Interview with Justin England
Justin England has been a professional cyclist since 2004. He
rode on the Webcor team that year and worked for Chris Horner as he dominated
the domestic cycling scene. England announced his own skills as a pure
climber that year with his first place finishes in the Mt. Tamalpais and the Mt.
Washington Hill Climbs. In 2005 England moved to Health Net and once again
found himself on a team that was winning everything in sight and crushing the
opposition along the way. Showing good form at the Dodge Tour de Georgia,
Justin finished 14th on GC, along with a 13th place finish on the brutal stage
to Brasstown Bald. Deciding to switch teams along with Health Net
teammates Chris Wherry and Ivan Dominquez, Justin signed on to the newly formed
Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team as one of their premier climbers. England
seems to bring good luck to the squads he races for and the trend continued as
his new team made their debut at the Amgen Tour of California, and quickly
earned their first team victory in Stage One with JJ Haedo sprinting away from
the field in spectacular fashion. The Daily Peloton caught up with Justin just
after Haedo won his second stage in the Tour of California, so we
talked about winning races, working hard and enjoying the company of fellow
teammates. This guy loves what he does for a living!
Daily Peloton: Is anyone on the team surprised that JJ is going
Justin: You know, I think there are a lot of people that are surprised.
But for us on the team after training camp, he was going so good at camp I had a
feeling he could get a stage here. But I never thought two stages, and I
thought the last stage might be the one for him, the circuit race (in Redondo
Beach). Two stages,
it's just incredible.
DP: Are you racing more relaxed now? The pressure was off in
Santa Rosa once the team got the first win. Now are you having fun?
Justin: Totally. Sean Tucker (team owner) put a lot of effort and money
into this team. And Toyota is making a big commitment to the team.
And to get a huge win to start the year off....
DP: Someone slept good that night!
Justin: It was a big weight off of everyone's shoulders.
DP: You felt the pressure too?
Justin: Well, this team is taking incredible care of it's riders and
everybody. The entire support crew is well taken care of and well organized.
It wasn't a vocal pressure, no one said we have to win races but when that much
effort is being put into a team we were all saying, "Hey we've got to win some
DP: And you're all so professional, you all take it upon yourself to do
Justin: Yeah, right. It was great for the team.
DP: But you saw the potential at training camp?
Justin: Absolutely. Harm and Frankie hand picked some of the
strongest guys from the domestic teams but also a group of guys that would get
DP: Yes, Frankie mentioned that to me, that there is a lot of joking
around and good friendships developing. It's almost
like you all filled out a psychological profile to see who would be compatible!
Justin: It's true, everyone on the team is getting along great.
All teams vary from each other. But there is something a little
different about this team. Everyone is really tight with each other.
We were all laughing and cracking jokes together as soon as we got together at
DP: Sounds a little like a fraternity! You weren't originally scheduled to
do the Tour of California. How did it come about that you were suddenly on
Justin: Well, Wherry was sick. So I got the call on the
Monday night before the race was starting on Sunday. It wasn't too last
minute. But after training camp I had backed off some from my training
because I wasn't scheduled to race until San Dimas, so I was planning to ramp
back up closer to that. But I got the call....
DP: So you immediately went outside and did a night ride!
Justin: (Laughs) I got the call at about 8 o'clock at night so I did an extra
hour on the trainer that night, and then the next day I went out and did five
and a half hours!
DP: Was that exciting for you to get the call to be in the first edition
of the race?
Justin: I was really bummed for Wherry; he's such a great guy and such a
good team player. He is an incredibly strong rider. At training camp
he was very much the vocal leader of the team.
DP: You mean like presenting the rider's views to management?
Justin: In a lot of ways. It started because he's the marquee name on
the team, he's the star. But he's such a good guy and a good leader with a
lot of experience, so he was becoming one of the leader's of the team. For
him to not get to do the race, well, I knew he was really bummed.
But that's one of the things about this team. He made the sacrifice by
saying he wasn't feeling that good and somebody else should be there to help the
guys win. He made the call to Harm and Frankie. Very professional
and a good teammate.
DP: So you were excited to get to do the race?
Justin: Very excited. I used to live in San Francisco for four
years, so it was cool to race on some of the roads I trained on all that time.
And a lot of the Euros came over, and not just the Americans on those teams.
I mean Simoni came over! It's a great time of year for a race in
DP: It didn't seem like you were racing that much last year. Will
you have more opportunities this year?
Justin: Yeah, I think so. I think there are a few less guys on the
roster for this team than last year. So I might be getting sent to more
races. I'm still not going to be doing the Downer's Grove Crit or the
Charlotte Crit. I'm just a scrawny climber! But as much as I can try
to help the team, I hope to be there. And score some wins for the team, I
DP: What is your race schedule?
Justin: The Central Valley Classic, San Dimas and Redlands. Then
home, then Georgia.
DP: Didn't you get 10th at Brasstown Bald last year at Georgia? I
know you were way up there in the standings that day.
Justin: I think I might have been 13th or something.
DP: Well, be humble, but you were right up there with the world's best
climbers that day.
Justin: Yeah, I was going okay. It was a good day.
DP: Is that the best type of race for you?
Justin: Yeah, I think Georgia is good for me. A real steep
mountaintop finish is perfect for me. And I love that race.
DP: Did you like it in the snow?
Justin: (Laughs) Well the weather didn't cooperate last year, that's
true. But it's such a cool race. The fans are great there, just like
here at Tour of California.
DP: How do you feel the team has come together for the race?
Justin: Getting the wins reinforced everything that happened at
training camp. It just tightened the bond we've created. We're
calling Wherry up every night telling him what we're doing. We're calling
all the guys.
DP: What attracted you to the United team in the first place?
Were you looking for a new team?
Justin: No, I wasn't looking for a new team. But Wherry had
already signed; he was one of the first guys to sign. And they were
looking for some climbers to add to the roster. So Wherry recommended me.
I hadn't signed with Health Net yet and I was probably going to, but this
opportunity came up and I knew it was a great fit. I knew some of the guys
who had already signed, like Tony Cruz and Ivan Dominquez and JJ Haedo. I
knew it was a great opportunity so I hopped on.
DP: Did management sell you on the entire program from the
beginning? Did you know about the fan-based franchise-type business model
that was going to be used?
Justin: When we were signing, which was before Toyota was on board,
there was a little bit of hesitation because here we were signing on with a team
that didn't have a title sponsor. But once we all knew the idea of the
fan-based memberships, and all the rest, it sounded like a great idea, and
something new. So I wasn't worried at all. Once I learned more about
it I was sold.
DP: Has it been difficult to adjust to a new director? Is
Frankie's style very different from Jeff Corbett's?
Justin: Sure, Frankie and Jeff have different styles. But Harm
and Frankie are great guys. Super nice and both of them have so much
experience racing. Frankie had something like nine Tour finishes, and Harm
was on Saturn and some really big domestic teams. They know what they're
doing. And Frankie had done a year directing with Postal. I think
Harm is learning the director part a little as he goes along, but they are both
fantastic guys to work for.
DP: Do they ask for input from the riders too?
Justin: Absolutely. Especially from guys like Tony Cruz who has ridden for
a big team and raced in Europe.
DP: Are there any races you hope to target as a win for yourself
Justin: Yeah, I want to do well at Georgia. I just think that's a
DP: Do you mean overall? Or the stage to Brasstown Bald or the
day before that one into Dahlonega?
Justin: Yeah, any of the above! And maybe after Georgia races like
Altoona. That's a good race for me and I really like that race. But
I just want to help out the team and try to score as many wins as we can.
DP: Well, you've gotten a good start! What has been the best
thing about Tour of California?
Justin: I think our team experience. It's been so unreal.
I've been part of a couple of big teams in the past few years, with Webcor in
2004, riding with Chris Horner and Charles Dionne. Then last year with
Health Net when we won just about everything. But the group of guys on
this team are so much fun to hang out with, and then to have the kind of success
we're already having, well, it's a really great experience.
DP: Are you a racer that will be in the newly formatted USPro race
this year? Will that be your kind of race?
Justin: Yeah, I think I'll definitely do it. Especially since
only American riders can be in it and we've got a number of foreign riders so
we'll need Americans to ride. We'll definitely be going for it there.
I'm sure Wherry would love to repeat!
DP: Okay, last question. What has been the best thing about
being part of Toyota-United Pro?
Justin: Just the guys on this team; making all of these new friends.
I've known a lot of these guys through racing, and was already good friends with
some of them of course. But getting to know the new guys has been a lot of
fun. It's a little like college, like living in a dorm!