Massachusetts man is king of cyclocross

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff  January 17, 2012 09:00 AM

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Jeremy Powers

Jeremy Powers won the US cyclocross championship earlier this month. (Keith Snyder photo)

He's a superstar in his sport, and stars in a reality show. When not hanging out with his girlfriend, he's spending time training with other pro athletes, traveling all over the country to compete.

No, we're not talking about Kris Humphries on Keeping Up With The Kardashians. We're talking about Jeremy Powers, otherwise known J-Pow, who stars in his own reality series, Behind the Barriers. As of Jan. 8, heís the new reigning King of US Cyclocross, after winning the Elite Menís race at the National Championships, arguably the biggest race in US cyclocross.

With two laps to go in the eight-lap, hour-long race, Powers, who is from Easthampton, Mass., made the decision to split from a group of the five strongest riders in the country and fly off of the front, holding his competitors at bay to cross the finish line unchallenged.

He crossed the line on Sunday with one arm raised in the air, and the other covering his face. He rolled over to hug his longtime girlfriend, and the cheering crowd watched as the two cried with happiness. It was an emotional moment, and even interviewers who surrounded him were choking back tears.

What is cyclocross, exactly? For starters, itís one of the fastest growing cycling disciplines in the country.

"It's referred to as the steeplechase of cycling," Powers said. "It's always about an hour-long race. It's very fast; it has a lot of corners. It's typically raced in the winter, typically in muddy, cold conditions that make for pretty epic racing on a closed circuit. It's good for spectators, since they can see us slogging by, so it's much easier to enjoy, it's more of a festival."

Becoming the highest-ranked American cyclocross rider in the world and a two-time US Grand Prix of Cyclocross champion, as well as an accomplished road rider, was a long time in the making. Powers, 28, has been racing professionally for eight years, and is currently with the Rapha-Focus cycling team. Before going pro, he distinguished himself as a junior with a World Cup win in 2001.

The victory at the nationals, however, was more important.

"It's the one victory that eluded me for the last ten years. I'd been second and third lots of times, but didn't get the win for a lot of reasons: crashes, illness, or someone just being one percent better," he said. "It was really, really special ... dreams do come true, and I had been dreaming about it for so many years. I'd been trying to crack my own DNA and find a template that works. On that day in Madison, Wisconsin, to actually do it, I was very emotional."

In cycling, pros often compete in the same races, albeit different categories, as amateurs.

"Cycling is really unique to fans: people can come up and shake our hands, it's really close. It's like tailgating a football game for that hour of racing, but instead of being in the parking lot, you're right on the field with all the action."

And yes, there's beer.

Powers has high hopes for the future of the sport.

"I think the future is that we get some coverage on TV to showcase the events and sponsors. And World Championships being in the US next year is going to be big. So I do see the trend in cyclocross in the US growing."

Molly Hurford is online editor of Cyclocross Magazine

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