Friday, October 3, 2014

Jesse Kerrison Interview: Breakout 2014 season and looking forward to 2015

I've decided that if I want to keep this blog growing that I'll need to start doing a bit more ground work so I've decided to start bringing you some interviews. The first rider that took the bait was Australian Jesse Kerrison, Budget Forklifts star young rider who is destined for BMC Development in 2015. If you don't know about Kerrison, he made a splash on the Asian circuit by taking a stage win in the Tour of Taihu Lake, albeit by a DQ by Alois Kankovsky from a 4-lane chop in the sprint. It was no fluke as he finished with 7 top 5 finishes in Taihu Lake and another top 5 at the Tour of Nanjing. Kerrison is unknown to many because he didn't follow the most traditional route onto the road circuit. Kerrison started as a track sprinter but then slowly, after getting his ass handed to him many times, transitioned over to track endurance.

He transitioned to a full road calendar with Budget Forklifts in 2013 where he was a first year nobody that was keeping up in the sprints, including stage wins in the Tour of the Murray River and the North Western Tour. Following his Asian sojourn, Kerrison set out three goals for his 2014 season: 1) to start winning stages in the NRS 2) win the Tour of the Murray River overall and 3) improve his results from Taihu Lake. He checked off the first two boxes by winning 8 stages in the Australian NRS including 2 stages each at the Tour of the Murray River, Tour of the Great South Coast and Tour of Gippsland as well as snagging the overall of Murray River, where he overhauled race leader Brenton Jones after winning the final criterium in Yarrawonga.

While Kerrison experienced a fantastic season in Australia, he also had an eventful trip to North America. Originally not expecting to get the call, Kerrison was chosen at the last minute but he said, "I went over a little bit underdone as I struggled to find my feet in the first couple of races." While he had a few bunch kick opportunities in the GP Sageunay, Kerrison was still positive about the experience. "Once Beauce came around, I actually felt the strongest I have ever been. Without any chance for GC myself,  I dedicated myself to my team leader (Tim Roe)." Kerrison's hard work led Roe to an 8th place overall and it showed him that his progression had been paying off and "that is pretty much what I need to keep doing if I want to have a career in this sport."

Kerrison believes that this work ethic is what is going to get him through the tough times in Europe next year with BMC Development. "I'm not entirely sure how long my manager (ex-Finnish pro Joona Laukka), my coach (Ian Melvin) and Rik (Verbrugghe) had been talking but Rik contacted me mid-tour and from there it went fairly smoothly." Asking if his teammate Tim Roe, who rode on BMC and BMC Development in years past, was any help in the process, Kerrison said, "I'm sure he asked Timmy if I would be a good fit for the team or not. I guess I'm lucky Timmy likes me!" Kerrison is quite grateful having Roe on the team as he has been a great friend and mentor through the year.

Asking how he feels about the shift to Europe for next year, Kerrison conceeds that "it will be a huge change of scenery for me. The races are longer, harder and different to the racing in the NRS and with my track background and shorter racing distance, it will be hard (to transition) but I like to think that I'm a hard worker so hopefully I'm able to handle the challenges thrown at me." Kerrison does believe the NRS is a great development platform but he said, "there is definitely an emphasis on crits and sprinting throughout the season and while that is great for me, there is perhaps too much of an emphasis on it and I would like to see longer, harder stages. Not only would this make it more exciting for spectators, it would also allow Aussies going over to race in Asia, America or Europe less of a gap to jump." Organizers seem to have been taking the hint in terms of the courses and Kerrison hopes that within the next few years, there will be a surge of Australians overseas.

While Kerrison has his sights set on Europe and a big-time pro career, he is aware that cycling is a fickle business and a long career is not guaranteed. Kerrison is currently studying for his Bachelor's in Sport Development with the end goal to become a teacher. "While I'm only part-time" Kerrison said, "studying and training can conflict begin to conflict together. Even though it can make life difficult, I definitely think it is the right thing to do in the long run as you never know how long you'll be able to compete in this sport. Unfortunately crashing and the unstable nature of our sport is something we have to live with. So having a backup plan isn't a bad thing."

The next time you will probably see Kerrison will be at the Tour of Taihu Lake, which is one of his big goals of the year to go even better than last year. The way his sprint has been, I wouldn't be surprised if he bags multiple stage wins. I'll be interested in seeing how Kerrison transitions to European racing with BMC Devo but Verburgghe has done well in developing his riders. Cycling is a fickle thing sometimes but Kerrison seems to have a good attitude to get it done on a higher level.

I'd like to thank Jesse for his time for taking some questions. Some of the quotes were edited for clarity. Also, as not to plagiarize, some of the background info for this piece came from an interview Jesse did earlier this year with Jono Lovelock.

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