The name Jacques-Maynes is well known to the North American cycling scene with 30-year old Ben Jacques-Maynes being a force to be reckoned with, but twin brother Andy took a different road to the pro ranks.
Andy followed on the weekend warrior working a 'desk' job as a product manager with Specialized and racing with the top amateur team, California Giant/Specialized team. Following a horrific crash on the last corner in a race on Memorial Day 2007 where he went straight into a lamp poll, Andy decided to rejoin the pro ranks. And he did, he is ready to kick ass with brother Ben on the Bissell Pro Cycling Team.
I talked to Andy the day before he was flying out to the San de San Luis in Argentina to get some racing legs under him and to learn to race with a new team.
You came up through the collegiate ranks racing with Ben, you started off in the pro ranks and then you basically decided to give up pro racing to go into a 9-5 job. Why did you make that decision?
AJM: What it really was is that I just had such a good offer from Specialized, that you just can't say no to. I had studied mechanical engineering in college and I wanted to use my degree at some point and just not pedal hard. Specialized is a big company and they offered a pretty high up position so it's just one of those things where just comes along and you can't say no.
You were there for 3-4 years while at the same time kept on racing cross and road as an elite (amateur) rider.
AJM: Actually, I was even pro for one year with Webcor who was the sponsor for our domestic road team. So I kept racing at the elite level and part of it was just do enough riding to do testing and stay on top of what was going on in the marketplace, that was kind of my job, that was working out really well.
So what did you bring as a pro cyclist to being a product manager at Specialized?
AJM: Just a knowledge of what worked well and what didn't based on personal experience rather than... a lot of product managers build it from feedback from shops and product groups and those people tell you what is selling well now in the marketplace whereas if you come at it from a rider's perspective then you can say what feels better when on the bike. It's a little bit different perspective and I think that was a big thing that Specialized was into and we did pretty well with that. My own opinions about what I liked about bikes and what I was looking for, and the bikes were selling well, so it worked pretty well.
Did being a product manager helped your racing in anyway or was that completely separate?
AJM: Pretty separate, more like a side hobby for me that was compatible with my job. I was able to ride enough to stay in good shape. Especially for cross you don't need a whole lot of training time but you do for the road, I was definitely limited to one-day races and short races and that was it.
[On Memorial Day 2007 Andy Jacques-Maynes crashed straight into a lamp poll at a race in Morgan Hill, CA. He was helicoptered to Valley Medical Center in San Jose with multiple serious injuries that included a bruised lung, several fractures to the rib connectors to his thoracic spine, several m-plate fractures (connector to the vertebrae), both of his clavicles & scapula.]
The fateful day in May 2007, you had your horrific crash in Morgan Hill. Do you remember anything about the crash?
AJM: I remember seeing two laps to go and the next thing I know I'm on the ground probably five minutes after my crash. So I don't remember anything of it at all.
Is that good?
AJM: Probably, otherwise I'd be freaked out every time I turn right. I have no flashbacks of it because I have no recall of it, which is probably fortunate.
You did hit your head too?
AJM: I whacked everything that could be on my left side. I had a lot of bruising and the whole upper left side of me, my shoulder, my back was just turned to mush basically.
Andy Jacques-Maynes one month after his crash.
Tell me about your journey back to racing, especially as you came back pretty quickly as you were at the Cross Nationals in December.
AJM: That's seven months afterwards and every day seemed very long so it didn't seem quickly for me but it was mostly a matter of... I was really focused on getting better, first when I was in the hospital and then when I was just lying in bed at home. That was my only focus 'okay I need to feel better' and then you gradually start recovering and feeling better and then I wanted to keep that going and when you're so low you notice results quickly so you're really encouraged. So I was able to keep momentum going and I realized that 'oh yeah I like focusing on this', just the physical improvements. And that's a big part of what training is for racing, is getting better, working on what needs work and seeing improvements and so it felt really natural to me. It felt like I was just going back to my old tricks when I was training for races so it didn't seem all that foreign.
Were there any low periods that you were just tempted to quit and not get back on a bike?
AJM: Yeah, I had a couple of races where it didn't go as well as I had hoped and I was just 'oh what am I doing' and there were a couple of times, especially early on in my recovery, it wasn't constant improvements. I had a couple of steps backwards as well and so those were not very fun when things get worst 'oh I thought things couldn't get worse, I thought it was crappy enough as it was' but low & behold, it can get worst (chuckles) So you push through it and persevere, keep going, trust that it is going to get better, that's all you can do.
Were there any thoughts from your family or your wife that maybe you shouldn't get back on the bike?
AJM: Well, I crashed six months before my wedding and that was a big incentive to get back into racing. It was because with my job at Specialized, I was away from home a lot, so a big motivation, for me, was to be home more for Josie to spend some quality time together and that would mean changing careers so 'oh okay, I can race' and that was an option for me and I did.
That's interesting. With pro racing you are more home than your 'desk' job was.
AJM: Yeah. Because I was traveling extensively for Specialized, I ended being away from my desk about 50 percent of the time. It added up pretty quickly.
In December 07, you showed you were back when you won the Master 30-34 National Cross Championships. What did that victory mean for you?
AJM: Last December, I barely squeaked it out. I never got into the lead until the last 150 meters so it was (chuckles) it was so barely squeaking it in and so for me, it was 'oh I was just made it'. It was just such a huge sense of relief and obviously I was incredibly elated that I pulled it out. It was a goal that I set back when I was lying in the hospital, like 'I can come back and I can try to win my masters age group Masters Championship' and that was a motivation for me to get better, to keep improving when I was so bad. Because you just sit there and feel sorry for yourself and it's no fun. And so actually pulling it off was a big relief because I was putting pressure on myself for it and then, yeah it really felt good to be actually able to pull it off.
You mentioned that you decided to try and return to the pro ranks during your recovery. I only heard about this during the 2008 season.
AJM: I wasn't able to secure a pro contract for last year but I was concentrating on racing and nothing else just as if I was professional. So doing nothing but training, eating right, going to races and racing as best as I could. So I was one hundred percent concentrating on it, it was my job that is all I was doing. Because I was racing for an amateur team, I would say maybe we can call it an internship or something like that (chuckles).
So you quit from Specialized at the beginning of 2008?
AJM: I quit from Specialized in August 2007. I never went back to my work after the crash. I took a leave of absence and once the leave of absence was up, I decided I didn't want to return and I just quit.
Wow, that's a lot of major decisions at the same time.
AJM: You're telling me. (laughs) Getting married, quitting my job. There were a few times where we had to make the bills and both me and my wife were like 'that wasn't the smartest thing, we're not making any money now'.
This is personal but huge accident, huge medical bills, how do you cover all that?
AJM: Luckily I had really good insurance from Specialized and then there's also the secondary insurance from USA Cycling because it happened at a bike race. There's a $3 insurance surcharge at every single bike race for every single person. I actually made a claim with them, I'd never known anybody who has actually used this but okay I'll use it. And then, we were taking donations to help offset costs and it ended being something like $5,000 out of pocket that I owed, that wasn't covered by insurance or anything else. But when you think about, just the amount of the total bill, it was $25,000 for the helicopter ride. it was $85,000 for the hospital and then I had two surgeries on top of that plus tons of scans, x-rays, catscans, MRIs, every else for followups afterwards, physical therapy for four months, it added up big time.
So $5,000 out of pocket is relatively small. Well relatively.
AJM: They could have billed for maybe $120,000 - $140,000.
I guess we could call the $3 a good investment.
AJM: Yeah, finally it worked out.
Well sort of. In 2008, you went back to full-time racing. How hard was that? Not that you are old, but were you concerned about being too old to come back?
AJM: Yeah, I was definitely aware of my age, especially when some 22 year old guy beat me, I was 'goddammit' but part of it is that I've done just about every race in the country so I know all of the courses, I know all the racers, I know what it takes and also my brother being so successful, I can look at him and I say, 'oh if he can do, I can do it', or at least be close to that and so that really motivating for me as well. It gave me confidence for those times when I wasn't going as well as I wanted to or 'I know I can improve, I know I can get better' so let's just go about doing it.
Was it harder than you thought it would be – getting back into it full time?
AJM: I'm still improving now, it's been a long, long road. There's still lots of room for improvement , just like any racer does. I've been doing it now steady for almost a year and half and even know I'm still getting better and better so... my brother and I just rode up the final climb of stage 2 at the Tour of California, going up Bonny Doon road, and he dropped me towards the top, he was 20 or 30 seconds ahead of me on a half hour climb and so, for me, it's 'okay I can still get better'. Even when we were racing professionally in 2003, he was a better climber than me so it's not like I can expect to really be as good as him in all respects but I know there's room for improvement and I can just keep plugging away at it and try as hard as I can and that's all I can ask of myself.
AJM back at racing cross in December 2007
Stay tuned for part 2 where we talk about his 2008 cross roadtrip, the 2009 season and his brother Ben.