I was supposed to meet James directly following my Masters 35+ 123 race at Red Kite #2 this past weekend, which meant that I had about 15 minutes to do a warm-down, gulp down a beverage and a bar, change out of my kit, grab my recorder out of the car and still have enough time to get the interview in so as to allow James enough time to get his warm-up in before his race.
My race had been neutralized and restarted following a crash and I was late. As I rolled back to my car, I spied James near registration, leaning against his bike, coolly rocking back and forth; waiting.
“Hi James, “ I said, as I rolled up. “Sorry to keep you”.
“Hey, Eric,” he said looking up. “No worries. I’ve got time.”
I quickly dashed to my car to pick up my recorder and then back to where James was waiting, still rocking back and forth on his Specialized Venge, where I’d left him.
I was in such a hurry to get back that I had neglected to change, which makes this my first fully-kitted, on the bike interview.
ED: How long have you been racing?
JL: I started racing in 2005; first with a team called SixFifty, followed by a few other teams before finally joining the Specialized Junior’s team led by Larry Nolan and Wyatt Weisel in 2008.
I guess you could say that I picked up the sport from watching my dad, Dean (LaBerge, 2011 and 2008 Master’s National Criterium Champion), which lead to my racing juniors later on.
ED: And you are racing against him now?
JL: Yeah. From him, I knew that I had the genes to be a sprinter. t’s kind of cool to be able to do a race and then be able to talk about it together afterward. I suppose you could say that I followed in his footsteps.
ED: Between you and I, who’s the better sprinter?
JL: Back in the day we used to go head to head a lot more, but now that he’s older (James looks sheepishly at his father Dean, who is nearby trying not to eavesdrop) he’s focusing on Masters racing so we don’t race against one another that often.
ED: You currently race with Team Mike’s p/b Equator Coffee. Tell me a little bit about the team.
I was recruited for the Mike’s by Steve (Palaez) following my 18th birthday. Initially, I was hesitant because I didn’t know anybody else. But it’s been three years now and I love it.
ED: How and when did you first meet Dana Williams? And how long have you been training with him?
JL: I first met Dana about 2 years ago, right after he’d joined Team Mike’s Bikes.
At the time, I had been working with another coach but after talking with him a bit during the off -season that first year, I decided to train with him. And I couldn’t be happier about the decision. Definitely a game-changer for me.
ED: Tell me a little bit about the training program that Dana has designed for you.
JL: Dana is the master of the work/life balance, training program. I’m in school and working as well as trying to be competitive elite athlete. As a father and husband, Dana understands what its like to be pressed for time and his training plan is designed to get maximal performance out of minimal time. Just as it says on the Achieve PTC website.
This year I did a lot more off the bike training than in the past; doing core work, things like that.
ED: How does this compare with previous training programs?
JL: In the past it was all about the bike. I spend so much time on the bike during the season, that’s its nice to take a break from riding in the off season to do other things. Especially, if its going to help me later on.
I try to keep the various parts of my life separate so that when I’m riding, I am completely focused. Dana’s plan is structured so that I can maximize whatever time I have available to ride. And when I’m not, I don’t worry about it too much. So far, the results have really proven that it works.
Not only do you train with Dana, you also race with him. What’s that like?
JL: Its so cool to be able to race with Dana. He is so self-less and really gives it everything when trying to set me up for a sprint.
As my coach, he gives me the tools to be a winner and as my lead-out man, he’s directly able to make that happen. Its kind of unique, actually.
ED: That sort of thing doesn’t come easily.
JL: Yeah. It’s a question of trust, I guess. There are only a handful of people who can get you through a gap or set you up for a sprint in the last, hectic moments of a race. Dana’s definitely one of them.
ED: Looking at this season, you’ve started off pretty strong (James won the Santa Cruz crit earlier this month. ed.). Any other goals for you this year?
This year would like to try and win at least one NCC event and also win Nationals. Winning Nationals has always been an aspiration of mine and I would love to be able to pull on the red, white and blue of National Champion. I’d consider it an honor, actually.
ED: And I’m sure the fact that your father won it in 2008 and 2011 is a huge motivating factor?
JL: Oh, yeah. I still remember the day he came home with it. Just looking at it was inspiration enough. For me, its bigger than winning any NCC event.
ED: What are your long-term cycling goals?
I love riding my bike and I love racing. But it’s a huge risk and I’m not sure that I am ready to go all in to try and get a pro contract just yet.
It’s really about being balanced.
Having a coach like Dana who understands that is great.