A native of the northeast, Justin Lindine, or the "Honey Badger" as he is affectionately known, has established himself as one of New England's top bike racers. And though he's found recent success on the 'cross bike, he's no stranger to mountain bike racing either. He's proven that in recent years with a stage win at the Transylvania Epic, wins on the New England Root 66 circuit, and a strong ride this spring at the ABSA Cape Epic in South Africa.
After a stellar 'cross season in 2011, which saw Lindine take 5 UCI cyclocross wins, the Redline rider had a slow start to his 2012 'cross campaign. However, with a string of recent podium places, including a UCI win in Maine, Lindine is back on track for the second half of the season. He was kind enough to take some time to chat with MTBRacenews about his roots in mountain biking, what it's like to be a pro with a "real job," and his goals for the rest of the year.
MTBRacenews.com: For those folks outside of New England who maybe don't know you yet, where are you from and how did you get into bike racing?
Justin Lindine: I actually grew up in Maplecrest NY, which is right next door to Windham NY. I had the great fortune of getting hooked up with Nick Bove who owns Windham Mountain Outfitters and has always had a pretty awesome junior development program for mountain biking- that was when I was about 15 I guess, and I really fell in love with riding and racing. When I went to school at UMass Amherst, and later when my wife and I moved back to the MA area for her grad school work, I sort of became an honorary New Englander, but truth be told, I'm really an upstate NY mountain kid.
MTBRacenews.com: You had a pretty successful 'cross season last year, how are you hoping to build on that success this season?
Justin Lindine: Last year was a pretty incredible season for me with five UCI race wins, so it was always going to be tough to match that this season. That has been especially true as I think everyone has upped their game significantly since last year, what with Worlds being in the states and all. The goal for this season has been to maybe come in a little more slowly than I have in previous years and be able to finish out the season really strong. I have always had great first-halves of the season and the sort of cracked around November a bit, so this season I am trying to hit my stride a little later and have some good finishes at some of the USGP's and Nationals. Working with Redline as a sponsor this season has really been great, and they are really helping in every way possible to ensure that I have another awesome year. They have really been fantastic with equipment and logistical support and it really feels great to be riding for a factory team after all these years. The bonus that they are on board for mountain bike season too is just icing on the cake!
MTBRacenews.com: You won a UCI race in Maine a couple of weekends ago, would you say you're coming into form this year?
Justin Lindine: I think so, hopefully. Between the win in Maine and some strong races down at HPCX in Jersey and CSI in Northampton MA this past weekend, I feel like everything is coming together pretty well. Most importantly I don't feel the same level of fatigue that I usually feel at this point in the season. I am still excited to keep training and racing...and that's key to having good performances.
MTBRacenews.com: What are your goals for the second half of the 'cross season?
Justin Lindine: Well, I'm headed down to Louisville on Wednesday of this week for the USGP, and obviously that is a big goal since I think it will probably be on of the largest and deepest fields to race in the US this season. I'm also planning on heading out to Bend for that USGP, and Nationals is a huge goal for me, so there are quite a few things for the second half here. I'm in a good position to finally win the Verge New England Series too, something I've been on the podium for 4 times I think....so that will feel pretty good if I can pull it off.
MTBRacenews.com: Where did the "Honey Badger" nickname come from?
Justin Lindine: Well, it sort of started with a Cyclingdirt.org video from one of the days that I won down in Granogue DE last year. It was a parody of the Youtube honey badger video and it just sort of took off...What's funny is that before that people had nicknamed me me "wolverine", and really those two things are pretty similar in a lot of respects. I guess sometimes when I'm racing I'm sort of a small angry tenacious sort of rider....so for better or for worse the name has stuck.
MTBRacenews.com: What would you say has been the highlight of your cycling career thus far?
Justin Lindine: Oh, that's kind of hard- I've been lucky enough to have a few really great moments. Last season, winning both days of the Shimano NEPCX weekend in Providence was pretty huge. I was able to solo away both days and those were big, big wins for me...in front of a lot of awesome fans, and I felt like I had finally arrived at some milestone of my cycling career. It was a pretty amazing weekend. But then there are just the experience things, like going and racing the ABSA Cape Epic mountain Stage race in South Africa...I mean I never would have imagined that racing my bike would take me somewhere like that, so it's hard to not stand back in awe and appreciation of those moments. I feel pretty honored to be able to get so much from this sport, it's hard to pick a single moment.
MTBRacenews.com: It seemed like you burst on to the national mountain bike scene a couple of years ago when you won the final stage of the Transylvania Epic Stage Race in Pennsylvania. How long have you been riding and racing mountain bikes for?
Justin Lindine: It's kind of funny, but that race really did put my name back on the radar a little bit. I actually got my start racing mountain bikes and raced a lot of the NORBA series races back in the day, but sort of right when I started to get some of my best results I got an offer to ride for the Targetraining U25 road team and that was a great opportunity so I did that for a couple of seasons, and then I raced with the BikeReg.com / Cannondale road team and started racing cross for them and Joe's Garage. So for a while I wasn't really doing all that much mountain bike racing, although I still did some New England stuff, won a few Root 66 series races here and there, did the 24 hours of Great Glen with a team, that sort of thing. Then a couple of years back I decided I was a little tired of racing on the road and threw my hat back into mountain bike racing, and it's been really great. Mountain biking is always fun, and that's the beauty of it in a lot of ways.
MTBRacenews.com: You mentioned racing at the Cape Epic Stage Race this spring. How did that come about, and can you tell us a little bit about your experience there?
Justin Lindine: Yeah, that race was one of the most memorable and amazing experiences I've ever had. It's always been something that I've looked at and wished I could do, so when Jason Sager of the Jamis factory team contacted me about doing it with him, I sort of couldn't believe it. We had met at the Transylvania Epic the previous season, and at a few other races here and there, and he was looking for someone to do it with on fairly short notice. So I sort of went straight from cross season to trying to get in shape of eight days of the harest racing I have ever done. The race is just mind blowing, on a lot of levels. First, the field is so talented and those Euro World Cup guys are all using it like a high intensity training camp for the upcoming season, so it is just full throttle from the gun every day. Once you realize how hard it's going to be though and you get these moments to look around at the countryside you're in- these huge mountian vistas and vineyard hills, it's pretty incredible. I mean, here I am halfway around the world, racing my bike through this picture-book landscape with some of the best riders in the world...wow. Mentally though, that race is the hardest thing I've ever tackled. Each day you get up at 5AM and just try to prepare yourself for how tough it's going to be, how much climbing there is going to be. You don't want to eat anymore, but you know you have to, it's just really tough. But I would do it again in a heartbeat, it's that amazing.
MTBRacenews.com: You have a job other than bike racing, right? What to you do to make a living? Is it hard to weave a pro racing career into that?
Justin Lindine: Currently I work at Joe's Garage, a bike shop here in MA and the shop that I previously raced cross and mountain for. I'm superbly lucky to work for someone who supports my racing goals and works with me to make a schedule that allows me to train and race the way I need to. But it's always a challenge to fit everything into the hours in the day. I'm certainly not the only one out there juggling a work day with a training load and with other commitments. I just try to manage my time as best as possible, trust my coach Kyle Wolfe at Finish Fast Coaching to make my training count and do the best I can.
MTBRacenews.com: Which would you say is harder for pros who work "real jobs:" on the bike stuff like training and racing at the pro level against full-time racers, or off the bike stuff like getting in the hours at work, juggling sponsorships, dealing with the media etc?
Justin Lindine: I know that for me, I think the hardest part sometimes is the mental fatigue of trying to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. You want to perform at a high level racing, you want to perform at a high level at work, you want your family life to be good and all these things require both time and mental energy and focus so it's hard to give each 100%. It's tough mentally too to know that while you're spending 8 hours a day on your feet at work, your competitiors might be at home taking a nap. But a lot is mental too. We tend to all think the "other guy" has it easier, but everyone-even the pros- have things they have to do, and commitments they have to honor, so it's just a matter of doing the best with what you have to work with and minding the little details that can add up.
It depends on the racing too...This year I tried doing a bunch of 100 miler mountain bike races, and they were fun and I had a certain amount of success with them, but realistically it is a lot harder to be in race shape for a 6-8 hour race then it is for a 1 hour cross race. It doesn't mean it's easier to train for cross, but the overall volume is different. So there is a certain prioritization of time that needs to happen where you mesh your goals with what time and energy you have to allocate. That being said, I think you can do almost anything if you are willing to try hard enough
MTBRacenews.com: In the future, do you see yourself working in more mountain bike racing, or will 'cross remain you primary focus?
Justin Lindine: Hopefully I can continue to do both. I like the way the two seasons tie into each other, and luckily right now I have a team, in Redline, that is interested in seeing me do well in both venues. I really like mountain bike stage racing as a format and would like to include a few of those each season...I'm really hoping to do the BC Bike Race this year, as that just looks like an amazing event, and Transylvania is always awesome, so I am optimistic about this coming summer, but cross is something I think about all year long and try to work towards even during the mountain bike season...but I would hate to have to choose one over the other, that's for sure.
MTBRacenews.com: What's your favorite recovery drink?
Justin Lindine: Well, don't tell my coach, but I really like chocolate milk the most...