We caught up with Justin Williams as he gets ready to kick off the 2010 season. Justin started racing as a junior with the Major Motion Development Team. He then went on to race for Rock Racing from 2007-2009, where he won the U-23 Criterium National Championships in 2008 and has become known as one of the fastest sprinters. This week he heads to the Tour of Qatar with his new team, the Trek-LIVESTRONG U23 Team.
SoCalCycling.com: Justin, how did you get introduced to bike racing and how old were you when you started racing?
Justin Williams: My Dad is a cyclist, so it was like a family day growing up going to races. I always would see kids riding and knew I wanted to try it, but didn’t really push for a bike until I was about 14. With a little help from Rahsaan Bahati and David Pulliam from the Major Motion Development Team it was all systems go!
SoCalCycling.com: Is riding and racing something that you loved from the beginning?
Justin Williams: Racing I loved. I’m very competitive. I always wanted to race and I loved WINNING. Training I hated. I didn’t really have to train because my talent was so high. I’d ride four times a week for a hour, but when it caught up and it was time to put in the hours I struggled a bit, so I’m starting to love training.
SoCalCycling.com: You came up through the Major Motion Junior Program, how did that experience influence you and what opportunities were presented to you?
Justin Williams: Major Motion was such a good team to start on. There was so much talent on the team that it helped me get better faster. Having rides to and from Junior races that started at 7 am helped a lot. But the support on the team was the biggest help.
SoCalCycling.com: Who are your role models in cycling and how have they influenced you?
Justin Williams: I have a lot of role models in cycling. I take a little something from all of them, Jeremiah Wiscovitch (spell that right or he’ll kill both of us “lol”) and Rahsaan Bahati are like my older brothers, Mike Creed is just a bad ass. I like his outlook on things, Tony Cruz is always there for me when I’m not thinking straight, Cuban Missile (Ivan Dominguez) – even though we started off a little shaky, and really all of my Trek-LIVESTRONG U23 teammates – Taylor (Phinney), Jesse (Sergent) and Tim (Roe). Those guys are the real deal.
SoCalCycling.com: Having started at a young age, do you have any tips for Juniors that are looking to get into cycling?
Justin Williams: Yeah, stick to it. There’s a lot of guys that have all the talent in the world that win Nationals and Junior races and end up quitting. Get your head wrapped around the fact that your going to put your heart and soul into this with hours on the bike rain or shine and not win races. Try to never stop pushing or learning. Once you close your mind that’s where you’ll stay.
SoCalCycling.com: In 2008, you won the U-23 National Criterium Championships that were held at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, how did that race play out and what opportunities were presented after you became a National Champion. Did new doors open up as a result?
Justin Williams: I’m pretty sure that was the best day of my life. Everything played out so perfect. All my friends and family were at the race. So was my girl, even though she had nothing to say to me (laughs). But for the most part, perfect. As far as the opportunities, I’m sure it did. My team at the time (Rock Racing) didn’t seem to care. They had the Road Champion (Tyler Hamilton) and US Pro Crit Champion (Rahsaan Bahati) and all I could think was “Perfect time to win Nats. In the shadows again.” (laughs). But it looks like Axel (Merckx) was watching, so I’m sure that helped me get where I am today.
SoCalCycling.com: You are riding for a new team, the Trek-LIVESTRONG U23 Team, in 2010. How did this opportunity come about?
Justin Williams: Well, I knew I needed a new team for 2010 in 2009. I waited too long to start looking, so I told myself I’d start talking to Garmin and or the Trek-LIVESTRONG U23 Team at Nationals to at least get on their radar. So, I set up a meeting with Axel and he told me he’d been meaning to talk to me and that felt good to know, so I didn’t even get around to talking Garmin.
SoCalCycling.com: You were just at the Trek-LIVESTRONG U23 Team training camp in Tucson that was held in conjunction with Lance Armstrong’s Radio Shack Team. Can you tell us about your experience with your new team and also how it was to hang out and train with Lance and Team Radio Shack?
Justin Williams: It was pretty funny. All the guys on The Shack were really quiet. We talked to them, but not a lot. Reed, our swanny (soignuer) says after a few years of being Pro you don’t really care to share life stories with teammates (laughs). They would walk by our dinner room and we’d be laughing so loud. Every one had dirt on each other, so we thought it would be best to put it all out on the first day. It was way cool. Lance stopped in a few times and we drug him straight in and had him laughing just as loud.
SoCalCycling.com: Do you have any funny stories that happened at the camp?
Justin Williams: No Comment (laughs). Ummmm, some funny things are we’d race tricycles and people were trying to crash each other out. Also, there was a waterfall and a pool behind the hot tub and it was the same size, so we convinced some teammates that it was another hot tub and jumped in, but it was freezing cold water.
SoCalCycling.com: How do you see the Trek-LIVESTRONG U23 Team being different than being on Rock Racing? How does the organization and level of support seem to compare so far?
Justin Williams: They (Trek-LIVESTRONG U23 Team) are more organized. Things are running a lot better. I’m not the last thing on the totem pole with LIVESTRONG, so I’m sure that makes a big difference.
SoCalCycling.com: What type of schedule does the Trek-LIVESTRONG U23 Team have you doing in 2010?
Justin Williams: This year, I think I’m doing my first full race season starting with Tour of Qatar and hopefully ending with the World Championships, so there’s a lot of road and building.
SoCalCycling.com: Will you be racing in Europe again with the National Team?
Justin Williams: I don’t know if I’ll get to do a lot of races with the National team this year, but I’d like to do some World Cups and Worlds at the very least.
SoCalCycling.com: What are your goals for 2010?
Justin Williams: My Goals for 2010 are to finish every race I start. That’s my number one goal. Things I’m going all in at, fight to the death are: Qatar, SDSR, Redlands, Olympia Tour, Roubaix, US Nationals, Elk Grove, hopefully Tour of Missouri and the World Championships.
SoCalCycling.com: What do you like to do for fun when you are not riding?
Justin Williams: For fun. I like playing chess and doing taxes, I do my friends taxes. I’m kidding. I play video games, go to the beach and play football, spending time with the family. I hang out with friends, go snowboading, listen to music, I’m always watching movies I try to keep my self busy, so I feel somewhat like a normal guy.
SoCalCycling.com: What are some of your favorite training rides to do?
Justin Williams: I love riding PCH to Mulholland Dr. The beach has to be my favorite place. My favorite group ride has to be the Long Beach World Championship ride on Thursday nights. It’s really shaped me as a sprinter.
SoCalCycling.com: You are on both Twitter and Facebook. It’s great to be able to follow your favorite riders on these Social Media sites. Do you find you get a lot of support from your fans through Social Media ?
Justin Williams: I’m not huge on following or creeping on other guys pages, but I love the Social Media sites. It’s great when you post something that your not feeling great about and can get 50 posts back with solid advice. It helps me not stress out about little things and keeps me sane when I’m away from home.
SoCalCycling.com: How can your fans follow you and keep up with you during the season?
Justin Williams: Everyone can follow me on Twitter at @JustinAWilliams and on Facebook here where I’ll be posting video’s of me and my Trek-LIVESTRONG U23 teammates throughout the whole year, the ups the downs, the crap talking, to the wins. There’s already a few videos up, so go check it out.
SoCalCycling.com: Thanks so much for your time Justin. We wish you all the best this season!
Interview by Christy Nicholson, SoCalCycling.com
Photo by Glenn Kasin