This year Achieve Athlete, James LaBerge, stepped up into the pro ranks and joined UCI Continental team, Champion Systems – Stan’s No Tubes. In the following, Achieve had a chance to catch up with James.
Achieve: Congrats on signing with Champion System – Stan’s NoTubes for 2015. Can you tell me a little bit about how it happened? Did they seek you out or did you contact them?
JL: Yeah, sure. I had been getting some decent results in the NCC races last year at Dana Point and Tulsa Tough and I was approached via Facebook message by one of their teammates, Ariel, but I never saw it until last August actually.
I continued to go to U23 nationals and went on to win the criterium, which was huge for me. After that, I race Boise and that’s when I started talking to them. I sent them an email the night after the race and by the time I woke up I had gotten back a reply email, looking to meet up to talk on the phone the next week. Things worked out quickly – before I knew it I was offered a position to race for the team for 2015 and the start of my professional career as a cyclist started!
Achieve: Tell me about the team.
JL: The team is run out of New York city, NY headed my Igor Volshteyn and Mitch Jacaruso.
They have been doing a wonderful job taking care of us – traveling to races and making sure we don’t have anything to worry about other than the racing at hand.
The team has shifted a bit from previous years – In 2015, the team has shifted it’s focus to the NRC schedule along with the NCC schedule. We plan to do almost every NRC race on the schedule this year with the exception of Tour of the Gila but we are looking for somewhere to start from and gain experience and knowledge to win bike races at the NRC level either later this year or in the near future.
We are excited for the change but we know it’s going to take time transitioning from the NCC/USA Crit schedule all year. We also brought on a lot of experience and guys that have done bigger races before such as Fabio Calabria (AUS) and Demis Aleman (ARG). We also brought on a couple younger guys to compliment the experienced riders such as Zach Carlson and Juan Pimentel Jr.
Achieve: Obviously, with a new team there is going to be some adjustment time as you settle in. How has your season gone so far?
JL: The season so far has been an adjustment but overall, it’s been good. It’s going to always take some sort of time to get used to a new team and find your spot but I think the form is there and everything–I think it’s just going to take some luck because at the higher level now, there’s many other riders that are just as strong and it’s more tactical as to how to save your energy in races compared to your competiors.
Locally, I’m finding it a bit more difficult to get top results like I did last year simply because I’m a one-man team at the races. I’m faced up against 8-man teams from Team Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator Coffee, Herbalife Marc-Pro – Strava, CoreTechs Elite and Vumedi; so it makes it a bit tougher to get the win.
Achieve: What would you say is the biggest change for you, personally?
JL: I think the biggest change stepping up the big leagues is the traveling. I would travel a little bit in years past to NCC races and nationals but not much other than that.
This year, it’s involved a week-long training camp, multiple stage races which include taking time off from school . I’m almost through my spring semester so I’m looking forward to just focusing on racing over the summer before school starting back up again in the Fall.
Achieve: You still live in Napa and race in the NCNCA district. Has it been strange to now be racing against your old Mike’s Bikes team-mates? If yes, how so?
JL: I touched on this a bit already, but it is a bit different racing locally when I’m not at the big races. I’m up against 4-5 full 8-man teams and if a breakaway gets up the road with all of them in it, you can pretty much say that is the race right there. So it’s extra important to stay towards the front and watch for those moves to get away. I wouldn’t say it’s strange only because I think of it as a big challenge and I’m racing against my friends.
We know each other’s strength and weaknesses so it also makes great training for me to get ready for the bigger races where they might not be at.
Achieve: Have you had to make any drastic changes to your training program? If so, tell me a little bit about how you and Coach Dana have had to adapt?
JL: Actually, I haven’t had to make many changes at all with my training with coach Dana. What we did last year obviously worked so you don’t want to change it up just because you’re pro now. So I’ve kept the same intervals as last year and the only difference I would say is just more time on the bike.
I hit my first 20 hour training week this winter for the first time ever so it’s a bit more taxing on the legs time-wise but interval-wise, it is essentially the same (and should be).
Achieve: What are your goals for this season?
JL: The primary goal is to find my place where I’m comfortable within the pro peloton and learn as much as I can in the big NRC stage races because I don’t have too much experience there. If this is what I want to do for a while, I’m going to need to improve there. Retaining my national criterium championship is also important to represent the sponsors. I’m excited and determined to defend the title with it being in my backyard in North Lake Tahoe, CA.
Another goal I have for the season is to continue to improve in the NCC races. I got many top 10’s but never made the podium, so a podium would be the goal for this year and a win would be even better of course.
Lastly, I want to make sure I continue my schooling while I race professionally. I know it might sound like an easy goal but it’s far too easy to get carried away and just focus on racing so I want to make sure I keep that right balance as I still have 3 years left to finish my schooling in which I’ll be majoring in Construction Management.
Achieve: Is there any race that you really want to add to your palmares?
JL: I think winning an NCC win would be huge for me. It’s something that I feel is attainable right now and would be huge for the team. Winning a one-day classic such as Philly or Winston-Salem would be also be huge.