just fought through a year of injuries in the 2017 season to finish second at the 2018 USA Cycling national championships in Reno, Nevada, after a pitched battle against his former mentee, fellow Easthampton resident Stephen Hyde.

“It’s painful to see how much disaster and agony one goes through to make that happen. For so many people, you look at that and go ‘Why?’ Why are you going through so much to do it?” Hyde said. “To understand Jeremy and to understand an athlete and a competitor, it’s often very irrational. It’s what makes him great. He never wanted to be mediocre, even at the end of his career. He wanted to go out on his own terms.”

Powers asked himself if that ride in Reno was the end. Should he come back for another year or put on the brakes?

“I played with that for a while, should I retire and just call it good?” Powers said. ” I wanted the opportunity to do one more season, solo though. Just one mechanic and me going in a van to the races.”

After fighting through last season’s infections and injuries, Powers eventually found his fitness and form. He raced at the front over the final few events and reached the 2018 Ruts and Guts podium in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in December. Powers, then 35, finished third behind 20-year old Gage Hecht and 23-year-old Curtis White.

“Being on the podium with the next generation meant a lot to me that I could still compete at that level and I’m choosing to step out,” Powers said.

Powers, 36, announced his retirement from professional racing April 23. He started as a presenter for Global Cycling Network in June focusing on cyclocross, gravel events and road racing. Powers recently returned from France, where he was part of the network’s coverage of the Tour de France showing some of the stage finish locations in the Alps.

“Getting a job in the industry, I’m very lucky to have that - the ability to go on and do TV stuff within the industry is unique and not necessarily a given,” Powers said.

His last race was the Tour of the Battenkill, a gravel ride in upstate New York in May. As a racer, Powers won four cyclocross national championships during his career, including three straight from 2012-15, and a Pan-American continental title in 2015. He took first in more than 90 UCI races and enjoyed a 10-year road racing career with the Jelly Belly team.

“I’ll leave really content with everything I was able to do,” Powers said.

Racing the cyclocross World Cup circuit in 2014, Powers placed ninth overall in the final season standings, the first and only American to finish that high.

“That’s the big sharks,” he said.

He took sixth at CrossVegas, a UCI World Cup event, earning his best result at that level.

“I was staring at the podium, I just didn’t get there. When you reach the top level of a sport you understand it’s not all about hard work at some point. There’s a bit of luck that needs to happen, but also you’re racing against the best riders in the world,” Powers said. “Unfortunately there are some guys who are more talented, they have a bigger engine or they’re born with something different. Maybe my ‘win’ is sixth place. I don’t know if I could have done better than that.”

As much as he did on the bike, Powers may have benefited American cyclocross more off it. He promoted the sport through his web series, “Behind the Barriers,” which documented the day in the life of professional cyclocross riders starting in 2009.

“He got so many eyeballs on the sport and on our corner of the sport with American racing and Americans racing in Europe,” said Ellen Noble, a professional cyclocross racer who was on Powers’ Aspire team before it folded. “I don’t think anyone’s been able to touch the impact of what Behind the Barriers did. That was so cool because it showed everyone how much personality there was in cyclocross. It’s been untouched in terms of reach.”

Powers realized fairly early in his career that if he didn’t promote what was happening, no one would. He turned a lens on all aspects of the sport: racers, fans and venues.

“A lot of people made fun of me. A lot of people didn’t enjoy the show and they were never going to be fans of mine, and putting myself out there only adds fuel to that fire,” Powers said. “That’s a huge hurdle to get past. Once I got past that, we had a big tidal wave in the US from not only that but the momentum of the sport in general. It was a beautiful time in my life to be a part of something and feel like I had a small piece in growing it.”

Around the same time in 2009, Powers started to give back in another way. He started the JAM Fund with his friends Alec Donahue and Mukunda Feldman to help support young racers. They had to call it a “fund” because they didn’t have enough money to start a foundation.

“We started JAM fund when we were still broke. I was driving around in a 1990 Chevy Caprice,” Powers said. “It’s about giving away a little bit of what you have to someone else so they can have it.”

The organization, which gained 501(c)(3) non profit status in 2011, is “a comprehensive year-round program with a mission to lower the financial barriers within the sport of cycling and to develop athletes,” according to its website. It offers grants in addition to coaching and other technical resources to help cyclists become professionals. Hyde, andNoble graduated from the program and became pros along with other national- and world-class riders like Jeremy Durrin, Jack Kisseberth, Rhys May and Scott Smith.

“Only now in a bit of retirement you can look back at how special it was what we were able to do on a modest budget with just good intentions,” Powers said. “You don’t do it for any other reason than you want to help, you hope for a good outcome.”

The JAM Fund will host its 10th annual Grand Fundo ride Saturday at 8:30 a.m. starting at the Glendale Ridge Vineyard in Southampton. “Fundo” is a play on the Italian Gran Fondo, which features a competitive environment and community aspects like a post-race meal.

“People ride it hard, but it is not a race. Making it a race definitely changes the vibe, but non-competitive rides don’t get a lot of people to come out to them,” Powers said.

Registration is still available online for one of three loops: its 72-mile Classic Fundo Loop, a 45-mile mini loop or the 69-mile adventure loop that features more technical riding. On-site registration will be available Saturday.

“By design it is our yearly fundraiser and our biggest. Long-term we’d love to have a piece of property that we dedicate to cyclocross and the programs,” Powers said. “Cyclocross is really the thing we think we can have an impact on and that’s what our focus is. The JAM Fund and the Fundo really are a passion project.”

Between working with the JAM Fund and Global Cycling Network, Powers has stayed involved with the cycling community. He still rides 12 hours a week but isn’t as fit as he once was.

“This is going to sound really crazy, but I’m like five pounds heavier,” Powers said. “I actually just feel healthier, more energy. Being with my son is busy. That energy goes to different places.”

He’s not even ruling out a return to racing – the difference is he won’t make a living from it.

“I don’t think I’ll ever stop riding,” Powers said. “Cycling’s one of those things you can go the distance with.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylgrbwsk.


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