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Interview with Justin England
By Cathy Mehl
Date: 3/21/2006
Interview with Justin England
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 so well?

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 races!"

DP: And you're all so professional, you all take it upon yourself to do just that.

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 along.

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 camp.

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 the squad?

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 America.

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 hope.

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 this year?

Justin: Yeah, I want to do well at Georgia. I just think that's a great race.

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!

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