Following Brain Surgery in 2012 JP Leclerc attacked the uphill battle of his life.
“Of course, to me, it’s a good memory!” Is a brain tumor a fond memory? A bit of context, please. Here’s how the conversation went when I asked JP for an interview.
JP: I’m super flattered you asked for this, but I would like you to approach it not as an elite because I’m not. I’m just a 41, fully tattooed Dad who partied hard until 27yo with no road cycling background. I only began Zwift racing in April 2018. I’m different AND not in the same league as Teugels and the others 😉.
Me: That’s the interesting part.
Several days pass.
JP: Almost done with the answers and photos. Hey, is it worth mentioning? I survived a brain tumor.
Me: WUH! (Jaw drops to the floor while standing in stunned amazement.)
His Story is Different
His Sir Zwift-a-Lot Instagram profile reads, “Indoor Connoisseur, Fueled by IPA, Living the esport dream, Not top of the class, but not nearly last.” JP Leclerc is right. His story is different. There’s more.
His racing friends that know him best describe him as an engaging, passionate, and relatable character. He survived a brain tumor, but it doesn’t define him as he admits, “I tend to forget this event in my life.”
Jean-Philippe Leclerc lives in Montreal, Canada, with his wife and two young boys. “I’m in full Dad mode and loving it,” he shares, and “during the day, I work from home for an aerospace company, so Zwifting is convenient.” Check out JPs Strava profile here.
Serious About Triathlon in 2011
At around age 24, JP began mountain biking “mostly for fun and to chase hangovers.” He soon picked up running, fell in love with endurance sports, and began to get serious about triathlon in 2011. JP lived the long-distance tri life as a top age grouper in 70.3 (25 times) and IRONMAN (6 times). It all coasted to an agonizing slow stop in 2012.
JP started experiencing episodes while training for IRONMAN Lake Placid. “Imagine having everything shaking and swirling around you in the middle of a lake?” he says as if questioning himself. The dizziness worsened and became more frequent.
Despite this, he completed his first IRONMAN in 10h40, recalling, “I got caught up behind weak swimmers because I was so afraid of getting a full-blown episode.”
Things Began Going Downhill
Things went downhill for JP. Every time he turned his head, the world would begin spinning. His neck muscles seized, he slurred his speech, and he felt like he was going to fall over when he walked.
“I couldn’t eat,” explains JP, “and I had “kneel down in the grocery store” huge migraines.” Countless specialists and emergency room visits left him with little more than a vertigo diagnosis, and nothing was helping. JP was slowly shutting down.
“I made ANOTHER trip to the emergency room with my IM shirt on, looking like shit when the Doc said, “Wait a minute. You did an Ironman, and you’re in such bad shape!? Let’s get you a scan!”
Diagnosed with a Brain Tumor in 2012
There was a ball wedged between his brain and cerebellum. “I heard tumor,” horrified by the word, and JP says, “I thought that was it for me.”
His doctors rushed him by ambulance to another hospital for more tests. It was benign. JP felt a rush of relief, happy to have an answer, and the athlete in him came out.
“I was like, BRING IT ON! LET’S GO I’m ready! The athlete mentality kicked in, and with my great shape, I had every tool to go through this!”
JP spent four days in the hospital following brain surgery. The operation was brutal on his body. He needed a walker to walk, his eyes didn’t focus, and he spoke like he was drunk, recalling the dark moment, “I couldn’t even wash myself.”
Home in four days after brain surgery, truly remarkable.
The Long Road Back
JP was undeterred and began the long process back to walking, talking, and returning to the sport he loved. He began running after a month and started swimming soon after. He celebrated the anniversary of his adventure with a sub-three-hour marathon. JP resumed competing in triathlons and took up gravel racing in 2018.
His recovery and rehabilitation gave him a newfound appreciation for structured indoor training, but he wasn’t introduced to Zwift until the pandemic hit. “With all gravel and running races (yes, I still run a bit) canceled,” he says, “I was looking for a way to stay motivated…Zwift Racing was PERFECT!”
Zwift Racing Was Perfect
Some high-end zone training and 430-plus races later, JP no longer calls himself a triathlete but an athlete that can do a bit of everything. “Being close to sub-80 in ranking points on ZwiftPower showed me I can be ok at this,” he reveals. It showed something to the director at Restart racing too.
“Everything changed when I joined Restart Racing two years ago,” says JP. The team gave him a solid athlete base, knowledge, support, and the motivation he needed.
“I think Restart is the most balanced team out there, meaning top 10 in the World,” JP explains, “but also racing for fun and promoting clean sport and transparency, which is vital at this level.” JP got a chance on the Premier Division squad in 2021/2 and feels he’s now ready to help the team significantly. That’s not all.
“I also want to promote this sport that I love so much by being involved and transparent while making this cool and fun, but still be the guy that can crush it comes race day. So look out for Sir Zwift-a-lot on IG for news, jokes, and daily racing!”
I can’t wait!
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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, Endurance.biz, and Bicycling. Chris is co-host of The Virtual Velo Podcast, too!
As someone that’s survived a life or death accident, I can vouch that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! Inspiring story and a tale of real determination. You don’t ever fail unless you give up. Amazing stuff JP 🙂
Well said words to live by! Thank you for your perspective, Ben!