The New England region is known for producing great cyclists, especially when it comes to cyclocross. Riders like Jonathan Page, Jeremy Powers and Tim Johnson have cut their teeth on the New England cross circuit. Jeremy Durrin is one of a handful of riders who are following in their footsteps in hopes of racing at the highest level of cross. We first noticed Durrin when he popped up at a World Cup race in Spain last winter. After a solid road season, Durrin is back at it this fall and has continued to improve.
A week or so before this interview, Durrin won his first UCI race at Baystate Cross in Sterling, MA. The day we conducted this interview, via email, the Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies announced Durrin as part of their 2013 lineup. However, before he joins his new team, he’ll head back to Europe for Holy Week in hopes of making the 2013 US World’s team. Clearly, Durrin is a rider on the rise and it appears that next fall he will be racing cross as a full on pro either with Optum or another high profile team.
For those who don’t know, tell us about how you got started in cycling in general and cross.
I got into cycling after I graduated from high school. I was an avid baseball player in high school and after graduation I didn’t continue with it. I was going to college, and for a year I wasn’t doing any sort of sport. A friend of mine got me a really old Cannondale to use with downtube shifters. I started riding with him, and found myself really into the speed and how hard it was. I bought a bike that next year and started “training” and loving every second of it.
Tell us about your team, JAM Fund/North Hampton Cycling Club. (As previously mentioned, Durrin will join the Optum Pro Cycling team for 2013)
JAM Fund is a team started by Jeremy Powers, Alec Donahue, and Mukunda Feldman in the Northampton, MA area. It started small with a big vision in mind. Luckily I was there when it all started and I was the “original Jammer”. The goal of J.A.M. is to help motivated, young cyclists reach their potential both on and off the bike while not being limited by finances. I met with Jeremy Powers when I first moved to the area to go to school at UMass Amherst. From there, the three founders were amazing mentors for me. Anyone who has known me over the past 4 years can tell you just how much I have developed not only on the bike, but also off the bike. Having good mentors that offer a lot more than on the bike training is very important. They are the reason for my success, and I can not thank them enough.
Last season I was looking at the World Cup start list for Iggore (Spain) I believe, and I saw Jonathan Page’s name then yours. How did that trip come about?
Well, that was a big trip that came about after the beginning of my cross season was going much better than anticipated. I realized that I had some potential in the sport rather quickly, so I had to think about the bigger goal of how to get a lot better and reach the top of the US cyclocross scene. I found fun ways to raise money for the trip like running a sausage tent at my local UCI race in Northampton MA and connected with the Europeans who traveled here to race in the US for the early season, namely Gabby Day. Once I got some basic logistics figured out, I decided to go for it… It was a giant adventure getting to Spain and then up to Belgium afterwards, but looking back they are some of the most exciting memories I have from the trip.
Obviously everything is different in Europe, what was the biggest thing you learned over there racing or otherwise?
I learned a lot about fixing my own bike! haha. But seriously, I learned a lot about technical riding while I was over there. I think at the beginning of my trip I was SO TERRIBLE at technically driving my bike, but by the end I got the hang of it because if you didn’t figure it out fast you get eaten alive in those races.
How did this years road season go?
This years road season was more successful than I could have ever envisioned it. I set a goal of getting top tens in NRC races and winning local races. I completed all the goals I set out for myself. I put a lot on the line by traveling to big races all by myself and competing with some of the best pros in the business. My breakout race was at the USA Crits race in Lake Bluff Chicago where I initiated a breakaway that lapped the field and I finished in second place. Hard work really feels good when it pays off.
You have a full time job with VOmax Cycling Clothing, tell us about the company and what you do there? And yes, I’ll make sure your boss sees this.
VOmax is a clothing company in Northampton, MA that manufactures in the US, 10 feet from my office actually. Its a unique business as its been around for 30 years and is now coming back strong into the mix of the top competitors like Voler and Champ-sys.
I work in marketing running the website, social media, sponsorships… and a lot more. I wear a lot of hats and am actively trying to help grow the company with new initiatives and new and better products. I find the job extremely rewarding when I show up to a race and see a bunch of clubs racing in our gear.
How do you balance a full time job with a budding road and cross career?
VOmax is really cool about letting me have a flexible schedule and taking time off. I work 7:30am-3:00pm everyday. So in the summer I just ride after work…. In the winter its a lot harder and I am not able to ride as late after work, so my riding time goes down unless I want to stomach riding the trainer all the time. In the early season for base, the company usually allows me some flexibility so I can get my 4-6 hour rides in. The more business that I personally bring in, the more flex time they give me! ;-)
Let’s get back to this cross season and the tough questions.
What were your expectations coming into this cross season?
My expectations for this season was to be able to fight for the win in most races that I enter, and to finish on the podium of a New England cross series. I have won a race in Sterling and have numerous second place finishes. So I would say that its going according to plan.
I spoke with Jeremy Powers at Nittany after you guys went one-two and in our conversation he mentioned you as an up and coming rider. How does that make you feel when you hear that?
That feels really good for him to say that about my potential. I work pretty closely with him most of the year (and actually live in the apartment below his that he owns) and for him to say that makes me feel good. It also adds a lot of pressure, as the cyclocross fields are getting stronger and stronger each year so I need to prove him right!
The New England cross scene seems incredibly deep this year, from Powers, Tim Johnson, Jamie Driscoll to Justin Lindine, Dan Timmerman, what has it been like to race against those guys week in and week out?
Its brutal to tell you the truth. Week in and week out you are racing with the best the country has to offer. Its filled with ups and down, good and bad races. But at the end of the day, its very rewarding to even be able to be competing with these guys. 2 years ago I couldn’t have imagined the pace at which I would progress, and now I’m close to that level and it feels really good. When you are competing with the top every weekend, having an “off” day hurts a lot more than it used to when you were competing for mid pack.
What was it like to win a UCI race? Did you do anything different heading into Sterling, or was it just a case of everything coming together?
To win a UCI race was extremely fulfilling and makes me so happy to have finally made it to the top step. I didn’t do anything different before Sterling. I have been playing around with training and trying to find what works well for me. The week prior I had a GREAT week of training on the bike and I was very motivated coming into the weekend. So I think it was just one of those days where everything came together and I was fully prepared for it with the training I did. That course is one of my favorites.
You’re heading back to Europe this week for the rest of the year, what does your schedule over there look like?
I fly to London initially where Gabby Day will pick me and head back to her place in a small village in Lincolnshire. We have a big training block for about 5-7 days before heading across the channel for the first race at Essen, the day before the Namur World Cup. So my schedule is as follows: 12/22- Essen, 12/23 Namur WC, 12/26 Zolder WC, 12/28 Loenhout, 12/29 Bredene, 12/30 Diegem (my favorite race ever).
What did you learn last year in Europe that will help you this time around?
I have learned that not matter what happens in the race to just keep focus and keep racing your race. The races over there are so much more technical than any races in the US that you need to be able to do 60 mins fully focused. Once you lose the “zone” you need to be in when racing, the mistakes come and they come very fast. I also learned that its important to be able to run really fast.
Your teammate Anthony Clark (@tweakn101) is one of my favorite people to follow on Twitter. Is he as awesome in person or more awesome?
He is just as awesome in person, sometimes he is TOO awesome for me to handle that I need to sleep in a different location to him. But yes, he is just as wild and hilarious as he is on twitter. And if you have ever spent any time with him then you will realize that he is genuinely one of the most positive people you have ever met, he’s truly inspirational. But in the likely chance that he is TOO awesome for me to handle, he sometimes has to drive in a separate care than me to races.
You’re girlfriend, Gabby Day, is a pretty good cross racer. Which bothers you more: the fact that she’s better looking than you, or a better cross racer?
I’m not sure that either of those things bother me too much, I’ve come to terms with how she will probably always be a better bike rider than me, and I’m glad she’s better looking than me… It means i’m batting out of my leagues!!. But seriously, she has been having a phenomenal season thus far, I just have to keep her from getting a big head!!! We often joke about how one of us is going to get a really big head because how well our seasons are going, and that will result in us not being able to deal with each other!
Finally, you grew up in Fitchburg, MA, a town that breeds greatness (it happens to be my hometown). Did you get a chance to race the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic?
I did get a chance to race the Longsjo Classic. For two years in a row I had upgraded right before the race. So it ended up being my FIRST pro NRC race when I upgraded to a cat 1 the week prior.. I got smashed, and smashed hard in that race. The next season it disappeared because lack of sponsorship. I have always wanted to race it when I am fully ready for it. Jumping in to the cat 1 field at the NRC level is not very advisable. But yea, Fitchburg breeds greatness, and a lot of other things as well but we won’t get into that here.
Thanks a lot Jeremy and best of luck in Belgium. Hopefully we can grab a beer or something while you’re over there. For more on Jeremy, visit http://jeremydurrin.com/ and/or check him out on Twitter (@Jerm_Durrin).