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Mar 13, 2024

In this episode, Craig Dalton interviews Andrew L'Esperance, a professional cyclist from Canada. Andrew shares his journey in the world of cycling, starting from his early days racing with his brothers to becoming a professional athlete. He discusses the challenges and opportunities he has encountered along the way and how he has managed to make a career out of his passion for cycling. Andrew also talks about his transition to gravel racing and the different strategies and equipment choices involved in this discipline. He shares his experiences in races like Unbound and Sea Otter Classic and provides insights into the world of professional cycling.

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About the Guest(s):

Andrew L'Esperance is a professional cyclist from Nova Scotia, Canada. He grew up in a family that spent a lot of time outdoors and started racing bikes at the age of 12. Andrew has been racing ever since, climbing the ladder and participating in various disciplines such as road cycling, cyclocross, and mountain biking. He holds a degree in mechanical engineering and has always had ambitions to be a full-time athlete. Andrew has raced for Norco Bicycles and is currently racing for Maxxis Factory Racing. He has also ventured into gravel racing and is excited about the opportunities it presents.

Episode Summary:

In this episode, Craig Dalton interviews Andrew L'Esperance, a professional cyclist from Canada. Andrew shares his journey in the world of cycling, starting from his early days racing with his brothers to becoming a professional athlete. He discusses the challenges and opportunities he has encountered along the way and how he has managed to make a career out of his passion for cycling. Andrew also talks about his transition to gravel racing and the different strategies and equipment choices involved in this discipline. He shares his experiences in races like Unbound and Sea Otter Classic and provides insights into the world of professional cycling.

Key Takeaways:

  • Andrew L'Esperance started racing bikes at a young age and has been racing ever since, participating in various disciplines such as road cycling, cyclocross, and mountain biking.
  • He has always had ambitions to be a full-time athlete and has found ways to make it work alongside his engineering degree.
  • Andrew's transition to gravel racing has opened up new opportunities and challenges, and he enjoys the adventure and technical aspects of this discipline.
  • He emphasizes the importance of equipment choices in gravel racing, including tire selection and the use of suspension forks.
  • Andrew's favorite gravel races include Unbound and Sea Otter Classic, where he enjoys the competitive atmosphere and the chance to showcase his skills.

Notable Quotes:

  • "I've always ridden a drop bar bike off-road. My first bikes were mountain bikes, and then I started doing cyclocross, which was my road bike, my winter bike, my cross bike. So, I've always had that mix of riding different disciplines on the same bike." - Andrew L'Esperance
  • "I love the adventure of riding a bike, and it's a lot easier to find adventure on a gravel bike. In general, in the places that I spend the most time riding." - Andrew L'Esperance
  • "If it's going to give you an advantage in the race, sometimes it will, sometimes it won't, and it needs to be at the right time in the race." - Andrew L'Esperance on using a suspension fork in gravel racing
  • "Gravel racing is a combination of endurance, technical skill, and equipment choices. It's about finding the right balance and making the most of each race." - Andrew L'Esperance




[00:00:00] - (): Craig Dalton: Andrew, welcome to the show. Thanks. Thanks for having me, Craig. Yeah. I'm excited to have this conversation. I know you're, you're off to Europe tomorrow, so I appreciate you squeezing us in before you

[00:00:13] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: go. Yeah. Thanks for you making it happen too. I think you were just on traveling as well. So thanks for making it work with your

[00:00:20] - (): Craig Dalton: schedule.

**** - (): Yeah, absolutely. We always like to start off by learning a little bit more about you. Where, where'd you grow up and how'd you originally find the bike?

[00:00:28] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: Uh, I grew up on the east coast of Canada, uh, in the province of Nova Scotia, just outside the main city there, which is Halifax. Uh, and yeah, kind of grew up in a family that, you know, spent a lot of time outdoors and we rode bikes together as a family on vacations.

**** - (): And I'm the youngest of four boys. In the family, so I have three older brothers, and as you can imagine, like, I just looked up to my brothers big time, and especially my oldest brother, and he did a bike race once, so it was basically like, oh, I've gotta do a bike race, and yeah, I just kind of did my first race when I was 12, and ran, what's that, and, um, I've been racing ever since, kind of climbing the ladder, doing some education in there.

**** - (): Uh, but yeah, just been racing ever since and obviously like sprinkling some other sports in there early on.

[00:01:27] - (): Craig Dalton: Yeah, was Nova Scotia the type of area where youth cycling was easy to come by? I wouldn't say it

[00:01:35] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: was easy to come by. Um, I think, I think I was, like, fairly self motivated, like, to make, to make it happen, and had some good support from my parents to make it happen.

**** - (): Um, but there's definitely a tight knit community, and I think they certainly took me under their wing, for whatever reason. And, yeah, helped me, helped me Come up in the sport, but I guess the first race I did was a Tuesday night short track series. So from that perspective, certainly, um, that's like, that's a really great entry point for use.

**** - (): To the sport. Um, when you say, um, when you say kind of youth programming, I kind of think about like a bike club or that sort of thing for like specifically for youth, because we see a lot of that around now. And there was certainly nothing like that. But that kind of forced me to kind of ride with the older, older people, uh, that were definitely better than me and that kind of helped pull me along in the sport early on for sure.

[00:02:47] - (): Craig Dalton: Were you sort of racing consistently at that young age or did it take some time before you kind of really committed to a season?

[00:02:55] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: Yeah, I mean, I think when I did my first race, I was still doing other sports. Like, so I was definitely not like full on right away. Um, but it was definitely a slow process to get into it.

**** - (): Like the, it was more like regional racings first. I don't think I did any provincial level racing when I was 12. It was, it was, the racing I did was the short track series. It was like for, you know, eight or 10 weeks in the summer. And that was, that was the racing and it was, yeah. Like that was the season, uh, and then I just got more and more into it.

**** - (): And next year I did provincial, provincial level races. Then probably when I was 15, um, I went outside the province to race. And by that point, it was kind of like doing every kind of racing that I could, uh, coming from a smaller province. You know, there's not, there's not a ton of racing, but, um, so you kind of need to do all the things.

**** - (): So like do road, do cyclocross, do the mountain bike racing, do the group rides, all those things. Um, and yeah, that's how it, that's how I kind of started things off there.

[00:04:12] - (): Craig Dalton: And at what point did you start to see professional cycling as a career opportunity?

[00:04:19] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: Yeah, I don't, I don't know. To be honest, maybe, maybe I just have started to see it as a legitimate career opportunity in the last couple of years, you know, I, I have a degree in mechanical engineering.

**** - (): It was sort of, um, that was always kind of the way I was going to make, And I never really saw bike racing as a way to make money, but I loved it and I could make it work. Um, and I, I do think I did have ambitions to somehow figure it out to be a full time athlete, whether, you know, putting that professional label on it.

**** - (): Um, it's kind of, I feel like that's kind of different. Um, but yeah, I definitely wanted to be a full time athlete. It's a really, It's a really great lifestyle and just, I've just been chugging along trying to figure out how to make it work. And I would say in the last five years, um, Yeah, I figured that out and

[00:05:27] - (): Craig Dalton: were you figuring that out from a, you know, what's known as a privateer perspective or five years ago, would you enter a team program?

**** - (): Um,

[00:05:36] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: yeah, not definitely not as a privateer. Uh, so previous, so I'm currently racing for Max's factory racing, uh, and this will be my third year on the team. And prior to that, I raced for Norco bicycles in various capacities for about 10 years. Uh, kind of finishing my career with them on the Norco factory team.

**** - (): Those years, there was a period where there was, um, growth in the team and they went to another level. They stepped up to the world cup level and that meant reducing the team size. And that left me without sort of factory team support for a couple of years. Um, and at that time, um, you know, I wanted to keep racing.

**** - (): So it was sort of like, okay, how do I do this? How do I keep doing this? And I created, or myself and a teammate created our own team called forward racing, brought in some other sponsors and kept the support from Norco. And so in a sense, that was sort of privateering, but it was also like, okay, I'm putting, we're putting in all this work to organize this sponsorship.

**** - (): Hey, let's support another rider to, or, or a couple other riders, like bring them up with us. Um, so myself and my teammate brought on a younger athlete named Sean Fincham. And we supported him for two years.

[00:07:10] - (): Craig Dalton: Uh, that sounds like the racing we've been talking about has been on the mountain bike side. And since the listeners of this podcast may not necessarily be as familiar with that part of the sport, can you describe the type of mountain bike racing that you found yourself competing

[00:07:25] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: in?

**** - (): Yeah, totally. Yeah, so XCO mountain biking, it's, it's what's in the Olympics. It's kind of the short 90 minute race, uh, done on a short course, you know, three to five kilometers. You do, you know, five to seven laps. It's intense, there's technical features, that's the kind of racing I grew up on, and that was sort of, yeah, that, that was the racing that was available when I was coming up in the sport.

**** - (): And there's a pretty clear plan within Canada, you know, to do a national series, which is called the Canada Cup, and to perform at those races, and then you might get selected to do something with the national team, like an international race. You kind of just, uh, some opportunities open up that way. Um, and so, so that's, that's the kind of racing I grew up doing.

**** - (): That's the kind of racing I did for the majority of my career. And yeah, until I signed with Max's factory racing, uh, three years ago. That was my main thing doing, you know, I did it to the level that I was racing World Cups full time

[00:08:40] - (): Craig Dalton: Got it. And so was it

[00:08:43] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: yeah, I mean, it's so funny like You know, we've always, ever since I can remember, I've ridden, ridden a drop bar bike off road.

**** - (): I, my first, I, you know, my first bikes were mountain bikes. And then, you know, you're, you're doing mountain bike racing and you need to, you need to do some road riding. So that actually started for me with cyclocross. So my, my cyclocross bike was my road bike. It was my winter bike. It was my cross bike.

**** - (): And obviously you're riding that off road. Um, yeah, there's where I grew up in Nova Scotia. There's just plenty of bike paths, like gravel bike paths and gravel roads to ride. So, yeah, I would say it started with that early on. Um, and I guess more recently, um, Just like training, like for training opportunities, a gravel bike was just a good tool.

**** - (): Um, when I was training for XCO racing gravel bike, it just opens up the routes you can ride. You can ride on potentially safer routes. Uh, with less traffic and it's just a whole lot of fun. And I do, I like, I love the, the adventure of riding a bike and it, it's a lot easier to find adventure on a gravel bike, I feel, um, in general, in the places that I, you know, spend the most time running.

**** - (): Gotcha.

[00:10:21] - (): Craig Dalton: And was when you signed on with Maxis Factory Racing, was gravel racing an original part of the deal when they looked at you as an athlete?

[00:10:32] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: Um, it was definitely, um, you know, the team has always been focused on the mountain bike side of things. But, uh, the Uh, yeah, the, the way the market, or like the way the racing is in North America, it's, it's more like this off road racing.

**** - (): So it's not all mountain, a lot of the biggest races are no crawl races. So, yeah, I mean, that was definitely part of the conversation. Um, And it was certainly something I was very interested in. I actually, I think I've shared this on a podcast before, but, um, about three years prior to, uh, you know, stopping my Racing World Cups full time and signing with Maxis and doing the off road thing, um, I had an unbound, uh, like lottery, lottery registration Okay.

**** - (): That I got.

**** - (): I was never able to make it work with my schedule, and then the pandemic got mixed in there too. And I just never got to use it. Um, the year that I could have used it, um, was the year I signed with Maxis and we were going anyways. And Maxis was a sponsor of Unbound, so. You know, we had, we had entries that way, so I ended up giving it away, but, um, long story short, this, this kind of racing was on my radar for a while.

**** - (): Um, I think I was just before we started recording here, I was telling you. Um, you know, this adventure, I got, my interest got, uh, shifted towards some of this adventure racing back in 2017 when I did the Croc Trophy. It's an eight day mountain bike stage race across, um, tropical North Queensland in Australia.

**** - (): And, yeah, just, just this, uh, very different racing compared to XCO. It's an adventure, um, and I just, I just loved it. Uh, so ever since 2017, I've been, myself and my wife, Haley, have been trying to mix in these different race opportunities that are, that I would categorize as kind of adventure racing. So Stuff like, um, Epic Israel, we've done that a couple times, Swiss Epic, um, BC Bike Race, these sorts of things.

**** - (): And it's, I feel so lucky, I mean I'm still, I'm so fired up on what we're doing now, cause it's basically Those adventure races, but that's the full meal deal. Like that's what we're doing full time. Yeah.

[00:13:21] - (): Craig Dalton: Amazing. Now I think you've been part of the grand Prix for two years already, and you'll be in it again in 2024.

**** - (): Is that

[00:13:28] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: right? Yeah, exactly. You got it. How did

[00:13:31] - (): Craig Dalton: you manage to kind of make that schedule work and hit those mountain bike races that you like? Obviously the. The Grand Prix itself is not mountain bike heavy. There's a few occasions to ride your mountain bike, but not in the same way you had done in the past.

**** - (): I'm just curious, you know, obviously with the different skill sets required for the different types of racing, how you organized your year and your training. So you can do things from, you know, 90 minute XC races to 10 hour unbounds. Yeah,

[00:14:00] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: I don't, I honestly don't know how we did that first year. We went in like, okay, let's do all the racing and that's, that's what we did.

**** - (): We, that first year we still had, well, I say we, cause Haley and I have been on this journey together and we, we, we jumped from XCO racing to this more off road stuff together, but yeah, that year we did five world cups, uh, alongside. The Grand Prix alongside a smattering of other races. And I think it was a big year of learning, uh, which was amazing.

**** - (): It was, there was so much newness to it all, which was also like super refreshing. Um, I think I remember kind of reflecting on the season at the end of the year. And I like, I color coded all the races that I did based on which ones were new. And it was like, over half of them were brand new. And it was a large number of race days.

**** - (): It was like, it was above 35 racing days and there was some stage racing in there. So it's a, it's, it's a little different, but, um, just a lot of racing. And yeah, I don't, I don't really know how we did it. I can't, I can't pinpoint to like, there was, there was no, there was no major thought put into the scheduling.

**** - (): It was like just saying yes.

[00:15:30] - (): Craig Dalton: If we can be there, we'll be there and pedal

[00:15:33] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: totally, totally. And it was a ton of fun. Um, it ended up working, it ended up working out in, in general, um, in terms of like performance in the grand Prix. But again, I think the, the love, like the level of all, all this racing is, is increasing and I, I don't think that approach is.

**** - (): is going to work again. Um, I mean, yeah, so there's definitely some lessons from the first couple of years and, um, I'm not, I'm not prepared to like throw all my eggs in the You know, just focus on the Grand Prix races. There's so, there's so many great events out there. Um, and you know, I also want to, want to continue to grow as a mountain biker and do challenging mountain bike events that really suit my, um, kind of my natural skillset and some of my best, uh, some of my strengths as an athlete.

**** - (): So, so yeah, we're definitely mixing or I'm mixing a lot of different events in this season along the Grand Prix.

[00:16:46] - (): Craig Dalton: Yeah, interesting. It'll be great to follow your season. Yeah, it's complicated. I can see, you know, over the last three years, going to the third year of the Grand Prix here. There's definitely been this specialization.

**** - (): Obviously, there's a lot of prize money on the line for those who do well and get into the top whatever that gets paid out, but it is Increasingly clear that a lot of athletes are just laser focused on it. And I think it's still going to be interesting this year to see those athletes who are out there doing their own thing and racing some other crazy races, as well as popping into these races and see how the points end up shaking up throughout the year.

**** - (): It's, it's an interesting equation. It's fascinating to me, listening to the athletes, figure out how to focus their time and energy. Yeah, totally.

[00:17:32] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: And I mean, I think it's, it is, it is interesting because like, you know, the racing that we're doing, it's, uh, the Grand Prix is this, it is the series in North America right now.

**** - (): Yeah, so there's just so many other good events. And, you know, I don't think any athlete is just doing the Grand Prix. And it is interesting to see, to spread, um, To see how athletes kind of spread their time and, and where their interests lie and, and all that. So it is cool to follow that, follow each athlete, um, doing what they're doing alongside the, alongside the Grand Prix.

[00:18:11] - (): Craig Dalton: I also think it's interesting with the two drop races to just sort of see how the strategies play out. You hope that people aren't dropping them because they're sick or injured and they get an opportunity to strategically say, Hey, I'm not going to peak for that race because in the overall arc of my season, it just doesn't make any sense.

[00:18:29] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: Yeah, totally. Yeah, it is, it is a, I mean, the season, the season goes from April till end of October, and this is a long season. Uh, so, yeah, and you can't, you need to be very good for all these races, and it's not possible to be kind of peaked. For every single race. So yeah, yeah, definitely some strategy involved.

**** - (): And, um, I certainly learned a lot the first couple of years. Uh, things went pretty well the first year, not so well last year. And it kind of, uh, it definitely has me. Motivated to try to try to perform kind of do all the right things to perform Well all season long for that.

[00:19:14] - (): Craig Dalton: Are there specific races in the Grand Prix that you personally enjoy the most?

[00:19:20] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: Yeah, certainly like sea otter classic. It's definitely the most mountain bikey one. It's at sea level And I I really love the race course to be honest. It's just yes super fast fun riding Um It's not one where you can really, it's not like you can rip, rip this technical section and create a huge separation on, on the people you're truly racing against.

**** - (): Obviously there's some big gaps in skills between, um, perhaps those with a mountain bike background and those with a gravel background. But, um, it's, You can't, there's not a huge, huge opportunities for separations there, but, uh, yeah, it's, it's an awesome race and yeah, just the energy at that whole event with the festival alongside of it, it's, it's pretty cool.

**** - (): And it's kind of like the season kickoff too. So that's, that's exciting.

[00:20:19] - (): Craig Dalton: Yeah, for sure. And anything on the gravel bike side that you look forward to?

[00:20:23] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: Um, I mean, definitely Unbound, just like the, the scale of it. Uh, I would say that that one's high on the list. And, uh, yeah, Big Sugar's a cool one too. I mean, I, I do, I'm still, like, I feel like I'm a beginner at this gravel stuff, and I'm still, um, I don't really have it figured out yet, to be honest.

**** - (): And So all these races still feel like, like opportunities and they're very interesting to me. And, uh, yeah, so, um, yeah, I guess Unbound and, and Big Sugar are probably my favorite gravel races in the series.

[00:21:05] - (): Craig Dalton: With Unbound being the longest one on the calendar on the gravel bike, uh, side for the Grand Prix, how do you, how do you approach that as an athlete?

**** - (): I mean, obviously you train up to that distance. When you think about being competitive in an event like that, just kind of walk me through briefly, like the mindset of like, you know, are you following the early moves or are you conscious of Hey, this is a 200 mile day. And, you know, maybe I'm not the most in, I don't have the most endurance of everybody in the, in the Peloton.

**** - (): I'm just curious, like how you manage that to maximize the best result possible for you.

[00:21:42] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: Yeah, definitely. I mean, when I go into those races, I'm not, there's no, there's no pacing. It's going with the front of the race as long as you can. There's, there's no, I'm, I'm, I'm gonna try to make the front group. I'm gonna try to get on the podium.

**** - (): I'm not going to have a deliberate strategy to not follow so I can, you know, finish 20th. Like that's, I'd, I'd much rather go for it and blow up than, than not go for it. Um, that being said, I do, you know, we learned last year that there is definitely some in terms of taking care of equipment in certain, um, conditions like, you know, very rough conditions, muddy conditions, there, there does have to be some strategy surrounding how you ride that stuff.

**** - (): Um, so I'm definitely. taking that into Unbound this year, just that, that whole experience. Um,

[00:22:45] - (): Craig Dalton: and you caught up in any disastrous way in the mud this past year?

[00:22:49] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: Yeah, just, I lost my derailleur, um, very early on. Um, I just kind of snapped off in the mud and it was, uh, Was

[00:22:58] - (): Craig Dalton: that game over for you?

[00:23:00] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: Yes. I, yeah, I, I tried everything I could to try to, um, keep it going, but yeah, it was game over and it was just very, um, that, that was tough, I guess.

**** - (): Uh, I definitely learned from that experience because I had never dealt with that kind of mud before and it's really something you need to experience to fully understand. Um, And yeah, so, um, yeah, looking forward to going in there a little more prepared and having those experiences under my belt and yeah, hopefully a little bit of luck too.

**** - (): But you know, I think in chatting with my friend, Ian, who did quite well, he was, who's done in Boswell, who's done quite well at that race. His, his strategy was. Just kind of, um, sitting back and watching a little bit how, how those, the first section played out, and definitely a more conservative approach, but I was, I was like third wheel into that mud, riding on Tobin's wheel, um, I think when my derailleur came off, I was sitting on Russell or Keegan's wheel and just run, just run the race as best as I could and going for it.

**** - (): Yeah. Those conditions, you know, if my bike can make it through it, it's a huge advantage for me. Um, just cause that is, you know, some technical. Technical ability is a huge asset, just pedaling the bike through that stuff, but you need to have a bike that stays together, um, to take advantage of those, uh, that, that opportunity.

**** - (): Yeah, a hundred

[00:24:52] - (): Craig Dalton: percent. I'm, I'm one of those sort of people who started out mountain biking like yourself, and I love I love the technical elements of gravel racing and the harder technically the races are, the more fun I think they are. Totally. That's the, that's sort of where I hope the sport would go.

**** - (): And frankly, you know, as the Grand Prix got announced, like I've, I've always been hopeful for the mountain bikers to get more of an opportunity, not only in the mountain bike specific races, but in the gravel races to just kind of show that skillset.

[00:25:24] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: Yeah. Yeah. I'm, I'm with you on this. I, I would really. I would really like to Yeah, maybe just see a little more texture in some of these gravel races I I really like what the bwr does pulling in some single track Uh, yeah, I did A couple years ago.

**** - (): I did It's in BC called BCBR Gravel and, you know, BCBR is a BC bike race. So it's the same promoters that do this, you know, um, seven day mountain bike stage race. So the gravel version of it was, was what you can expect from the organizers of a mountain bike stage race. And it was very gnarly. I kind of joked at the race.

**** - (): Uh, like I wrote a, I wrote a taper cast, the Fox taper cast fork. During that race and it was like, oh man, if you had a, if you had a truck full of those at the finish line of that race, you could have sold them all. No worries. It was like a huge advantage to have, uh, Uh, yeah, have suspension on the gravel bike.

[00:26:31] - (): Craig Dalton: Yeah. It's so interesting. Do you ever, you know, as someone who's obviously well adept with suspension and using it on your mountain bikes, how often do you consider it on your gravel

[00:26:41] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: bike? Yeah, it's, it's always a tough, tough decision. And it's like, I've, you know, if I'm not sure if you've ridden it, but riding a suspension fork on a gravel bike is.

**** - (): It's an amazing feeling and it's wild how much more capable the bike becomes. It's 100 percent so much more than what you think.

[00:27:06] - (): Craig Dalton: I've got one on my bike for Mount Tam here in Marin County, and I can't even explain how much more confidence inspiring it is going downhill and. It's kind of cheating for me because I've got a mountain bike background.

**** - (): So generally I ride harder downhill than most of my contemporaries, but putting that suspension fork on, it's just, it's almost unfair at times. Totally. I'm curious to kind of drill into that a little bit as a suspension owner. So what is that? Tell us more about that line for you. I mean, when we would consider it is the main, is the main downside in your mind, just the weight.

**** - (): And if it's a climbing race and you need to stay up at the front, you got to shed the weight and otherwise you'd use it.

[00:27:50] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: Yeah. So I think, uh, I, I reach for it quite often, uh, to be honest, I, my first year at Unbound, I wrote it. Uh, so that was two years ago and it was. It was a huge advantage in the rough stuff, but the thing is, um, that didn't, that kind of just kept me near the front of the group and out of trouble.

**** - (): It's not like it, it gave me a huge advantage in the race overall.

[00:28:23] - (): Craig Dalton: Do you feel like from a, does it, does fatigue come into play when you think about it? I mean, it's

[00:28:28] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: so hard to get a sense of that because You know, no, no matter what bike you ride, if you're riding, riding unbound for 10 hours, fatigue is going to be high.

**** - (): Um, I've not done like, I think that would be a fairly hard thing to test. Um, and I've not done like back to back testing on that, but it really does. The way I think about it is if, if it's going to give you an advantage in the race and some, sometimes it will, sometimes it won't, and it needs to be at the right time in the race.

**** - (): So like, so I did BWR Vancouver Island last year, and the first, in the first bit, there was, um, some single, some heavy duty single track and I just rode away from the whole race. Uh, And was two minutes off the front by like the bottom, you know, in the first hour of the race, but this isn't super helpful because it's a seven hour race and then I was off on my own for the next few hours.

**** - (): Um, so like from a tactical point of view, that wasn't great. Um, but the final descent on that course was one where having like the final descent, a few K from the finish. Having a suspension fork would have been an advantage. So it's sort of like, okay, do I carry this around for the whole race? It's definitely a little bit heavier, not as aerodynamic, but in those sections, it's like a laughable advantage.

**** - (): Yeah. Yeah.

[00:30:06] - (): Craig Dalton: I think that's, I mean, I think it goes with almost every part of a gravel bike. It seems like you just, you have to make these trade offs. And decide where is it going to benefit you like as a recreational racer, I consider comfort to be a big part of it, right? I got to get through these races to, to enjoy them, but comfort at the cost of, you know, an extra pound or so may come to bite me in the ass climbing 12, 000 feet in a day.

[00:30:35] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: Maybe. It depends on what your goals are. Like for me, I really need to think this through. But if I was riding my bike for, um, purely for fun and trying to enjoy and especially if I wasn't racing, like suspension fork on the gravel bike, for sure, as long as, as long as the terrain you ride and the way you ride kind of suits it, if you, if you go on to double track and single track, um, and you have access to that in your area and you enjoy that.

**** - (): It's like, yes, get yourself a gravel suspension fork. It's going to be great. You're going to have a huge smile on your face. It's going to be fun. Um, and you'll be able to drop your friends. No question.

[00:31:20] - (): Craig Dalton: I think you've been training this winter down in Santa Cruz, California. Is

[00:31:23] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: that right? Yeah, yeah, we've been, uh, yeah, we did, uh, well, uh, pass through Santa Cruz on, I did this, uh, Rob Britton and I did this ride down the, down the entire coast of California, um, and then spent a week here after that training, and then I've been here for the last couple weeks, so, yeah, uh, basing out of here for quite a bit, and, yeah, just, Yeah.

**** - (): Yeah. Yeah. Really enjoying the kind of road riding here. Amazing.

[00:31:54] - (): Craig Dalton: Um, before we go, I'm curious to just learn about your bike choices for the year. What, what brands are you riding on the mountain bike and the gravel bike? And what do you like?

[00:32:05] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: Uh, yeah, I mean, for, so I don't believe our mountain bike. Sponsor has been made public yet.

**** - (): So I'm going to stay quiet on that, but, um, yeah, we're on, uh, new drop bars bikes for this year and that's around time bikes. Which is, yeah, kind of, um, exciting new, new brand, uh, well, new to us brand, obviously it's a pretty storied, uh, brand that's been around for a while. Yeah,

[00:32:39] - (): Craig Dalton: we just had them on the podcast about a month ago, learning all about the new owner, the manufacturing processes for that bike.

**** - (): I think that the ADHX 45 looks like a rad bike to ride.

[00:32:53] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: Yeah. No, I listened to that episode. It was great. I, I, I really enjoy kind of hearing the background and the business dynamics of, of, of some of these companies in the industry and yeah, the bike looks really great. I've just seen one once, um, I was down in Bentonville at the end of the season and it looks really good.

**** - (): Uh, so I, I'm very excited to get on one and yeah, really push it. And, uh, yeah. Yeah, it's going to be fun.

[00:33:25] - (): Craig Dalton: Awesome. When do you, when do you think you'll first race on that bike?

[00:33:29] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: Yeah, we're, uh, first race will be BWR Utah. So yeah, once I got back from Spain after the stage race. Uh, probably spend some time on that, get it set up, get it dialed.

**** - (): And yeah, it'll be a, that'll be a great first one for it. And yeah, I can't wait. Um, it's gonna be good. And

[00:33:49] - (): Craig Dalton: since you're been on the Maxis squad for a few years, which, what are your favorite Maxis gravel tires?

[00:33:57] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: Well, the, the new, I mean, the tried and true Rambler, um, you really can't go wrong with that. If you know, you have to pick one tire to do it all, that's going to be it.

**** - (): It's, um, Yeah, just super predictable. Easy to ride. Casing's very good. There's options there, um, you know, for a super heavy duty casing or a, um, you know, a higher TPI casing that's going to be a little more supple. Um, so yeah, Rambler for sure, but the new favorite is definitely the Reaver. Uh, it was released last year.

**** - (): I expect that's going to be the go to, um, for the majority of the racing. And I haven't tried it in a 45 yet. Um, but yeah, really looking forward to that because I do think, um, yeah, just given the tire design, like a fairly kind of a file tread in the middle. I think it's going to scale up pretty good and feel.

**** - (): Um, still roll really well in that larger size, um, whereas sometimes when you scale up on a super hobby tire, um, yeah, yeah. Just the, the speed changes quite a bit with your mountain bike skillset. Sorry, just from the casing and the, and the knob design, I guess.

[00:35:14] - (): Craig Dalton: Yeah. Yeah. With your mountain bike skillset, do you feel like that file tread provides you enough kind of traction for most of the gravel races?

**** - (): Yeah, yeah,

[00:35:25] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: I feel like I can, I can run with less for sure just because the, it's, it's just like not a limiting factor for me. Um, I can run, I've, I've raced gravel races on the refuse, which is just a very tough casing, but it's a full, full slick with no shoulder knobs and you, you know, I, I can manage that.

**** - (): Um, you have to ride it a certain way. You can't, you can't push, you can't, you can't push it into the ground and expect that it's always going to hook up. Um, but it's, uh, yeah, it's a good tool for, for certain, for certain situations. And if you, I mean, with, with tire choices at the pointy end of things, you're always, um, you're always trying to choose the fastest one.

**** - (): Um, and, and. Ride it, basically ride it correctly, like manage the tire well. Um, so yeah, you're never, at least I'm not, I'm always kind of pushing the limits on what I can, what I can run for speed and performance.

[00:36:37] - (): Craig Dalton: And what do you think about inserts for gravel racing?

[00:36:40] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: Yeah, yeah, I've, uh, used inserts quite a bit.

**** - (): Um, typically on the Tannis, Tannis Armor inserts. And, yeah, if there, if it's rough and there's a puncture risk, it's, um, yeah, it's a, it's, it's a, I go for it, um, compared to, I mean, I think inserts, they, they kind of came from mountain bike, but they're actually far more applicable for gravel. Bikes just given the the low volume tire.

**** - (): Yeah, and how how close the rim Like the tires aren't that tall compared to a mountain bike tire So there is there's kind of very little space for the tire deflect before it before it hits the rim and yeah having that cushion there and Yeah, it makes a huge difference. And, um, yeah, tire pressure obviously like pretty important on the gravel bike.

**** - (): And, um, yeah, sometimes lower if you can manage it is, is a lot easier on the body faster. So many, so many little, uh, uh, so many things to think about all the time. And I'm, I feel like I I'm out of practice cause I, I haven't been racing for a few months. Um, so I'm definitely gonna have to brush up on my decision making skills cause the race season's coming and all this stuff really matters.

[00:38:09] - (): Craig Dalton: Yeah. A hundred percent. Would you consider Unbound one of those courses that warrants inserts?

[00:38:14] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: Yeah. One, one hundred percent. Both years I've raced it, I've, I've run inserts. It'll be interesting with the North route this year on tire choices and, uh, on suspension choice as well. Um, yeah. Hoping to get there early and kind of suss it out and, uh, and do some testing there because it is, you know, equipment choice there matters and, um.

**** - (): Yeah. North route. I hear it's a little rougher.

[00:38:41] - (): Craig Dalton: Interesting. I think that's a good place to end, Andrew. Thanks so much for the time. It was great to get to know you a little bit and excited to follow you throughout the season and maybe run into you at Sea Otter.

[00:38:52] - (): Andrew L'Esperance: Sounds good. Thanks very much for having me, Craig.

**** - (): And uh, yeah, I appreciate the time and yeah, see you at Sea Otter for sure.