Justin Leov Interview
Posted : 27/07/2017
Justin Leov is a seasoned racer. The New Zealander has raced downhill at international level as a junior, raced for a decade on the World Cup DH circuit and has spent the last five seasons racing the Enduro World Series. So what motivates an athlete to race at the highest level for so many years? We chat with the man himself to find out more;
How would describe yourself, in four words, when the race clock starts?
Focused on the job!
And how would you describe yourself off the bike, again in four words?
Usually way too busy!
You raced World Cup downhill, as a junior, back in 2002, then spent the next decade on the World Cup circuit. Can you talk us through your standout highlight of that long and illustrious DH career?
The highlight for me was my first World Cup podium which was in 2005 in USA. I was a privateer at that time and to be standing on the podium with Greg Minnaar, Jared Graves, Cedric Gracia and Chris Kovarik was really something special. I remember it was a rocky and fast track and that weekend I seemed to just glide over the rocks without any effort. That weekend I qualified 3rd and I remember being quite nervous in the last third of my race run, knowing my run was good and not to throw it away. Crossing the line and then knowing I was on the podium was the most intensely satisfying feeling. That moment is what really fuelled me to want to race and kept me at it so long.
You made the switch from DH to Enduro in 2013. Why did you want to stop racing DH and what was it about Enduro that attracted you?
I felt I was ready to stop DH, my fire had gone a little bit by then and I actually was thinking of a complete change away from the bike industry. Enduro happened as a result of the series starting and being offered a chance to try it out from my previous sponsor. I found the fire again and loved everything about it! In hindsight if Enduro had been on the World Circuit sooner I would of made the switch earlier.
How did you change your training regime to adapt to the new discipline?
It’s very similar in a lot of ways, with the strength and intervals but there is a lot more endurance and that did take my body some time to adjust too. I found physically I got lighter and lost more upper body bulk I built for DH. I do think Enduro is evolving now with what is required. The tracks are more like mini DH tracks so there is a greater need for shuttle training (like for DH). When I first started Enduro it was a lot more about longer epic runs so the endurance element was maybe more important.
In 2014, which was your first full EWS season, you ranked 3rd overall. In 2015 you lead the series at the midpoint, before being taken out by a shoulder injury. Then your 2016 season was blighted by Glandular Fever. How have you kept yourself motivated to keep up the fight, through these troubled seasons?
It’s really been hard the last two years actually. After the high of 2014 and then seeing my strength grow in 2015 to be a real contender for the overall I was hoping for big things for 2016. I suffered depression after I was side-lined last season with GF and I was in a dark place. Thankfully having time with my family at home helped me get out of the cave and back on track. I definitely feel, even today, that I have lost my top end from having the GF and have had to adjust my head game to deal with that. I found that I had to be really conscious to adjust my thoughts from negitive to positive. It sounds corny, but when you do that on everything in your life, it does make a difference and helped me a lot. Lately I have been trying to get the balance between full on and chill and I've been doing that with mediation (mostly just breathing exercises) and reading.
You’ve just completed EWS 5, in Millau, France. Can you tell us what the trails were like and how your race went?
It was incredibly slippery! Lots of tight corners and a good mixture of terrain but not super fun in the wet. I had a mechanical on day one and lost a lot of time so it was just about trying to finish for me and I was happy to see the finish line.
Having spent over 15 years travelling the globe, you have surely ridden on some of the best trails on the planet. Out of all those locations, what would be your favourite DH race track of all time and why?
Wow that’s really a hard question to answer. I think as far as racing it’s between Schladming and Mont Sainte Anne. Both just the best tracks to race World Cups on. If I had to pick one right now it would be MSA. That track is pretty much full gas top to bottom and I used to love the feeling racing there, hitting rocks a full speed and just being maxed out everywhere. Awesome feeling!
And can you tell us about your favourite place to ride your enduro bike, either racing or just riding for fun?
I really like Nelson NZ which is about and hour and half away from my place. Trails are technical and long and there is so many loops to have great rides with your mates there.
You obviously spend a lot of time travelling away from home. What is your favourite way to spend the day away from the bike, when you are back in NZ?
These days it’s spent with my family. We have just brought some land where I grew up riding and training on and now its all hands on deck around the land getting everything in order. Its been shut for quite a few years to riders and the tracks need to be rebuilt so the dream is to see them all back in and running again. I enjoy hands on work, building things and seeing progress. I hate sitting still!
You’ve been on Renthal products since your move to the Canyon Factory Enduro team last year. Can you tell us about the cockpit set-up you use and your reasons for choosing those specifications?
I've just switched to the 35mm bar and am running a bar width depending on the track of between 750mm-770mm. Usually this is because of the trees and how tight there are. I would prefer to always be on a wider bar but it just doesn’t always fit with our stages. Low rise bar as I like to keep the weight as low as possible and I range between 40-50mm stem on my Race large Strive. Earlier in the year I was riding a 60mm stem on the Spectral but that was because the frame was slightly smaller and my Strive.
And lastly, what would be your best advice for race run tactics to anyone looking to start racing enduro?
Get really good at memorising tracks without a lot of practice. Average speed is important and never ever crash haha!