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Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast Interviews Part 3 – Keven Lacombe

September 11, 2007 – Here is the final Part 3 of our Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast interviews with Keven Lacombe who debuted with KBS at the Tour de Toona and quickly paid dividends by leading out Martin Gilbert to take the win at the USPro Criterium Championships on Aug. 19. (click here to read KBS Interviews Part 1 with Jonas Carney, here for Part 2 with Martin Gilbert, and here to read an earlier interview with Martin Gilbert, Ryan Roth and Mark Hinnen).

Tell pedalmag readers a bit about yourself, where you are from and when you started racing?
Keven Lacombe: I’m from Alma, which is about 175km north of Quebec City, and I began racing when I was 12 years old.

That’s pretty young, how did you start racing at such a young age?
KL: Where I come from there’s lots of cycling, good young teams, and I just started to ride my bicycle early. Later I competed at more provincial races and at the nationals and then I made the National Team.

When did you think you might be able to race your bicycle as a career?
KL: I used to play hockey in the Quebec Hockey League, and at same time I was racing bikes as a junior. I was asked to go to the Road World Championships which meant I would miss the first part of the hockey season. So at this stage of both of my careers I needed to make a choice and I decided on cycling. Later, I went to California to train and had some good results and soon after I entered the pro road circuit.

When you were ready to go pro how did you choose Kelly Benefit strategies – did Martin Gilbert play a big part in getting you on the

KL: Yeah, yeah. The big reason was Martin. He pushed for me and asked Jonas, “Hey, come on Jonas, I’d like one more guy to help me at the end of each race and I know a rider from Quebec who rides very well and we can do very well together.” So Jonas called me and explained what Martin had said and asked what I thought. I told him that Martin and I complemented each other very well. We had just been together racing on the Volkswagen-Trek team and competed at a lot of events together so I think that’s why we had a good results when I joined the team.

Were you surprised at how well you did so quickly – your first race with the team you placed second in a stage at the Tour de Toona – did that surprise you?
KL: Not really because Martin and I had some good results there in the road race when we were on the VW-Trek team together (note: at the 2005 Tour de Toona). I did lead outs for Martin and he finished 2nd or 3rd, something like that. We hoped for this situation again but what we did right now at the end of the year (at the USPro Criterium Championships) t’s very good for the future and very nice for both of us. It’s clear how we work well together – I do lead outs for him and he has to sprint well – I do my job and you do your job, it’s the perfect situation.

And it certainly worked out perfectly at the USPro Criterium Championship – how big a win was that for Martin and the team?
KL: I think it was very big for Martin and I, and I think it was very big for the team and the riders – all the riders did a very good job there. I think for all the sponsors, it was a perfect situation as well – the sponsors were there and we just showed what we can do for next year. And for me the year is coming to an end soon so it’s a nice way to finish and it’s looking good for the next season for me and Martin if we stay together, for the next season’s results.

Jonas Carney won the USPro Crit a couple of times himself and he was a similar type of rider, is it good to have a him as a director?
KL: Yeah, for sure, Jonas is the best director we could have for this type of criterium riding at the USPro, he won this race a couple of times. He’s very good at rallying all the riders together and he knows perfectly what we have to do to win and he showed us. I think he adds momentum to the team. At the meeting before the race he just put everything on the table, “Ok boys, it’s a very big race and we can gain a lot here, and all the sponsors are here.” – he made a big deal about this race.

What differences have you found racing at this level?
KL: There’s just one difference between VW-Trek and here. Here you have a contract, you are professional so you have a contract to do something. At VW-Trek you don’t have a contract so it’s looser about what you do in each race. There’s strategy before you start and you do the best you can do but here at Kelly Benefit everybody knows what they need to do to perform at each race and it’s more of a business.

Over your career you’ve kind of been bitten by the injury bug. I remember being in the TV truck at the 2003 Hamilton Road World Championships and seeing your horrible crash. Then last year your broke your femur. Are you 100% now?
KL: I have recovered from everything. As a junior at the Hamilton Road Worlds it was just bad luck for me – somebody crashed in front of me and I was not able to get around him. When I crashed and broke my femur last year it was also bad luck (laughs). I think I’ve recovered from all of this and it’s looking very good for next season. Our win at the end of this season is very good…

It gives you confidence?
KL: Yeah, for next year.

This year you still have Tour de l’Avenir for the Canadian National Team…
KL: Yeah, it’s a good event. There are two or three finishes with field sprints. If I can have a good result there it’s gonna be very good, yeah. (note: the Tour de l’Avenir is on now, see coverage at pedalmag.com).

And depending on how you do there you could go to the Road Worlds in Stuttgart, right?
KL: Yeah, yeah. The Canadian National Team is sending six riders (U23 category) to the Tour de l’Avenir and after that they’ll send five guys to the Road Worlds so they’ll have to cut one guy.

Is there a lot of pressure on you at Tour de l’Avenir?
KL: Not really, I will just ride as well as I can and do my best and see what happens. If I don’t go to the Road Worlds I will go to the Las Vegas Crit (the World Criterium Championship September 27th,) which is going to be a good competition.

You’ve also had some success on the track, is that part of your program?
KL: On the track I gain a lot of speed and I will continue to train on the track. This year I stopped doing track events with the National Team because I want to concentrate on the road for the next year. I think if I do that I could do better next year on the road and in the crits, so I’m trying to focus on the road.

What are your long term goals?
KL: My long term goal is just to finish school – finish my university courses and then after that we’ll see.

You’ve represented Team Canada at the Worlds and other international competitions, what’s that like?
KL: It’s very good and it’s very nice to compete at the World Championships. I hope if I go there I will be in my best shape and do the best I can do.

What was it like being part of team when Martin won the gold medal at the Pan American Championships?
KL: I think it’s a great thing for the National Team. For Martin it was good and it’s good as well for Canada’s visibility.

Is it nice having five Canadians out of 11 riders on Kelly Benefit Strategies?
KL: I think it’s good for ambience. There are a lot of good riders in Canada and many are still racing in amateur teams. For American teams it’s a good idea to look across Canada because there are lots of very good riders here.

Jonas says that if the team adds one more Quebecers he’s going to study French.
KL: (Laughs) But French is very hard to learn. If Jonas said that we will try and help. Like I said, there are many good riders in Quebec and in the rest of Canada so I think it’s going be easy if Jonas wants to add one more good rider.

Now that you’re on the road a lot more what do you miss the most about home?
KL: Right now I’m living in Montreal with my girlfriend because we go to school there, but I come from north of Quebec, maybe a six-hour drive north from Montreal. One thing I miss is the hunting season which will open soon, so maybe it’s this.

You’re a hunter?
KL: A little bit, moose and everything.

When you look at a website and see your name misspelled does it drive you crazy?
KL: Yeah, yeah, it’s K-E-V-E-N.

I promise we’ll spell it correctly at pedalmag and good luck.
KL: Thanks

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