Pro-view Stage 8 with Optum’s Jesse Anthony

Apr 17, 2014
Category: Rider Interviews  Cycling Tips 

28-year-old Jesse Anthony of Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies is riding into his prime as a professional cyclist. The spiritually-inclined former cyclo-cross champion has a refreshingly healthy and balanced outlook along with an affable, down-to-earth nature, but don’t let that fool you. He’s a fierce and potent all-rounder who has won big stage races in the past (Nature Valley Grand Prix). Training for his fourth Amgen Tour of California start where he will be one of Optum’s leaders, the Newton, Mass. native now calls Thousand Oaks, Calif. home. He rides the challenging Stage 8 circuit several times each week thus he is the perfect person to provide insight into this year’s final stage.

ATOC Insider: What do you think of the Stage 8 circuit?

Jesse Anthony: The Thousand Oaks circuit on Stage 8 of the Amgen Tour of California is one of the hardest circuits that we will race all year. The Rockstore climb on Mulholland is the iconic, marquee feature of this course; however the rolling climbs after the Rockstore climb will most likely be the most painful part of the course. Overall, the circuit is a really outstanding course to race on, and will definitely provide an exciting finale for the ATOC.
Insider: How difficult is the Rock Store climb for a pro like you?  

Anthony: The Rockstore climb is just as difficult for me as it is for anyone else. I will still have to go as hard as I can and dig super deep just to stay in the group. The thing that will make it so hard is the caliber of the peloton at ATOC. With Tour de France contenders racing against each other and using the ATOC to gain fitness, it will hurt plenty just to try to stay with them.  
Insider: Since you were a downhill daredevil at age 3, I’m betting the Westlake Boulevard descent doesn’t scare you. Any advice on how to handle the tight, off-camber corners? Do you use your brakes?  

Anthony: Actually, I’ve never been a downhill daredevil and descending is a challenge for me, at least on pavement.  I would be happy if every descent we did was on dirt, but those are rare. Thankfully, I’m very familiar with the Westlake Boulevard descent as I ride it 3-4 times a week. In training, it’s a great section to practice cornering because it’s so twisty. The biggest difference in the race is that we will be able to use the whole road. I’m not used to being able to apex all the corners properly as I always have to stay on the right side of the road so in the race it will feel like a completely different descent. That bottom section with the steep off-camber will be really tricky. Hopefully everyone will respect how gnarly that corner is and nobody will get hurt. The most useful trick I use when navigating scary descents is to stay loose. I wiggle my hips and shoulders, take a few deep breaths, and try to get a good song stuck in my head.  Also, making motorcycle noises and envisioning a Moto GP racer helps me get down the hills fast.  
Insider: Where do you think the winning move will take place on that circuit?

Anthony: I have a feeling it will be a small group sprint at the end of the race, but I would not be surprised if a break does stay away either. If a good group gets away after the Rockstore climb on the last lap, they have a good chance of making it. It will depend on how many sprinters make it in the peloton the last time up Rockstore.  
Insider: Will you be pre-riding any of the other courses ahead of the Amgen Tour of California start? If so, which ones? Will you be doing anything specific to train for ATOC?

Anthony: My team and I have ridden the Sacramento course, the Mount Diablo stage and the stage from Pismo Beach to Santa Barbara. I have also checked out the Mountain High finish, and I will try to ride the Santa Clarita to Pasadena route before the race as well. I always train with the ATOC in mind, but I am trying to show up to every race this year with the best fitness possible. I have been on a steady build since February, so I’m hopeful I’ll continue on an upward trajectory all the way into May.  
Insider: Where does ATOC rank in your goals for this season?

Anthony: ATOC is one of the biggest races that my team will do all season. In that regard, I am focused on bringing my best game to this race. We have some really talented and capable riders on Optum p/b KBS so I am really motivated to help bring success to the team.   
Insider: With all the traveling you do during the racing season, how much riding do you get to do in California? Where is your favorite place in the state to ride?

Anthony: I live in Thousand Oaks, California full time now so I get to ride in California all year long. I really love the riding out here and I chose to live in Thousand Oaks primarily for the riding. It’s incredible and I am so blessed to be able to live in a place like this. I don’t mind a trip to NorCal now and then.  
Insider: What are your favorite city and/or place to visit in California?

Anthony: I love Santa Barbara and anywhere on the Central Coast. Napa County is awesome, Marin is really cool, and of course Truckee and Lake Tahoe are rad as well. This whole state has so much to offer. I really enjoy traveling all around California!  
Insider: You seem spiritually grounded. How does that help your cycling?

Anthony: My faith really enables me to commit fully to my racing and training. I know that God has me racing bikes for a reason so I apply myself fully to this opportunity He’s given me. I know that when God wants me to do something else in my life, He’ll direct me there. For now, I am so blessed to be able to race bikes professionally, and I strive to fully appreciate this time and live my life to the fullest.