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Neilson Powless

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Neilson Powless is a newly-discovered comet just entering cycling’s solar system. And like other surprise celestial objects, Neilson’s initial appearance at the Tour of California garnered awe and wonder. How was this fresh-faced, recent high school grad mixing it up with the world’s best in the biggest road race in North America? How does one who only recently gained the right to vote square off against the likes of Peter Sagan, Mark Cavendish, and the rest of the pro peloton, and finish the race wearing the inaugural Most Animal Classification Jersey? [Not to mention the Young Rider’s Classification Jersey.] This is the same classification that, by all accounts, is now more coveted than even the malloit jaune. So what does it take to be the human equivalent of a giant ball of ice hurtling through the cosmos at unimaginable speeds? What does it take to be an ascendant star? What kind of sparkling water do you drink? What music do you listen to? What hopes do you hope? Manual for Speed dares to ask the tuff questions and we hope you have the gumption to read the answers!

TWENTY & THIRTEEN QUESTIONS WITH NEILSON POWLESS

As we understand it you’re addicted to sparkling water, (FYI we call sparkling/mineral water “executive water” #execwater, #gordongekko). Do you have a favorite brand of the bubbles?

I would have to say LaCroix has to be my favorite brand of sparkling water. I’m not sure if there is any specific reason, I guess just because it’s always around. It comes in so many different flavours and my mom normally keeps our garage fridge stocked with a few different flavours all the time.

How would you rate your sparkling water addiction?

I’ll rate my addiction at an 8. When I’m home, I would rather walk out to the garage fridge probably about 30 steps from the living room (that’s 60 steps round trip! A lot for a cyclist, multiple times a day) rather than going to the fridge three steps away inside the house for normal water.

‘I am a turtle.’ Please explain.

Well the turtle is the animal that represents my tribe (Oneida). We have (non-living) turtles all over our house, and my favorite toy as a kid was a turtle for some reason… I guess they’ve just been a presence in my life for as long as i can remember.

Regarding dried mango: do you chili powder? Why or why not?

I definitely do not chili powder. I like mangoes because they are sweet. I can’t travel with real mangoes so I opt for the dried version, but I want the closest thing to a mango, and putting chili powder on it makes it less like a mango…

You like Starbucks, we like Starbucks. What’s your move at the ‘bucks? Do you have a standard play?

Starbucks is good when I travel because it’s old reliable, you always know what you’re getting. If I’m going to Starbucks without eating first, I’ll normally get a slow roasted ham and swiss with oatmeal along with a grande soy milk latte. Soy latte because it’s sweeter than a normal latte, which means after it’s made I don’t have to waste time putting anything else into it. Simple!

What was the most surprising thing about Justin Bieber?

He was pretty much exactly what I thought he would be like. Wearing plain (probably very expensive) clothing, with a surprised, sleepy, look on his face as sixteen dudes in lycra surrounded him and his two gigantic bodyguards. He didn’t say much, other than a half-hearted “Sup” to our Latvian Krists, which soon made him Insta-famous.

What is your favorite Justin Bieber song? Second favorite?

To be honest I don’t particularly enjoy listening to Justin. I guess “What Do You Mean?” is okay since it’s got a decent beat.

When you’re in the cryo chamber during cryotherapy, do you imagine yourself as a fruit, a dessert, or maybe a microwave dinner? If yes, what specifically? If no, what do you think about in cryotherapy?

Walking into the cryo chamber is quite a shock, especially coming from the outside temperature of 110 degrees in Roseville. Any thoughts you have going into the chamber are quickly changed to “How much longer do i have to stay in here for.”

Do you think that maybe you’ll accidentally succumb to cryo-sleep and wake up a thousand years in the future?

That’s an interesting thought… I wonder if someone will try it.

Speaking of the future, what is one thing you hope to see in a thousand years?

I’d like to see people flying. I’ve seen water-propelled jet packs, but those can only be used over water. We can’t be too far away from being able to fly anywhere.

Your mom represented Guam in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Have you been?

Apparently I went to Guam when I was less than a year old, but I cant remember any of it. My mom [Jen Allred, women’s marathon: 36th place in 3:14.45] always talks about how great it is so hopefully I’ll go sometime soon to check it out.

Do you adhere to any of the traditional practices of Chamorro culture? Sniffing the hands of elders? Do you ask for spiritual guidance before entering a jungle?

Haha, no none of that. Although my family and I do adhere to many Native American practices such as smudging and enjoying the occasional Pow Wow.

You were once a practitioner of triathlon. Do you still know how to swim? What’s your favorite stroke? Why?

I jump into a pool from time to time to make sure I haven’t forgotten how to swim, but my arms have grown quite a bit weaker so it’s a bit of a struggle to swim out to the “no swim” buoy anymore. My favorite stroke used to be front crawl, but when I was training with a swim team in prep for XTERRA worlds in 2012, they taught me the correct form for butterfly. Once I nailed that down, it quickly became my new favorite stroke.

Who is your favorite character on ‘Bob’s Burgers?’ Why?

I’ve probably only seen Bob’s Burgers once, and I don’t see myself watching it (willingly) in the near future.

Please respond to the word ‘swagger.’ Does this word conjure a person, an animal, a product, a moment? Something else?

Every time I hear ‘swagger’ I think of the scene in 22 Jump Street when Ice Cube is talking about “Vietnamese Jesus drippin’ swagoo.” That will be one of my favorite quotes for a long time.

Please respond to the word ‘style.’ Does this word conjure a person, an animal, a product, a moment? Something else?

Geoffrey Curran.

Please respond to the word ‘grit.’ Does this word conjure a person, an animal, a product, a moment? Something else?

Simon Antone, my Great-Great-Great-Grandpa, a Native American who was jumped by four white men because he was a Native American. They cut his eye out and left him for dead in the desert. He survived, then went on to kill all four of the men who tried to kill him. My dad had his face painted on his old Harley, and we have a portrait of him in our house.

What meme is currently exhibiting the biggest influence on your life?

Kermit sipping tea. That’s a fun one.

Do the guys on Axeon have nicknames? Can you share them? This can include staff as well as racers.

There are a lot of Nicknames. Many shouldn’t be made public, but a few can. Reed: “Mama Bear” Ruben: “Toro” Geoffery: “Currancy” Chad: “Chad Bag” Eddie: “Luck of the Irish” Will: “Wonderbody” The rest are a secret.

What was the first poster you had on your wall as a kid?

Do you have a song that always puts a smile on your face? What is it?

“I Wanna Be Sedated” by The Ramones. Geoffrey Curran and I sang this song on karaoke; I had never heard it before but he told me it would be fun. I think the background band turned our mics off after twenty seconds when they realized I was just shouting the lyrics after they had already passed on screen.

Is it true that millennials are fed up with social media? If so why do you think that is?

I don’t think all are. Most millennials are fed up because they don’t use it properly. Others try because they want to stay “cool.” Either way there will always be people who refuse to use social media, regardless of age, and I respect that

Sweet or savory?

Savory. Eating sweet things makes me think I’m getting cavities since I don’t have the strongest teeth. Nevertheless, I enjoy both.

Teo’s accent is cool. Do you ever find yourself trying it on?

“Tao”… only if I want to embarrass myself. Hah!

If you could win a race in any fashion, what’s your preferred method and why? Long solo break, outfoxing a small break, riding folks off your wheel on a climb, dropping away from the group on a descent and holding it to the line, or just a good old fashioned pack sprint against some of the fastest dudes around?

Definitely riding away from others on a climb. It seems like the most genuine. There’s no arguing, you were just straight-up stronger than anyone else. But this doesn’t mean I don’t try for all the others. A win’s a win!

Who is the most intimidating/fearsome rider you’ve come across in the peloton and why? If you don’t want to name names you can just describe the person(s) or give them a nickname. What have they done? Do they have a reputation? Is it physical, mental, what is it?

cross anyone who has intimidated me. At California I held almost all of the riders up to a new standard because they had made it that far–but then I realized I had as well, and focused on the race, not the riders.”

What is the worst thing anyone has ever said to you in a race? Tell us what happened. Again, anonymity is an option if you like. We want names too but we’ll happily settle for “just” the story.

I try not to think about what people say to me in a race after the fact unless it would help me. In a bike race, people say a lot of things–good and bad–even if they don’t mean them. If someone is rude or yells at me in a race, I normally forget about it when my head hits the pillow that night.

What is the toughest thing you’ve ever said to an opponent to try to get them to cooperate with you?

Pretty general, I think most people have been in the same situation. In criteriums, I get into breaks a lot where some of the riders can’t take strong enough pulls to keep us away, yet they still try to pull through because they are trying to help, or get a result. You have to tell them they straight up aren’t strong enough, and they need to sit on, because they would be helping more back there than they would be in the rotation.

Most sport psychologists think the fear of losing or underperforming is a much greater motivator than the love of winning. Which race would you do over if you could?

I would do over every race I haven't won, as would anyone I'm sure.”

What scares you most: insane headwinds, icy rain/wet conditions, or sauna-like levels of humidity/heat?

None. I grew up in the heat so the heat doesn’t bother me so much. Windy days just mean you can crush a lot of spirits by positioning yourself well. Wet conditions just mean by being at the front you can give yourself a better chance at winning, because crashes happen more often in the wet.

What’s the best “move” you’ve ever made in a race? Describe the moment, what did you do? How’d you set it up? Did you realize that you were doing something great at the time or did you only realize it later?

I wouldn’t call it one specific move but about four moves together. In the Joe Martin stage race, I was 3rd in GC, seven seconds down, going into the final day which was a criterium. There were four time bonuses including the finish. Each sprint was 3-2-1 seconds, with the finish being 10-6-3. I went for the first sprint a lap too early after my teammate Geoffrey gave me a leadout–as I sprinted around him to the line I was amazed there weren’t any other teams around us. I could hear spectators yelling it was a lap too early, and my heart sank, but I looked back and saw a huge gap to the Silber leadout train, and decided to solo the lap to take three seconds. Unfortunately both GC rivals in front of me picked up seconds as well, so I was still six seconds down. The time sprint in the middle of the race was taken by riders going for a breakaway. The final time sprint before the finish I finished 2nd, but again, my GC rivals were there, so I needed six seconds to take the win, which meant I needed to either win or get second, and even that might not have been enough if my GC rivals picked up time at the finish as well. I had to try anyway, and hope neither of the riders in front of me on GC would finish in the top three. UHC was running a leadout and with one lap to go, Geoffery fought them to take control. After we came around them, I heard a crash. We had moved up just in time, because only the front ten riders made it through the crash. Geoffery put his head down and delivered me to the base of the climb, and I knew both of my GC rivals were there as well as two other favourites for the stage. Travis McCabe sprinted early, then Carlos Alzate followed my wheel as I sprinted. I was happy to see neither of the GC riders going for the line, but I still needed to beat one or both of McCabe and Alzate. For most of the climb we were side-by-side, over the top. McCabe won, but I finished second, gaining enough time to put me into the Green, White, and Yellow Jersey. It was an epic day.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever overheard or seen in the Peloton? Or maybe it’s something you saw on the sides of a course. Or maybe it’s just something that happened in a race. Bottom line, what’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened in a race that you were in?

Last year during the spring racing season in the Tour de Bretagne Cycliste, we finished the first stage on a rainy, cold circuit. I was still very fresh in road cycling, and was figuring out how to bump and lean on other riders. With two laps to go, I was on the right side of the road hiding from wind coming from the left when the whole peloton shifted. It seemed like there was no more room left for me on the road and even though it felt like I was putting all of my weight into the rider next to me, it looked like he had four riders pushing him in the opposite direction. I looked right to see a massive ditch with weeds so high I couldn’t tell how deep it went. It looked better that hitting pavement though, so I judged it for how deep I thought it went and right as I was getting thrown off the road, I aimed for the thickest weeds I could see and sent myself into the green abyss. Luckily, it was about as deep as I thought, and I didn’t even have to dismount until I came to a stop. I was still in the caravan when I hopped back onto the road, so I made it back pretty quick. I haven’t crashed since then.

FUN FACTS WITH NEILSON POWLESS!

FAVORITE FOOD

Sushi.

FAVORITE COLOR

Blue.

FAVORITE BAND/SONG

Hippie Sabotage – “Devil Eyes”

FAVORITE MOVIE/VIDEO GAME:

A Knight’s Tale and Destiny.

FAVORITE POWER RANGER

Red. I had a Red Power Ranger suite when I was younger.

PRE-RACE SUPERSTITION:

None. Eat right, sleep right, get the job done.

IF YOU WEREN’T A CYCLIST, WHAT WOULD YOU BE?

A runner.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE BORED?

Sleep.

FAMILY:

Sister: Shayna Powless, Mom: Jeanette Powless, Dad: Jack Powless.

GUILTY PLEASURE(S)

Chocolate Lava Cake...

SIGN:

?

PRIZED POSSESSION:

If I told you, someone might try to steal it.

IF YOU WERE A SUPERHERO, WHAT WOULD YOUR POWER BE?

Underwater breathing.

WHAT’S MOST SURPRISING ABOUT YOU?:

I like to spend a lot of time alone. Hanging out with friends, teammates and family is fun, but I’ve spent a few weeks at my cabin at a time without saying anything until I come home, or if someone calls me.

CELEBRITY CRUSH:

Emilia Clarke.

CELEBRITY ROLE MODEL:

Khaleesi. She’s about to conquer Westeros against all odds.

WORST FEAR(S):

Getting mauled by a bear or hitting a deer out in the mountains alone, without cell service.

BAD HABITS:

Eating 1800 calories of pita chips and hummus in one sitting.

FAVORITE QUOTE:

All things are difficult before they are easy.”–Thomas Fuller

TICKLISH?

I used to be, not as much anymore, and no where near Will Barta.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SMOOTHIE!!!???

Strawberry Banana!

WEIRDEST DREAM:

As soon as I start dreaming I’m about to drown, but then I can breathe under water. I have that same dream a lot actually.

HIDDEN TALENTS:

I can tie a knot in a cherry stem with my tongue… does that count?

FANMAIL ADDRESS:

Twitter: neils_son@yahoo.com

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