Ben Jacques-Maynes of the Bissell Pro Cycling team, took time to answer some questions on a beautiful and sunny January day, a lucky break between the rain soaked and stormy days that populate the first two months of the year in Northern California. Jacques-Maynes was at the Hellyer Velodrome to help out fellow cyclists in their quest to attend the UCI Track World Cup, get some training in and enjoy the local cycling scene.

While 2007 was seen by some as a breakthrough year for Jacques-Maynes, he sees it as "just a more consistent year. I've won stage races in previous years, I've on stages of stage races in previous years, I've been up in the GC of stage races. I just was kind of forced to always do it, so it's the pressure of the team, pressure I put on myself, opportunities to use good form and then just one hundred percent motivation."

About training on the track and being his own coach

Given our locale, the conversation started off with a discussion of training on the track. Jacques-Maynes had some early aspirations with regard to track racing at the beginning of the 2007 season but then had to focus on the road season. "I had a good run at racing the track in the middle of the year and then the stress of the road racing and having a baby really just killed all impetus to want to race period and to want to go through that hard in December."

Ben Jacques-Maynes at the trackTo pursue any dreams of racing track at the international level, Jacques-Maynes discovered that he needed a lot more experience. "I need to learn the technical side, the gearing, the gear in general, learn how to use a track bike to the best of my abilities. For what I was doing so far, I mimicked my road position, I had 175 cranks so that I could jump back & forth between the road bike and the track bike easily. I'm now learning that I need to actually race a track bike as a track bike and that's going to be a totally different position, a totally different training regiment and if I can try to put that together over the next couple of years, really learn it, I might try it again."

He uses training on the track to get his intervals in, to learn some new tactics and for speed work, as track training brings "just a little bit more speed, a little bit higher end of the race." In 2007, every good session on the track was followed by a win at an NRC stage race the following week. While Jacques-Maynes wouldn't attribute the wins directly to this training, but the track "definitely helps when I have good form putting power on top of that. Obviously that makes a difference when it comes down to a finale on the road."

For many years, Jacques-Maynes has been his own coach, using heart rate and then power for training and "obviously it's working so can't complain."

Jacques-Maynes worked with coaches for three or four years, learned from them and "ended up doing a bunch of my own workouts and alter the training they were telling me to do with greater success so I was basically not getting enough training load and I basically started doing my own thing."

He was quick to point out with a chuckle that "I couldn't do that for anybody else and I'm probably not interested in doing coaching as a business or as any kind of endeavor. I barely have enough patience for doing my own training."

Looking back at 2007

Jacques-Maynes' intentions were announced at his first race in February by finishing third in the Tour of California prologue. He would have worn the leader's jersey after the first stage if not for a decision made by the race commissaires. A huge crash involving about fifty riders, including then leader Levi Leipheimer, occurred as the peloton passed the finish line to begin the second of three finish circuits but Jacques-Maynes avoided the pile up and finished safely ahead of the field. Typically, when crashes occur within the final 3km, an automatic same-time designation is set for the riders, but this exception ruling was based solely on the commissaires' discretion.

Fans express their opinions on the second stage of The Tour of California 2"Tour of California was the real start of me getting pissed off riding my bike, you know I wanted to prove to people that I would have deserved to hold that jersey and to prove that I would have been a deserving leader. "

"And then from that point on, it was fight from behind as leader of an underdog team, take it to Health Net, take it to Toyota, get some glory away from them whenever I could."

Jacques-Maynes took the first spot in the National Race Calendar (NRC) standings early on in March 2007 by winning the Central Valley Classic, the third race on the calendar. He held on to the lead for the following five months by finishing in the top five of the many events such Redlands Bicycle Classic, and Mt Hood Cycling Classic.

Jacques-Maynes took a break in his very long season, to welcome his second child, a daughter named Chloe born at the end of July. During this period, he lost the top position in the standings.

After 36 of the 40 events on the calendar were completed, Jacques-Maynes retook the NRC lead soon again in early August, and held on until the final race of the season. One day after riding in an early-race breakaway at the USA Cycling Professional Championships in Greenville on Sunday, Jacques-Maynes placed 30th in the field-sprint finish of the 62-mile U.S. 100K Classic in Atlanta. On the final 2007 NRC standings, he placed second, trailing Australian Rory Sutherland (Health Net presented by Maxxis) by 39 points.

Tour of California Time TrialWith a few months since his last race, Jacques-Maynes looked back at his 2007 year. "A lot of second places, good podium places, more wins than I've had. I can't complain about the consistency I had. In past years, I'd shown up and wanted to get a couple of top 5 NRC races. And I was top 5 at just about every single one I did if I showed up good or bad, whatever point of training, I had to perform. Really I was sort of dragging by the end of the season."

"It felt like a year of good performance, but almost could have been, who knows that much better performance. And what that that has really done is put a lot of fire in me."

About his brother

2007 was also marred by the horrific crash of his twin brother Andy. On Memorial Day, after brutally hitting a lamp pole, Andy Jacques-Maynes was evacuated via helicopter and diagnosed with multiple serious injuries, including a bruised lung, bruised ribs, and a broken collarbone.

Jacques-Maynes is very proud of and admires his brother for not only recovering from this horrendous but coming back to win the the Masters A 30-34 race at the National Cyclocross Championships in Kansas City, after a second broken collarbone in the fall.

"I saw the amounts of pain that he was in in the hospital after that he couldn't sleep in a bed for three weeks, he slept in a chair because he couldn't lie flat. He had to wear a back brace for sever weeks straight, it's something I wouldn't wish on anyone and just going through that period... it takes a huge amount of mental fortitude to get through that. Now to get through that with a thought of racing again, and persevering to come back that's ... it's something I'm very proud of Andy, his ability to do that, I'd call it heroic."

He is inspired by his Andy to work hard. "Just like everything that Andy and I have done on a bike together, when he has success I'm happy for him one but I know I can do that too. When he beats me, I know I can be that good, so it's kind of double fold win, so it gives me confidence that I know I can work that hard. If he can work that hard, I can work that hard. Hopefully not having to come back, just to keep on going and want to keep on doing this sport."

About his team

Jacques-Maynes is embarking on his second year with the team, with Bissell stepping up as the primary sponsor last September, and appreciates the management style of the team owners, Cheryl and Mark Olson.

"The Olsons are successful business people, they are not washed up bike racers who want to stay in it, they know how to run a business, they know how to take care of people, they say what they are going to do and they do what they say. From everything - from initial contact to negotiations to racing for them through the year to re-negotiating contracts - has been above board and very refreshing. Having dealt with cycling hijinks for years. It's really nice dealing with people...they don't have favorites, they treat everyone on the team with respect, it doesn't matter who it is, and they demand results too, they want you to go out there and perform, they're very happy when you do and when you don't they let you know about that too. It's realistic, it's got a good business model period and it's well executed. "

Jacques-Maynes hopes to stay with the team for years to come. "I had a two year contract and they threw that out and gave me a new two year contract. They're good people. At least two more years and preferably longer."

Stay tuned for part two where BJM shares more of his thoughts on his team, on his goals for the 2008 season and the state of American cycling.