BEING PRO — JAMES PICCOLI
Team: Israel Start-Up Nation
Hometown: Montreal, Canada
When was your first bike race, and how did you do? When did you start cycling ?
I dabbled in bike racing when I was younger (12–13 years old), and I couldn’t tell you the exact date or race that was my first, but what I can guarantee is that I finished last. I started riding road bikes just for fun with my dad when I was a kid. We had a loop that we loved to do in town, and we would stop at an Italian cafe on the way home. All I wanted to do at that point was beat him up our local hill. Eventually, I saw some racing on TV and decided to try it out, but I was really bad, and I kept crashing and finishing last. So, I took my first retirement from racing and changed to other sports.
What were some pivotal points on your journey to becoming a pro?
Fast-forward a couple of years when I was a mechanical engineering student, I fell in love again with the technical side of bikes and equipment. I decided to start training again for some time trials and see if I could tinker with some bikes and make myself some parts, and I guess you can say the rest is history! (Little did I know how bumpy the road to professional cycling would be!)
You recently competed in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Flèche Wallonne. What are one or two of the strangest aspects of racing during the pandemic?
It’s kind of hard to answer this one, because since these races are pretty new to me, I don’t really know what it’s like to race them in a “normal” year, but from what the guys tell me, the atmosphere at the monuments is usually awesome with fans on the climbs and at the team presentations and the overall atmosphere. It’s a shame that the fans are missing out on seeing the races in person, but we know that for now that’s how it has to be if we want the races to go on, so that’s okay. I can’t wait to do these same races again and have the full crowd experience!
How did you use Zwift during the beginning of the pandemic? How do you see yourself using it now that racing has returned?
Being from Canada, I’ve done my fair share of indoor riding over the past couple of years. Most of my quality training I do at the PowerWatts spin studio in Montreal where I can get a pretty efficient workout. So, being forced to ride indoors during the pandemic wasn’t too foreign to me. I found Zwift pretty engaging and fun, and it’s a good way to get a quick workout in. But, personally, nothing beats the great outdoors and getting to explore and ride on my bike.
What is your go-to tire setup for a race?
Most of the time we race on tubular tires from our sponsor, Maxxis. But, these are really interesting times for tire manufacturers at the WorldTour level, because teams and riders are starting to take much more interest in tire types and compounds and their impact on performance.
I don’t think it will be too long until we’re all racing on tubeless tires. We get a lot of input with Maxxis, and we’ve been working on some secret projects that I’m sure will start to be released soon. As an engineer at heart, I love to be involved in product development, and I’m pretty excited for the future of tire technology.
Do you cross-train at all?
I played hockey (as any good Canadian boy does!) for almost 15 years, and I still love to skate when I can! Skating uses a lot of the same leg muscles that you use on the bike, and it can also be a great cardiovascular workout, too. If you don’t live in the frozen north, rollerblading is a good alternative, or find an indoor rink and ask about free skate hours.