James Pic­coli

The an­a­lyt­i­cal rider em­braces the mys­ter­ies of cy­cling

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - Q&A - by Matthew Pioro

Be­fore the sum­mer of 2017, James Pic­coli had been strug­gling to make things click as a pro rider. He was won­der­ing if the sac­ri­fices he had made were worth it. Then, he got a l ucky phone call. In the fol­low­ing 12 months, the an­a­lyt­i­cal rider says he de­vel­oped a more nu­anced out­look of the sport, in­clud­ing an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the l ess quan­tifi­able el­e­ments of cy­cling. He also be­came the first Cana­dian in 10 years to win the Tour de Beauce.

You al­most quit cy­cling close to a year and a half ago. What kept you in the sport? I got a call from Paul Abra­hams, the boss of El­e­vate khs Pro Cy­cling. He told me the team was go­ing to do Tour of Utah and the Colorado Clas­sic, which were big­ger races than I’d ever done. He said he could re­ally use some­one on those hills. And I said, “Yes.”

He called you out of the blue? Paul was pay­ing at­ten­tion to how races were go­ing and wasn’t just look­ing at race re­sults. He said he’d seen me race and that he be­lieved in me. He also said that with the right sup­port, I could do good things in cy­cling.

Tell me more about Abra­hams. He’s the main di­rec­tor of the team and also does a lot of the back-of­fice stuff – spon­sor­ships and stuff like that. More than a year ago, I thought cy­cling was just about watts per kilo, as any­one out­side of cy­cling does. But Paul re­ally showed me the nu­ances of the sport, on and off the bike. He’s been the fig­ure I needed, that I was look­ing for but never found. I guess by serendip­ity, he found me. At the this year’s Tour de Beauce, you were on the na­tional team. Some of your team­mates were pro con­ti­nen­tal rider Ben Parry, El­e­vate khs team­mate Jor­dan Cheyne and Svein Tuft. What was it like hav­ing Tuft, who is the last Cana­dian to win Beauce in 2008, on your team? In 2012, Beauce was the first big, uci race I ever did. It was a bit of a shock. Svein was on the na­tional team then. I re­mem­ber think­ing, whoa, that’s Svein Tuft. He rides for a big team. He’s won a sil­ver medal at worlds. That’s, like, a real big bike rider right there. This year I was lucky enough to have him as a team­mate.

What cy­cling wis­dom did he share with you? More than wis­dom, it was just hav­ing his pres­ence. Hav­ing a rider of that cal­i­bre be­lieve in me and the team and hav­ing him be­lieve we could win was re­ally spe­cial. Peo­ple talk about hav­ing the legs and the watts to win, but in my ex­pe­ri­ence, hav­ing that self-be­lief, the men­tal as­pect of the sport, is prob­a­bly more im­por­tant. Hav­ing es­sen­tially Canada’s best rider, a long-es­tab­lished World­tour pro, be­lieve in me was a boost. It’s like he was your yel­low jersey. I’m think­ing of the way that jersey seems to give its wearer ex­tra strength, what the psy­chol­o­gists call au­di­ence ef­fect. I to­tally be­lieve in that. I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced it sev­eral times in dif­fer­ent ways. Just hav­ing a sup­port sys­tem that be­lieves in you, like El­e­vate khs, or hav­ing peo­ple be­lieve in you, just switches some­thing on men­tally and you have bet­ter legs be­cause of all that.

I stud­ied me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing in uni­ver­sity so I have that quan­ti­ta­tive/an­a­lyt­i­cal mind. Cal­cu­la­tions of watts and drag and the for­mu­las that quan­tify cy­cling have al­ways in­ter­ested me. But the more I do bike rac­ing, the more I re­al­ize there’s stuff that can’t be quan­ti­fied. That’s the beauty of the sport re­ally.

What about luck? Be­hind a re­sult in bike rac­ing, there are a lot of fac­tors. One of them is luck, for sure. That’s just the way it works. Any­one who doesn’t un­der­stand the role that chance plays in pro­fes­sional cy­cling, doesn’t un­der­stand pro­fes­sional cy­cling.

Tell me about your feel­ings for the Grand Prix Cy­cliste de Mon­tréal. It sounds funny, but was al­ways my dream to do the World­tour race in Mon­treal.

Al­ways your dream? The race is only nine years old. It’s nine years old, but be­fore that there was a women’s race on same same cir­cuit. The road Camil­lien Houde, the climb they use in the race, it’s the road I’ve done the most in my life. It sounds strange to say, but I have a con­nec­tion to that road, to that climb. It’s been my sanc­tu­ary, a place I’d go to dis­con­nect from the world and just ride. Rid­ing a World­tour race on that road, is spe­cial more than for just the fact that it’s a World­tour race.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.