Lewis ranks among nation's best

Jeff Birchfield • Jan 22, 2014 at 7:40 PM

Jordan Lewis has gone from being one of the best in the area to one of the best in the nation in a relatively short time.Lewis, a freshman at Daniel Boone High School, recently placed third in the 15-16 year-old age bracket at the USA National Cyclo-Cross Championship in Colorado.Introduced to cycling by his father Jason five years ago, the 15-year-old Jonesborough resident started out racing mountain bikes. He soon progressed to road racing. In cyclocross, he found a sport which combines elements from both types of racing as well as other challenges like physcially picking up the bike and carrying it over obstacles. He also found the perfect area to hone his skills with the local MSG Cyclocross events that promoter Dwyane Letterman put together at places like Winged Deer Park and Farmhouse Gallery and Gardens in Unicoi.“We had two races at Farmhouse this past year, and it was the first time I got to race in the Pro 1-2 (category),” Lewis said. “There are some pretty fast people who come from Asheville to race, and there are fast people here. It was good competition to get me ready for nationals.”That experience paid off for Lewis at the national championship. A report in Cyclocross Magazine told how his strong finish enabled Lewis to take third place away from Oregon rider Cameron Beard. It stated that Lewis took the some of the downhills more aggressively than any racer and he took the riskiest lines with a pose reserved for European Pros.Lewis made up five seconds on Beard during the final section of the Boulder track before passing him.Ohio rider Spencer Petrov won the race with home track favorite Gage Hecht taking the runner-up spot. For Lewis, his third-place effort was a significant climb in the national standings. The previous January, he finished 14th in the national championships in Wisconsin.Like many of the other top finishers, Lewis participated in the USA Cycling Cyclo-Cross Development Camp in Montana this past summer.Lewis, whose victories this season included the North Carolina Grand Prix, also competed in this area’s best known road race. Back in June, he was a Category 3 rider in the 30-mile Roan Groan, which starts in downtown Elizabethton and ends with an eight-mile climb up to Carvers Gap. In addition, he raced in a criterium through the streets of downtown Johnson City.“Road racing is good for me for the endurance,” he said. “The crits, they help you corner a bit and it helps you work your power, accelerating out of turns and all that.”Besides the rider using his physical skills, another part of the equation is the equipment. With three focus cross bikes from Hampton Trails in his arsenal, Lewis is like a race car driver working with tire pressures, tread combinations and other adjustments for maximum speed and handling.The sport also shares common traits with another form of racing. The positioning and jousling at the start of a cyclocross race is much like a the holeshot at a motocross event.For Lewis, this is part of the learning process of how to be aggressive without going too far.“At the start of a cyclocross race, it gets pretty intense,” he said. “You see elbows, people leaning on each other. It gets kind of sketchy sometimes.”Before going back to a full cyclocross schedule, Lewis plans to race with his feet. He is running track for Daniel Boone this spring where coach Len Jeffers has plans for him to compete in some middle distance races like the 800, the 1-mile and the 4x800 relay.A former middle school cross country champion at the Trailblazer Invitational, Lewis sees the running as a big help to his cyclocross efforts. His biggest strength, however, seems to be his control of the bike. It particularly shows up when the conditions get at their worst. While others dread the rain and the mud, Lewis thrives in it.“I’m better in the mud because I have better handling skills,” he said. “Some races have long stretches of sand like in Louisville this year. I can handle the mud and the sand that most people can’t. That helps me out.”Upcoming goals include going to Europe next season with the U.S. Cyclocross team, and challenging for next year’s national championships in Texas. Beyond that, he’s already looking forward to 2016. As a member of the Asheville Bicycle Racing Club under coach Joe Coddington, Lewis is well aware that year’s national championships are to be held on the famed Biltmore Estate.He said, “To have the 2016 nationals in Asheville, to be that close to home, that’s pretty exciting.”

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