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Andrew L’Esperance: Back to the Factory

After developing Forward Racing for two years, Halifax rider returns to Norco cross country team

Andrew L'Esperance

Andrew L’Esperance has returned to the Norco Factory Team after two seasons on Forward Racing, a lean outfit that had him racing essentially as a privateer. He also managed the team, which included Sean Fincham. Now, with the move to Norco Factory, he can focus more on his goals. Off the bike, he has a wedding to plan. But, that also factors into the racing.

Canadian Cycling Magazine: When Norco moved to a full World Cup program at the end of 2016, you and two teammates were cut from the program. Along with Evan McNeely, you created Forward Racing to continue competing. What did you learn from that experience?

Andrew L’Esperance: We could have said no to Norco and moved on to something else. But we decided that we really loved the company and the bikes, and that we wanted to continue working with the people there. It was quite a smooth transition. We surprised ourselves with what we were able to do. For example, to support Sean Fincham as an up-and-coming athlete for two years and to also offer additional support to other athletes in Canada through the Forward Racing Development Fund was great. It was a challenging, but a really great experience. The high-level take-away is that if you want to do something, you’ll just figure out a way to get it done. It’s not going to be easy, there will be hard moments, but in the end it will be worth it. That’s just one massive cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason.

Marc-Andre Fortier (L) and Andrew L’Esperance descend the Mont-Saine-Anne rocks. Photograph by Nick Iwanyshyn
When did you learn you were going to be able to return to Norco Factory Team XC for 2019?

Toward the end of last season, Norco Factory team manager Kevin Haviland let us know this was something he was working on. It was one of those things where I wasn’t prepared to leave Sean out to dry, so it was either both of us, or neither of us. That was Havy’s plan, too. In the fall, we got confirmation that we’d have support for the coming years. It’s allowed me to shift some of that focus that I had on Forward Racing to some of my own development. I think I have seen some of the benefits already this season.

Looking back at the past year of racing, what are you most proud of accomplishing?

In spring of 2018, in North America, I really pulled together some good performances and results, but they were costly in terms of energy. It’s a long season and you have to use your energy wisely. This past spring, starting the season in Greece and doing the North American racing all went well. They were all good performances. I learned something at every race to get a little bit better. By the time I got to Sea Otter in April, instead of racing for the podium, I was racing for outright victory. We didn’t come up with that, but it was some of the best racing I’ve ever done.

You and Haley Smith got engaged this past fall. You have a plan in mind to fund the wedding yourselves.
Can you tell me about that?

We’re going to put all of our race winnings in a pot and see how we do. We don’t think about it in the moment of racing, but it’s a fun thing to do, since she and I are a team. We also want to make sure we get time at home visiting our families in Halifax and Uxbridge. We’re on the road a lot – either chasing better weather for training or going to races – so it doesn’t leave a lot of time to spend at home with family, but it’s important to us. We’re always trying to make that work in the overall plan.

Looking at the rest of the season, what would you like to accomplish?

For me, it’s trying to get good performances out of myself at the biggest races I’m doing and doing that consistently. In the past, I have had performances I’ve been really happy with, but lots where I have room to improve. Really working on the consistency of good races is a big focus. Having Norco’s support will really help that moving forward.