Story by Vicky Sama
Above photo by Angelica Dixon
Jack Kisseberth has achieved the goal he wanted all season: a top five finish in a C2 cross race. He did that and more when he finished on the podium in third place at the Verge New England Cyclocross Series Finale in Warwick, Rhode Island on Saturday. It was his first UCI podium finish, an amazing accomplishment for his first season with the elite JAM/NCC/Vittoria squad.
“Last year I had so little guidance and poor equipment, so I knew I’d improve this year,” Kisseberth said. “So far, it’s going fairly well. I feel like I’m moving in a positive direction and getting stronger.”
Kisseberth had a strong start on Day One at the NBX Gran Prix Finale, the last race weekend in the Verge series. He started in the second row and immediately stuck with a small chase group trying to close the gap to leaders Jeremy Martin (Louis Garneau) and Anthony Clark (Squid). Kisseberth kept a steady rhythm, bunny hopping the double thick logs and running flawlessly through the long stretches of sand. He slowly separated himself from the rest of the chasers and crossed the line only nine seconds behind Clark and 13 seconds behind winner Martin. Kisseberth’s 3rd place elite finish is his best yet.
“I slid out around a corner and then there was a solid ten, fifteen foot gap… just couldn’t close it for so long,” Kisseberth said. “And then people just kept on plucking off when they flatted or slid out or something, and I tried to keep it steady after that little bobble, and it worked out. I’m so stoked. I can’t believe it. This is an awesome course, a lot of corners, nice and technical for me, had some stuff to hop. Still can’t believe it though.”
“Jack is an exciting guy to watch because he can ride up anything,” said Coach Al Donahue. “I’m psyched to have him on the team. He’s doing great, and it’s everything I can hope for.”
At 22, Kisseberth still has the skills from growing up as a downhill skier in Tiburon, California. He and his two younger sisters spent most of their childhood shredding deep powder at Tahoe, Whistler and Jackson Hole. During summers, he rode mountain bikes with his buddies and built trails near their middle school.
“Me and my friends built this trail network called the Fern Forest and it had a bunch of downhill tracks and dirt jumps,” Kisseberth said. “We spent five hours a day digging and riding. That was pretty much my life outside of school. The whole experience, digging and hanging out with friends, that combination got me into biking.”
They were good at it too. They built bridges out of crates and used rakes and loppers to cut down poison oak and clear the brush for berms and rails.
“We watched a bunch of bike videos of what cool trails look like and we tried to replicate it with sweet features,” he said. “We took our parents tools. It was a serious operation.”
Four years ago, Kisseberth moved to the Boston area to attend Tufts University. He raced for its collegiate road and mountain bike teams. During sophomore year, he rode too much and was injured, forced out most of the season.
“I looked up what the pros were doing and so I started riding 25 hours a week,” he said. “I over-trained and destroyed my knees.”
Then last year, while Kisseberth was a college senior, a friend introduced him to cyclocross. He bought a 900-dollar bike on eBay. One of the first cross races he entered was the KMC in Providence.
“I had zero knowledge. Hadn’t even seen a video of it and didn’t know how to dismount,” he said. “Then I went into the Cat 4 race and won it. The next day they upgraded me to Cat 3 and I started in the back row out of 150 or so. I finished 22. After that weekend, I was like, wow, I can do really well. I was hooked after that.”
Kisseberth graduated in May with a degree in economics. He now works full-time doing analytics and marketing for New Balance, just a ten-minute bike ride from where he lives in Brighton. Kisseberth joined JAM/NCC/Vittoria over the summer.
“Working 8:30 to 5:00 is tough for training. It’s getting easier during race season, but I can only ride for an hour and a half or so each day during the week.”
Despite the hour and a half distance away from Northampton, Massachusetts—JAM’s home base—Kisseberth remains committed to the team. And it shows. He consistently finished top-ten this season, getting 6th and 10th at Supercross Cup, 7th at Nittany and HPCX, 10th both days at Cycle-Smart International and 17th at the Gran Prix of Gloucester—a C1 cross race with a number of international competitors. Saturday’s 3rd place podium finish in Warwick should propel him to next month’s Cyclocross National Championships in Asheville, North Carolina.
“As soon as I reach one goal, I want more,” Kisseberth says. “It pushes me and motivates me to do even better.”