An interview with Restart Racing’s elite cyclist JP Leclerc.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where do you live, and what do you do? What do you like to do for fun? Family life, that sort of stuff.
Hi guys, I’m Jean-Philippe (JP), and I’m 41 now and residing in Montréal, Canada, where indoor training is a must due to the harsh winters. I’m the proud dad of 2 boys, Alexis and Gabriel (5yo and 2yo).
Read JPs amazing Brain Tumor Survival Story here.
I’m in full dad mode and loving it, but I’m working from home for an aerospace company during the day, so Zwifting is convenient. Anybody that knows me can tell I’m a coffee & IPA lover 🙂
What is your cycling story? When did you start competing, and what is your racing history? What is your most significant accomplishment racing on the road?
I was more into team sports and pretty young got into Basketball to high levels. Biking started at 24 with mountain bikes (XC and DH), mostly for fun (and to chase hangovers). I picked up running and fell in love with endurance sports.
Then triathlon in 2011 was the beginning of the serious training. From there, I’ve lived the long distance triathlon life for many years as a top age grouper in 70.3 (25x) and Ironman (6x) and as a coach for 6 years. I stopped in 2018 and started gravel racing here in Québec and Vermont.
What is your virtual cycling story? How and when did you get involved in esports? What is your most significant accomplishment racing virtually?
I was always a huge fan of structured indoor training, but I never used Zwift until the pandemic hit. With all gravel and running races (yes, I still run a bit) being canceled, I was looking for a way to stay motivated. Zwift Racing was PERFECT!
As I’ve never trained these high-end zones, my profile was the threshold guy with 0 sprint. We are talking about 5-6wkg/15s here, BUT I was motivated and had to take many beatings before seeing any improvement to my short power (1 to 5mins).
Anyway, 430+ races later, I’m no longer a triathlete and can do a bit of everything. Being close to sub-80 ranking points on ZP is what showed me I could be ok at this.
Tell us about your esports team. How has racing with your team prepared you for this moment? Is there anything unique about your team that has contributed to your success?
Everything changed when I joined Restart Racing 2 years ago. Seeing all these awesome and strong dudes, I got a huge motivation bump. They provide a solid athlete base and knowledge and are always there to support and have a good laugh!
I think Restart is the most balanced team out there, meaning a top 10 team in the World, but also racing for fun and promoting clean sport and transparency, which is so important at this level.
They gave me a try on the Premier Division squad, but I got demolished. I learned so much!
For a frame of reference, how tall are you, and approximately how much do you weigh in competition? What is your indoor PB for Peak Power, 15-second, 1-minute, 5-minutes, and 20-minutes?
I’m 5’10’’ (176cm) and always around 73-74kg. Short and muscular legs, long torso, and lots of tattoos! At the moment PBs are: 15s is 982w (13.3wkg), 1:00@633w (8.6wkg), 5:00@442w (5.96wkg) and 20@364w (5.0wkg).
What type of rider are you? Has your riding style evolved as you become more involved and successful in esports?
I think I’m more of a puncheur. NYC courses are my type of course! My strength is that I’m an all-rounder, can dig deep, and have a natural feel for the race (that can lead to mistakes or blowouts sometimes!).
I believe that “indoor specialist” is a thing, and I might fit the profile. As I said, I’m not the same rider as three years ago, but I think my body is still learning and adapting to what I’m putting him through.
There’s more room for improvement on the 15-30s power, which is crucial for racing on Zwift, but my natural abilities are more toward the 1-3mins effort.
What is your go-to training workout, and why do you enjoy it so much? Has your training emphasis and philosophy changed to make you a more successful eracer?
Training? Are we talking about practice? I don’t train at all! Hahahaha, I’m either spinning watching YT or full tilt. I’ve done so much training in my life that I want to have fun now! I don’t have much free time, so when I’m on the bike, I smash it and enjoy the challenge and adrenaline.
The thing is, I’m racing on so many different course profiles, lengths, and field levels that I think this becomes like training. I’ve improved drastically in the last year or so, so my racing-spinning regiment is now coming together. Maybe I will hit a plateau and start thinking about—training 😉
Oh, and running, meaning Yogging with a soft J, is absolutely good for indoor biking, muscular and form-wise. Again an indoor spesh thing.
What are your short and long-term esport goals? Do they involve qualifying and competing in the UCI Cycling Esports World Championship? What does that mean to you?
As a racer and competitive guy, of course, I’m looking at wearing a National jersey. I’m realistic, and this is next-level stuff. I had a bad finish at Continental Qualifier and missed out again with Cycling Canada (Closer this time!).
In the short term, I would say get my ranking down under 80 while having fun and being part of all crazy events or series with the best! I don’t care to get slapped because it makes me a better rider, and my kids and wife don’t give a F$*! I can have my IPA after!
I Hope Restart will get a spot back in Premier Division or Grand Prix, and I could slot in the squad. I’m ready and could help as a role player to get my strongest teammates in a good position.
I also want to promote this sport I love so much by being involved and transparent while making this cool and fun, but still be the guy that can crush it on race day. So look out for Sir Zwift-a-lot on IG for news, jokes, and daily racing!
You have accomplished so much in esports. What is it that sets you apart from other virtual athletes?
I’m not sure I’ve accomplished much TBH. I’m far from world-class caliber, just the worst of the best if that makes any sense. I’m just a dad with no real road cycling background, putting my heart into every race, while being nice and fun to people.
Just hyper-passionate about racing esport and want to help get it to the next level by changing outsiders’ opinions toward geeks pushing on a game in their basement.
How much do you factor in the gamification side of esports? Is there a learning curve that you must master? How vital are PowerUps and other things unique to virtual cycling?
I’m not a gamer, but all the achievements, badges, and levels motivated me to ride more. As for the powerups, I think they can make a crucial difference in races and becomes an art to use.
My only victory in a big Oh My Crit race was due to perfect use of an aero 🙂 The Kickr bike PU button was a game changer in that regard, so easy to use while sprinting!
But things like fire socks? It is too much for me and does nothing. Just look at the orange numbers. Screw the fire. It is not Sonic the hedgehog!?!
Do you feel cycling esports will ever gain acceptance as a trusted discipline and gain popularity as a unique discipline? What challenges does it face?
It started to change over the last couple of years and get more accepted and recognized as a ‘’real’’ sport with the Premier Division, Knockouts, Grand Prix, UCI worlds, etc. All this is getting good attention, adding professionalism, and attracting more legit-well-known people to it.
They are now trying different formats to attract viewers, which is good. It is an easy sport to broadcast at a low cost, but you can also watch it live. There’s a lot of opportunity for riders AND companies to get something out of it.
I think cycling esport needs to continue pushing the verifications and probably go toward total standardization of equipment (as with F1 with engines).
Tell us about your setup. Where is it located, and what do you use? What steps do you take to verify your accuracy?
My pain cave is in the baseman. I’m running Zwift on Apple Tv 4k with dedicated TV straight to my face! Coming to a year on the Kickr bike and happy to have made the move every time I’m using it! Once a week, I’m looking for any updates (ATV, trainer, power meter), always using an HR monitor, and calibrating my power pedals. It’s a routine now.
Some cynics and detractors don’t trust the legitimacy of esports. What do you say to those who question the integrity and ability for a level playing field between competitors? What challenges does esports face in becoming recognized as a trusted competition venue?
When roadies are talking shit about Zwift cheats and all, I’m stating every freaking verification step I’m doing, explaining power tests, PBs, photos, duals, and stuff. After this, most people are like, “ok, this is intense!” It is, yes, but so essential for us riders to be taken seriously and get the sport to the next level.
Many of your fellow elite eracers have been publicly critical of the lack of standardization in esports. What is your view on the topic?
Standardization would absolutely give more legitimacy and add more trust to riders, public and probably investors and sponsors. I’m all for it at the highest level, but I don’t want to change my precious Kickr Bike 🙁 hahaha
hat is esports' future amidst the multiple-platform landscape, and where would you like to be positioned?
I think it is such a young sport, and I’m kinda new to it. I see many high-level events popping up, super great series and leagues, lots of broadcasts and streams. There is Governing body joining, and that is huge. The sport has the potential to go very far, like live riders in arenas, Olympics? Who knows? I’m optimistic!
What is your opinion of the new race formats being used during the Zwift Grand Prix and the World Championships?
I do understand the objective regarding new race formats, but they’re not my preference. It’s fun and entertaining, but I like more classic races, at least 45min-1h, and would like to see longer stuff, maybe in the 1h30-2h range.
Okay, I need a juicy exclusive. Tell us something about yourself that none of your fellow racers or fans know about you? Please?!?
Ok, let’s go: I’m level 3769 at Candy Crush. Seriously only my wife knows. Please don’t judge.
I really like biking and esport, it’s safe and convenient for a Dad, and I believe it has so much growth potential!
Thank you, JP!
Anything you’d like to ask JP?
Ask away. Comment below! I’ll see what I can do.
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit. Chris is committed to helping others with his bike through its work and the pages of his site.
In the summer of 2022, he rode 3,900 miles from San Francisco to New York to support the charity he founded, TheDIRTDadFund. His “Gain Cave” resides on the North Fork of Long Island, where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two independent children.
You will read him promoting his passion on the pages of Cycling Weekly, Cycling News, road.cc, Zwift Insider, and Bicycling. Chris is co-host of The Virtual Velo Podcast, too!