Friday, March 18, 2011

Interview With Louis Garneau, Olympian and World-Class Cyclist

This month, we're joined by Louis Garneau, a Canadian road racing and track cyclist and cyclewear manufacturer who has been involved with cycling his entire life. With 13 years of bike racing around the globe, more than 150 victories, and winning the Canadian Championship, Louis has based his career on his undying passion for cycling. He also continues to produce and patent the leading cycling apparel, helmets, shoes, accessories, and frames, as he has for more than 25 years. I'm proud to ride with Louis's Florida club of cyclists, which builds a cycling base for new and veteran cyclists who live in Florida as well as our traveling guests who come here to ride with us.

Your entire life has been dedicated to cycling. How did you originally get into the sport?

You know, I started racing at 14 years old and stopped at 25 after the Olympic games in 1984. I was a roadie, a road man, and I raced 250 kilometers (168 miles) and finished 33rd out of 163 riders. After that, I decided to quit and start my own company with my wife. I was the first person to do cyclewear in Canada and the U.S. Every year we grew, and we are now a worldwide company.
What are your tips for those who are beginner cyclists?

At the beginning you need to start slowly, because, when you train, it's for life. It's like brushing your teeth. If you start too hard, you can get tired, quit, and disappoint yourself. I recommend riding 3 times a week - 30 minutes, then an hour, then another hour. As you get in better shape, you can build on that time and double it after 6 months. You need to eat well, sleep well, and have a thorough exam with your doctor to make sure it is OK for you to begin a cycling program.
What was your most memorable experience on a bike?

The Olympic Games, '84. I had a bad crash, but I finished the race even though it was difficult. 'Never give up' is something I believe in. It was 105 degrees in L.A., very dry, and I crashed on the corner with an Italian. I hurt my knee and was suffering, but I needed to finish. The Olympic Games are the top of the top.
In 1983, you started manufacturing your first cycling clothes in your father's garage with your wife, Monique Arsenault. What inspired you to begin the line?

My dream was to be an artist, but I realized it's difficult to survive in the business. When we got married, we decided to manufacture small quantities of cyclewear. I designed, and my wife was a nurse, so she was very good for stitching the cyclewear. At the beginning, we had no plan to become a big company. We could survive selling maybe 5 pairs of shorts and 5 jerseys a week. Every week, the orders became bigger and bigger, so I thought, 'We need to reorganize. And hire some more people.' We built the company one employee by one, all the way up to 400 employees today. I tried 25 new products just last week - I make tests, and I give my feedback to the factory to create a really super product.
How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t feel like training?

I think my motivation is very strong. I was always an athlete with a lot of discipline. It's natural for me to me to ride, it's a part of my self. It's healthy. Sometimes I feel sleepy, and after training I feel energized. The results are fantastic. You feel proud, fresh, like another person. It's a way of life, and I need to do it. I push myself and say, 'Never give up.' It may not be fun at the beginning, but the results are always worth it.
How do you feel cycling has changed since you first began?

The population has changed a lot. People are riding the bike who are 40, 50, 60, 70 years old, because there's no impact on the back or backs of the knees like with running. You can go fast or slow, long or short. So basically, the sport is getting more popular because it's easy to do. Also, the bikes today are much lighter.
What are your favorite parts of training?

I like climbing. I like to climb mountains. It gives me great satisfaction. I like to see a big mountain and know I'm going to the top. Sadly, in Florida there are no mountains, but in Quebec we have good mountains. It's a good challenge to climb. And when I cycle, I like to go fast with friends. I like to go fast on my bike, to be honest.

Your least favorite?

Rain and cold, I hate that! When it's like that, sometimes I train inside with my bicycle in the gym. I hate cold weather and rain.
You participated in the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984, a dream experience for many people. What was that experience like?

Listen, it's the most important race in the world, and I decided it would be my last race. For me, it was realizing a dream. Year after year of training hard, I realized I would represent my country at the Olympic Games. It's difficult to describe, but very special. It's a good souvenir in my head. When you're an Olympian, it's for life. And I'm proud of that.
Who inspires you?

Guy Lalibert√©, the CEO from Cirque du Soleil. Also, Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France 7 times despite having cancer. That's someone special, for whom I have a lot of respect.
We all have a favorite motivational motto. Mine is, "Never let work interfere with your training." What is yours?

"Never give up." It's the way I drive my life. I never quit a race because I was tired or for stupid reasons. I am like that with my wife, who I've been with for 35 years. I met her when I was 17 and she was 15, and today we have our own kids. I've had the same company for 28 years. I believe in what I'm doing and never quit any aspect of my life for an easy reason.

How do you continue to support the cycling community?
We sponsor different teams around the world. We're sponsoring a big team in tour de france, Europcar. Also, one project I'm very proud of is sponsoring the Rwanda cycling team, these are kids from the genocide who race with the national team. I've sponsored them for two years, giving them nice jerseys, shorts and helmets. I'm happy to help the Rwanda team. Really, cycling is for everybody. Everybody can ride a bike. It's a green way of transport, we don't use gas. When you ride a bike, you're free. It's a way of life.

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