An interview with Jeremy Powers
Jeremy Powers is one of the most inspiring figures in cycling. A four-time US national cyclocross title holder, charismatic leader and champion of talented youngsters, Rapha is incredibly proud to have sponsored his team for the past seven years. During that time, the popularity of cyclocross in North America has skyrocketed, thanks in no small part to Jeremy. Following the announcement that his Aspire Racing team is ending, we spoke to him for a final word. Thank you J-Pows.
Hi Jeremy, can you tell us how the Rapha-Focus team started out?
I remember the first call from Slate Olson (then Rapha Chief Marketing Officer) about the opportunity, and I was so excited for this new brand to support me. Slate sent me the beautiful Classic Softshell Jacket, the one with the zippers under the armpits, and I went to my group ride and everyone was like ‘oh my gosh dude, that is so nice!’. That was 2011, when there wasn’t that kind of clothing being made. Shortly after that, we started putting everything together with the other sponsors and it was very clear that they were going to go above and beyond. There wasn’t a limit to what they would give to allow me to be my best.
Are there any memories from the last seven years that really stand out?
I have great memories of my first national title in 2012 because Slate and Scott Ritschoff (then CEO of Focus Bikes) were coming to the races and were there that day. I was under immense pressure at the time. I hadn’t won a national title my whole career, so I was very, very nervous. I remember the embrace with those guys after the finish line and thinking ‘how pretty is this? You guys are putting money and energy into this and together we did something really special.’ The idea that their support allowed me to be my best was something that I’ll forever be grateful for.
There are so many great memories though, like when I won CrossVegas. It was 2012, my first year as national champion, and I won that race with conviction. There were a lot of big European riders there, such as Lars van der Haar and a young Wout van Aert, and I was really proud to win that as national champion in a beautiful new kit.
What have been your favourite Rapha products and kit designs over the years?
My favourite Rapha product is the Pro Team Jacket. It has a windfront with a stretch back and I love doing intervals in that because you can warm up and cool down in it really easily. Then there are the thick merino leg warmers, neck warmers, thermal bibs… Things like that just make your day so much better.
As for the kits, my favourite year was 2012. I had a white short sleeve national champion’s kit, and a black long sleeve version. I just thought that it all looked really cool, and Oakley did custom glasses to match it all up. It was super pro.
You’ve long been involved in developing the talents of younger riders, most recently your teammates Ellen Noble and Spencer Petrov. Why is that?
When I realised that my goal of reaching the podium of a UCI World Cup or world championships wasn’t realistic any more, I looked at people like Ellen Noble to do it. Giving Ellen that platform and formula to get on the podium of a World Cup [which Ellen achieved for the first time in September 2017] is what I love: people helping other people be their best. As humans we always look out for ourselves, so my moments in racing mean more to me than say Ellen’s, but man, they’re close. I remember the feeling last year when I was out riding and getting text updates saying that Ellen might win the U23 world championships. All I could think was ‘oh my gosh, this is insane!’
What does the future hold for J-Pows?
It’s a little undetermined. I really did try to win nationals this year [Jeremy came a close second to Stephen Hyde]. That was my focus, and if I had done it I could die happy. But whether I win four or five titles, it doesn’t really change anything. I will always ride my bike, and it will be my passion forever. Whether or not I end up with a job in the industry, or start something locally in town, or I end up coaching a couple of riders, it’s all open – I don’t have something concrete starting March 1st. I haven’t signed any contracts and my options are completely open. I’m just waiting to really see which doors open after this announcement. I may race another year, and if I do it’ll be mostly domestic, based around the national championships.
Any last words?
I am just extremely grateful. All things end, and that’s a beautiful time to reflect and be grateful. And gratitude is all I have. Rapha made it possible to have stories for my kids to watch on the internet. Unlike other riders I never looked at a sponsorship and thought ‘what can you do for me?’, I always looked at it as ‘what can I do for them?’. I realised that Rapha were giving me the opportunity to chase this thing, so I really do have a big sense of gratitude, and an ability to live out a bunch of my dreams. I want to help people, do rides, learn, meet people and to be a part of something that meant a lot to a lot of people is what makes me smile every day.
A statement from Head of Rapha North America, Hillary Benjamin:
“Rapha feels incredibly honored to have been a part of such an impactful, successful and fun group of people. We’ve been a part of Jeremy’s extended family for almost eight years and they’ve represented us and our brand incredibly well. I think everyone is well aware of Jeremy’s long list of successes, and accomplishments with Aspire Racing, including national titles, world championship medals, and world cup podiums. And let’s not forget Ellen Noble’s and Spencer Petrov’s remarkable ascendance.
But even besides these amazing achievements, we’re more honored to have been a small part of this team’s indelible contributions to the sport of cyclocross. As we reflect on what has been a truly amazing ride together, we’ve mutually decided not to continue our partnership into the 2018/2019 season as we are exploring other ways in which Rapha can continue to invest in the US cycling and racing scene. Of course we wish Jeremy and the crew at Aspire Racing nothing but continued success and happiness.
When this program started in 2011 it was built to be a power house, and to be a part of the emerging and exciting community of cyclocross. We believe we accomplished that – and so much more – through this partnership. We love the riders and staff who we’ve worked with over the years. We consider them friends and know that our relationships will extend well into the future.”