Pro Rider Diary | Justin Leov La Thuile EWS

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Becoming a dad!

Words: Justin Leov
Photos: Jérémie Reuiller

Straight after Valloire the last EWS round, I flew back to New Zealand for a couple of weeks. Coming back to minimal winter daylight hours and cooler temperatures took a bit of adjusting to do. Still being home, local food, familiar training loops and seeing Tory (my wife) again was brilliant. Tory was 9 months pregnant and ready to pop with our first child.

Things kicked off on Thursday night and I was woken up 530am on Friday morning to do the anxious drive to the hospital. By 6am we were checked in and at 9:11am Luca James Leov was born. He was a speedy wee man and didn’t mess around in making his arrival. Happy and healthy we checked out of hospital the next day and headed home to spend some quality time together.

After 4 days at home it was time to jump back onboard the jet and head across the world again to Italy. Arriving late on Wednesday afternoon into La Thiule. I was surprised to see snow on the mountaintops, coming from winter in New Zealand I was expecting summer conditions so I didn’t even pack cold weather gear!

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Thursday morning was our first practice season and I have never been so cold at any race before, conditions at the top if the mountain were extreme. Just to get down and managing to see where you were going through the weather was a challenge. Battling jetlag and not being well prepared with my gear, I was having some second thoughts as to why I was here and not at home with Tory and Luca. However a bit more sleep and reorganisation of my gear saw that practice on Friday was a much better day.

The terrain in La Thuile was a good mix of upper alpine rocks with some sharp ones hidden in there, gravel, grassy meadows and tree roots. There was a combination of steep pinchy climbs in the woods and then flat pedaly sections. I decided to try downhill casing tires for the first race day, something I knew would be a tough call for those sections but I didn’t want to risk a puncture on day one.

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Day One
Stage One: The first stage of the weekend was on the longest and most demanding of the course. I dropped in feeling strong but as I hit the first short grassy climb I knew I had made the wrong call on the tires. I was putting down way more power than I knew I could maintain and was starting to blow up. Not a good feeling at the start of the day. Pushing on and finishing the run I was hurting bad, that first stage really set my weekend to play catch up.

Stage Two: I couldn’t find myself on stage two, It was a shorter stage and although I rode okay I felt like things were coming at me faster than what I could judge them, gotta love that jetlag feeling. I was starting to get frustrated so I knew I needed to open it up a bit for the final run of the day.

Stage 3: Fortunately this stage was a lot better, I found my rhythm and started to put a solid run together. Feeling still a little slow on the uptake I misjudged a blind corner thinking the trail went straight and was thrown off the course and down a bank. Climbing back onto the trail I finished out my run and clocked in for another average finish. Disappointed and very frustrated I went back to the hotel to gather myself. It had been a tough day in the office!

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Day Two
Stage 4: With a repeat of Stage 1 again to start the day off, I decided to switch to lighter tires for rolling speed. With rain overnight and continuing into the morning the course looked slippery. As soon as I dropped in it was evident it was going to be a wild run. A small crash, in which I lost the front wheel on a slippery corner undid a little bit of the good run I was having but I was happy to finish without losing major time. Starting the day with a 4th was better but I knew I could ride a lot faster.

With the last two stages coming I knew it was pointless in pushing too hard and crashing again. I had to just do my best and get some consistent runs down now. I had finished day one in 9th position and I really needed to move up a few positions to keep me in the points for the series.

I managed to finish 6th in the two final stages and finished up 7th overall for the weekend. In the series points this result dropped me from 2nd to 3rd overall, considering the weekend I just had I was happy to salvage that!

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Thank you to all the support from the people who get me here:
Trek Factory Racing Enduro, Bluegrass Protection, Met Helmets, Fox Racing Shox, Shimano, Bontrager, Adidas Eyewear, Stages Power Meters, CNP Nutrition

What a tough weekend, it was a lot of hard work to get though this one. Although you could say its not that surprising with such a life changing week including becoming a father, flying halfway across the world the day before the race and battling the worlds best racers!

Justin

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