Justin Leov: Lessons from a Life in DH

Earlier this year Trek World Racing’s Justin Leov announced the 2012 World Cup DH season would be his last. The likable Kiwi has spent eight years racing World Cups at the highest level and collected almost 20 top-10 finishes.

Justin Leov, Dunedin, New Zealand
Trek World Racing’s Justin Leov, of Christchurch, New Zealand, reveals the most important lessons he learned after eight years at the top of the sport. Credit: Adventure Media Group/Derek Morrison

The 27-year-old has won the Garbanzo DH at Crankworx and several Norba DH races during his career. He is currently the reigning New Zealand Downhill Champion and US Grand Prix of MTB Champion .

Justin rates his World Cup podium, in Andorra in 2009, as one of the best moments of his life.

For 2012 he campaigned for the second year in a row alongside the unflappable Aaron Gwin on the Trek World Racing team. We asked Justin to spill a few key learnings from his DH career and what recipe was required to dethrone his teammate and the 2012 UCI World Cup Champion (yes, with a round to go).

“The only way someone will beat Aaron Gwin is if they are prepared to sacrifice every other aspect of their life for the training involved and have the desire to win as much as he does,” Justin smiles.

“There are a couple of guys coming up that I see that commitment in. I will definitely be watching over the next few seasons just to see how fast this sport is going to get. Every year of my racing career the speed of the elite racers has lifted and now with Gwinny at the top it’s pretty ridiculous really.”

Justin has been one of the most consistent riders on the circuit and the most dependable. We asked him to share his secret to staying grounded when it gets crazy.

“I’ve always just tried to concentrate on my own program and what I need to do to be ready for racing,” he shares.

“It’s not always been easy though – in this sport there is a lot riding on a race run so sometimes nerves and doubts creep in and you need to try to block them out. It helps to have a plan for the weekend and just try and tick off the boxes. Being prepared with your race is really the key – then you can just concentrate on the things you can control.”

Over the course of his career, along with top-10 finishes, Justin collected a lot of friends and respect from his fellow peers. We asked him how important this was to his game plan.

“It’s very important to have good relationships with your team mates,” he explains.

“You spend so much time in the hotels, travelling and around the pits – you need to have good friendships to make the atmosphere a relaxed one. I’ve been lucky over my career to have really good team mates. I’m not a super-social person on the circuit – I maybe could have got out there a bit more to talk with other riders. When I am racing I like to keep to my team bubble a little bit – I’m there to do the most I can for my team … that’s what I’m paid to do. Often after the race we’re so mentally and physically drained all we want to do is have a team dinner and chill out.”

We ask Justin what he will miss most from the World Cup circuit:

“Most of all I’m going to miss the feeling of a top race run,” Justin offers.

“Being on the edge for 3-5 mins pumped up with adrenaline is quite a feeling. When you cross the finishline and see the crowd going nuts and see the time is good – it’s pretty much the best feeling any racer can have. I will definitely miss that.”

Justin Leov at Val di Sole, Italy
Justin Leov on the pace at the 2012 UCI World Cup DH at Val di Sole, Italy. Credit: Trek World Racing/Sebastian Schieck

My Top Five Most Important Lessons

1) Hard work pays off – and it is years and years of hard work. No one gets to the top and stays there without this.

2) Concentrate on what you can control, don’t worry about what you can’t.

3) Be yourself and don’t turn into a dickhead when you have good races and start winning.

4) Always put in 100%.

5) And this is most important – have fun, why do it if you’re not?


Justin Leov at the 2012 UCI World Cup DH at Val di Sole, Italy
Justin Leov, one of the friendliest men on the circuit, is all smiles at the 2012 UCI World Cup DH at Val di Sole, Italy. Credit: Trek World Racing/Sebastian Schieck

Justin Leov: Career Highlights


Turned pro



5th World Cup, Angel Fire, USA

6th World Cup, Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada

7th World Cup, Pila, Italy

13th World Championships

13th World Cup DH Overall



20th World Cup DH Overall



1st NORBA National, Snowmass CO, USA

1st G3 Race, Key Stone CO, USA

7th World Cup, Mount-Sainte-Anne, Canada

4th Overall in NORBA Series, USA

21st World Cup DH Overall



6th World Championships

6th World Cup, Schladming, Austria

7th World Cup, Fort William, Scotland

8th World Cup, Maribor, Slovenia

8th World Cup DH Overall

3rd Sea Otter Classic DH

2nd Oceania Championships DH

1st NORBA DH Deer Valley



4th World Cup, Maribor, Slovenia

5th World Cup, Vallnord, Andorra

6th World Cup, Schladming, Austria

7th World Cup, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

6th World Cup DH Overall

1st Crankworx Garbanzo DH

1st New Zealand Downhill Champion



8th World Cup, Leogang, Austria

9th World Cup, Maribor, Slovenia

14th World Cup DH Overall

14th World Championships

3rd Overall Pro Gravity Tour

2nd Crankworx Garbanzo DH



6th World Cup, Windham, USA

8th World Cup, Leogang, Austria

8th World Cup, Fort William, Scotland

9th World Cup, La Bresse, France

10th World Cup, Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada

9th World Cup DH Overall

3rd US Open



1st New Zealand Downhill Champion

10th World Cup, Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada

1st New Zealand Super D Champion

1st US Grand Prix of MTB Champion


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