Sunday, July 25, 2021
HomeInterviewsJustin Grace - Kiwi Coach Switches from Team France to Team GB

Justin Grace – Kiwi Coach Switches from Team France to Team GB

-

The last time we spoke to Justin Grace – the Kiwi who’s coaching skills had much to do with turning New Zealand into one of the world’s major cycling sprint nations – he’d just left his role at the Land of the Long White Cloud and signed up for – La Belle France.

It seemed like an unlikely partnership but with Francois Pervis blasting the world 200 and 1,000, records and winning world titles three at a time – sprint, keirin and kilometre – all looked rosy.

However, it was always going to be difficult for an ‘Anglo’ to be accepted as sprint coach in a land which has produced Morelon, Trentin, Tournand, Rousseau, Sireau and Bauge.

So perhaps it was no surprise to hear that Grace is now with British Cycling as sprint coach – with New Zealand and France among his toughest opposition.

As 2015 and the dreaded ‘one year ‘til the Olympics’ approached Grace took time before the recent Track World Cup round in Colombia to chat to VeloVeritas, again.

Justin Grace
Justin with GB’s Jess Varnish. Photo©Justin Grace

Your job as French coach, Justin – what happened?

“Well, it was really a job that many people said would be very difficult – being a foreign coach in France.

“As it turned out, it was difficult to communicate really well between staff, riders and the upper management.

“The objective was to bring an Anglo Saxon approach to the team, but I wasn’t well equipped to make some of the changes I felt were important.

“When the opportunity to move on presented itself, I knew that it was a good thing for me and the French Federation.

“Nonetheless, I learned a huge amount professionally that will carry through into my personal knowledge.”

It must be a pain uprooting the family, again?

“Actually, it was much easier the second time around, as we didn’t feel that we were moving from our home and family.

“We did have a very good group of expat friends in France from around the world.

“Leaving them was the hardest thing for the family.”

Did you enjoy your time in Paris?

“Honestly we miss living in Paris.

“It was such an amazing experience for my family living there learning French history and language.”

Justin Grace
Justin has spent a successful period with Team France, but is loving working with GB. Photo©3news.co.nz

It must be nice to being back where everyone speaks English?

“For me it is brilliant at work.

“Picking up the nuances in track side chatter is a big part of being a good coach.

“Now I can actually (mostly) understand what the athletes and staff really think.

“And my daughters are loving being back in English at school.”

Your first World Cup with GB was in Guadalajara – are you happy how it went?

“Yes, the World Cup in Mexico was really good for me.

“It gave me the opportunity to see how the staff interact, how the riders cope with the stresses of racing and travel.

“And of course the results were great for us too.”

Is there a ‘next wave’ of GB sprinters ready to emerge?

“The squad is pretty large and there are a few other riders we have our eyes on outside of our GB squad too.

“So looking forward to Tokyo and beyond, I think we will be in great shape.”

Are GB now qualified for The Worlds in all the disciplines?

“Qualification isn’t completed until after the 3rd World Cup in Colombia this January.

“However, we are where we want to be and expect to have places in all categories.

“Strategically we will then need to look at what events are best to invest the riders’ energy in to maximise results.”

What’s your take on The Europeans and World Cups involving so much travel?

“Wow!

“Who would have thought we would have the European Champs in Guadalupe!

“For the last few years, unless you are from the Americas, there has been a huge amount of budget and time invested only in getting to the races we are required to race in.

“A group of nations are working with the UCI to try and minimise the travel for the future.”

The Track Worlds are in France – that must be a motivator for you?

“Ha ha! Yeah, that has worked out as one of those strange twists of fate we encounter from time to time.

“I actually have a Harry Potter style magic wand, hand carved out of a piece of the Paris track.

“It was a parting gift from someone there.

“I may not have magic but we will be working hard to perform well there.”

Do you think the ‘Olympic obsession’ with the big federations has devalued The Worlds?

“Becoming World Champion is still an absolute pinnacle of our sport, even more so for those nations struggling to meet all the Olympic qualification standards.

“However, public demand in almost all countries drives the funding models, and they in turn drive our absolute goals.

“It is true that sometimes a potential world title may be compromised in the pursuit of Olympic Glory.

“But everyone still wants to be World Champion.”

The Germans will want their team sprint title back?

“Yes, the Germans will be hunting hard for that particular win.

“They have a big squad to choose from also.

“However, there are really four or five nations capable of winning the Team Sprint on the day.”

Is Pervis as unstoppable as last year?

“That will only be seen in Paris.

“For sure his every waking minute will be focussing on retaining those titles in Paris.

“He lives only a few hundred meters from the track so it’s as “at home” as anyone will ever get.

“If Francois has even 95% of last year’s condition, he could still be very successful.”

What will it be like for you when GB lines up against NZ?

“I think that now enough water has passed under the bridge for me to not have any mixed emotions.

“I really respect those guys and the team for what they have done.

“However, my job is here and I am 100% committed to the GB team.

“Anyone we line up against is there to be beaten.

“End of story.”

Justin Grace
Justin and famous designer and cycling fan, Sir Paul Smith. Photo©Justin Grace

Are you still racing Masters, yourself?

“No. I would like to race again, but the reality of my job is that I cannot compete against some of my less time constrained competitors.

“Perhaps I’ll try to do some sneaky training for next year.

“But the times now are very fast!”

A tech question – have the bikes gone as far as they can go?

“I think that there is still a lot of room for advancement in the technology.

“The constricting factor is the UCI regulations we must adhere to.

“We will try to push the limits all the time.”

What’s your number one goal for 2015?

“Easy.

“Goal number one: great preparation and planning towards the 2016 Olympics.”

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Shane Archbold – on his Wonderful Commonwealth Games 2014

The famous mullet may be gone - but unlike Samson, the strength has remained. Kiwi flyer, Shane Archbold was one of the 'Men of the Games' - medalling (God ! I hate that expression) in the team pursuit and scratch before setting Jack Bauer up for silver in the Vietnamese Rainy Season Sunday which hosted the Games road race.

Jordan Kerby – “NZ are getting faster at each meet we do”

You’ve been World Pursuit Champion and a regular on the Australian national squad. But then the federation tells you that they think you’ve, ‘gone as far as you can go,’ and you’re out. That’s the end of your international track cycling career in that case? Not if your name is Jordan Kerby whose mother happens to be a New Zealander by birth.

Book Review: “Oh, THAT Tour!” by Paul Jesson

Paul Jesson has recently finished his autobiography; ‘Oh, THAT Tour!’, the title coming from his introduction to the pro ranks. The book isn’t a conventionally structured tome, starting with a short chapter about the Paralympics time trial/road race bronze medal he came back and won in Athens some 24 years after his Vuelta stage win...

Christopher Macic – “I have to give it 100% this year”

A few years ago, Vik and I were hanging over the barriers at a Friday night kermis near Gent; ex-pro Tony Bracke was Hoovering up the primes but one of the Kingsnorth Wheelers guys was catching our eye, Christopher Macic.

Justin Grace – the Kiwi who is France’s Track Coach

In the ‘old days’ it used to be that the ‘smaller’ and emerging cycling nations would rely on expertise from the ‘Old World’ – European coaches could be found all over the world. But these days it’s all different; and perhaps the biggest surprise in the past year has been first division track nation, France taking on a New Zealander as their coach. Justin Grace is the man, here’s his tale...

James Oram – New Kiwi U23 TT Champion Rides With Axeon for 2015

Racing with Axeon for 2015 is Kiwi, James Oram who we first spotted when he won the 2011 Tour de l’Abitibi in Canada – the ‘Junior Tour de France’ with Bobby Julich, Tyler Farrar and Taylor Phinney all on the roll of honour. Later that year Oram took silver in the Junior Worlds TT and for the last three seasons has been with Merckx. Last season he cracked the top ten in the Tour of Alberta and World U23 TT Championships and he’s kicked off 2015 in fine style with a win in the New Zealand U23 TT Championship – we had a word soon after his Kiwi win.

At Random

Scots selected for UEC Junior and Under-23 European Track Championships

Four Scots have been selected for the Great Britain Cycling Team heading to the UEC Junior and Under-23 European Track Championships taking place in Montichiari from 12 – 17 July. Under-23 riders Mark Stewart and Jack Carlin will be joining Juniors Lewis Stewart and Jenny Holl – who were also selected for the UCI Junior Track World Championships earlier this month.

Team Ineos Launch Signifies the Start of a New Chapter

Today heralds the start of a new chapter for Team Ineos. Ineos are now the sole owners of Tour Racing Limited (the Team’s holding company), signifying a fresh start following the conclusion of Team Sky’s decade-long ownership by Sky and 21st Century Fox. Team Ineos officially launched at a press conference, held at The Fountaine Inn in Linton with Sir Dave Brailsford, Team Ineos team principal, and Sir Jim Ratcliffe, founder and Chairman of Ineos, in attendance.

Saunier Duval Team Launch 2007 – Day 3

The third day, and it's the big one, your actual Saunier Duval Team Launch 2007. I wrote-up my Gianetti and Ventoso interviews in the room first thing then came down for some grub. You can read the interview with Franciso here.

Alf Engers (Part I) – “I Was Steered Towards Speed”

'A.R. Engers' the start sheets used to say, 'Alfred Robert' but to us he was 'Alf' or 'The King.' Time trials weren't boring affairs when Alf was on the throne. He was a man on a mission; to take the British 25 mile record through the 30 miles per hour barrier - and more than 30 years after he broke the barrier there are still not many riders who can claim a '49' or faster.

Giro d’Italia 2012 – Stage 15: Busto Arsizio – Lecco/Pian dei Resinelli 172km. ‘Plane Crash’

It's the Scottish Road Championships today - damn this Giro and it's climbs around Busto Arsizio in beautiful Lombardy! But Martin was telling me that the sun was out in Balfron and the jackets were off, so Scotland certainly had the last laugh - the weather here in Italy was grim.

Harry Tanfield – Signed by Katusha for 2019/20

VeloVeritas caught up with Harry Tanfield a few days after his move to the Swiss/Russian squadra Katusha hit the browsers. The thing about a Harry interview is that no matter how big the result he never gets too excited - and signing with a World Tour team for two seasons doesn’t seem such a big deal for the 23 year-old from Great Ayton in north east England.