“I'm writin' down names, I'm makin' a list
The real ones been dyin', the fake ones is lit.”
– J. Cole
By now, Justin was racing with his mentor Bahati at Rock Racing, a chaotic US outfit that included the ageing Tyler Hamilton and Mario Cipollini on their roster. It wasn’t exactly the ideal first pro team for a teenager to join, and when Rock folded in acrimony the next year – “that was really tough for me, I didn’t really know how to handle it” – Justin kept his road racing dreams alive with a spot on Axel Merckx’s Trek-Livestrong talent development squad in 2010.
On the same team as future WorldTour stars Taylor Phinney, Ben King, Alex Dowsett, and Nate Brown, and also competing for the US national team in Belgium, Justin earned impressive results at kermesses, the high speed Belgian pro/am races that are known to make men of boys, or break them.
“After one race, the national coach said to me: ‘you can be really good at this’. I thought I was golden! I did U23 Roubaix, and worked for Taylor [Phinney] when he won. It was sick! I flew home and finally got to see my girlfriend, and I remember the national team going ‘hey man we’re going to fly you back out to Europe in a week’. I’d been home for only a week, I didn’t know this was happening. I said ‘ah I’ve got to think about it, I have all this other stuff going on’. I didn’t end up going back to Europe and I never got the call again. I kind of just fell off the map.”