Hometown Report

How the Tour of California will be a reunion of sorts for Roseville's Powless family

This is a family deal.

When the Tour of California starts Sunday, it won't just be Neilson and Shayna Powless furiously working nearly 650 miles of highways, roadways and coastline routes on their set of wheels with a singular focus of reaching the podium.

Check out the parents. Jack and Jenn Powless will travel a good portion of this country's premier cycling stage race from the comforts of a different ride. They will be in their RV, albeit along allowed routes for such vehicles.

Jack and Jenn introduced their children to athletics in Roseville at the point when they could walk. They coached them, mentored them and have followed them right to this event. It's the the first time a brother-sister tandem has been in the Tour of California in the same year, and you can bet mom and pop won't miss out. They might be the ones leaning on the horn, chanting, "Power of Powless!"

"Oh yeah!" Jack said enthusiastically by phone this week. "We're ready, too. We just got a 1985 Born Free RV. Runs like a top. Only 65,000 miles on it. I stepped into it and I swear it was like stepping back into 1985. Loved it.

"We'll start in Long Beach, like the Tour, camp out in it. It's an exciting experience for us, as we know it is for our kids. Every parent who has a kid who competes, you wonder how far it can go. This is where we are. We're so excited to follow them around and watch them. And we'll use a Rand McNally map to find our way since we feel so 1985!"

Neilson, 21, and Shayna, 24, got their feet wet winning or placing high in age-group triathalons that included a 1-mile swim, a 19-mile bike ride and a 6-mile trail run through pineapple fields in Hawaii. They also dabbled in soccer and baseball as kids, then got involved in off-road racing before merging into road racing.

The siblings support each other and inspire each other. They have not seen each other since January, their careers taking them near and far. And both are tickled that their parents are along for the ride.

"I think it's great they're taking the RV," Neilson said. "I may have to take a break and check it out. Get inside and grab a cookie."

Shayna said she is "so proud" to have such an accomplished athletic family.

"We were lucky to have parents who got us into such neat things," Shayna said. "Dad even coached us for a long time. He'd always keep it fun for us, never too pushy, especially when we were younger. Our parents wanted us to do sports and activities for a passion and not out of obligation."

Jenn competed in the marathon for Guam in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. It was in that country where she met Jack. She also qualified for the Seoul Games in 1988 and the Atlanta Games in 1996. She coached track and cross country at American River College for more than a decade.

Jack, retired from the Air Force, was a seven-time Ironman competitor. He now mostly backpacks, hauling up to 60 pounds, and jokes that his wife is the smart one — hiking but hauling no pounds.

"One of the main reasons Jenn and I did youth coaching was we wanted our kids to have a sense of team and competition," Jack said. "It was such a blast, just a blast, and we had so much personal gratification watching the kids grow and achieve.

"When I stopped coaching them, I knew it was time. Now we just cheer and we love it. We knew when they were very young that they were both genetically gifted and they had a love for sports. They kept it in the DNA, and they took that DNA to the next level. They cherry-picked the DNA. Just beyond proud."

Jack recalled how the kids were kids before becoming serious competitors, often within the same hour.

"When they were little, before a race, Neilson would find a stick, and to him it'd be a sword, and she'd be over with toy horses, then it was time to race and they'd jump up and get to the starting line," Jack said.

Neilson said he grew curious about road racing. It has gone from that to a profession, with multiple stops on the victory stand across the world.

"I'd watch the Tour de France and wonder if I could ever do that," he said. "Then you get into it and really appreciate how good these guys are. It's been great. It's a good life."

Shayna said she appreciates her "downtime" but has a hard time not being active. Her hobbies? How about bridge jumping, cliff jumping and zip-lining?

"I enjoy being active to the max," she said with a laugh. "So does my brother."

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