5 Reasons Why He’s Justin Spinelli and You’re Not


Words || Gary J Boulanger

On a recent road ride in the Santa Cruz Mountains with my friend Anthony Mangieri, I noticed a unique glint off the rear Royce hub of his new wheelset, built by Luxe Wheelworks in Boston. Intrigued by the quick-release skewer, I did some cursory research on the man behind the business, Justin Spinelli, a 33-year-old retired professional road and cyclocross racer from New Hampshire. What I discovered was a fascinating story, begging to be published.

Five years after buying his first bicycle in 1993, Spinelli was racing for the mighty New England-based Richard Sachs team. He quickly rose to the top of the Under 23 category in the Tour de Toona stage race, gaining a spot on the US National Team. In his first full season, Spinelli jumped from a Category 4 to a Category 1, leading the U23 road squad at the 1998 World Road Championships in Valkenburg, the Netherlands. In 1999 Team Mercury’s John Wordin brought him on board to support another up-and-coming racer at the Tour de L’Avenir, a crazy kid from Pennsylvania named Floyd Landis. Spinelli finished his second season on the road by racing the World Road Championship in Verona, Italy.

In early May 2000, Robbie McEwen’s Farm Frites team manager Teun van Vliet plucked Spinelli from Mercury, and two weeks later, summarily plopped the 20-year-old New Englander into his first pro race: the Giro d’Italia, where he managed to last a strong 12 stages.

The pull was too great for an American company like Cannondale to overlook one of its own, and during the 2001 and 2002 seasons, Spinelli was racing a Campagnolo-equipped Cannondale alongside Saeco teammates Cadel Evans, Mario Cipollini, Danilo di Luca, and Gilberto Simoni. The pressure proved too much for the youngster, who promptly packed it in and headed back to America, not before leaving his mark both in Europe and North America: a top-five finish in a mountain stage in Austria with a top-five general classification there as well. “Countless top 20s in the super hard races in Spain and Italy, plus plenty of DNFs from giving it all for the team,” he said in a 2009 interview. “Oh, I was in the breakaway at the Classica San Sebastian World Cup…”

1. A blazingly fast cyclocross racer, Spinelli snagged second place at the U23 Cyclocross National Championships in Fort Devens, Massachusetts, behind current Cannondale pro Tim Johnson and ahead of Jonathan Page. According to team sponsor Richard Sachs, that result was among the highlights of his several years on Sachs’ developmental team. Spinelli was named to the 2007 UCI Cyclocross World Championships Elite Men’s team in Belgium while racing for Richard Sachs a second time, when former Richard Sachs team member Page claimed silver and a moment of pride for the U.S.

2. The first pair of race wheels Spinelli built himself were for the 1997 UCI MTB World Cup at Mt. Snow. “I built them with DT Revolution spokes for lightness and specially splined, alloy nipples so I could build them to a high tension,” he told me. “I silver medalled in the Junior category and rode those wheels until I sold the bike they were on years later.” His mechanical training began at Goodale’s Bike Shop at age 15, but they didn’t allow him to touch any of the wheelbuilding tools until he was into his third year. “Everything was ‘Mr. Miyagi/Karate Kid style’,” he added, “and I swept a lot of floors and emptied a lot of trash my first couple years on the job.”

3. Unlike many I’ve profiled for this column, Spinelli does not come from a cycling family heritage; for him, it was simply genetics, work, and luck. “Growing up I played every sport available and by my senior year in high school my life was 100-percent bicycles,” he explained. “I’d wake up and train before the school bell rang, then sleep through the morning classes to recover for my afternoon training. After training I’d go to work at Goodale’s until bedtime, then start all over again the next day. It was a pretty cool setup I had going, come to think of it. At 18 I was handed a plane ticket to train at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado as part of the U.S. National Cycling Team. My parents gave me their full encouragement to go chase my dream. College and all that other stuff could wait; they’re great parents.” He eventually dabbled in industrial design.

4. Spinelli raced the 2008 Amgen Tour of California for the Kelly Benefits Systems-Medifast team against a star-studded field: über-sprinters Mark Cavendish, Freddie Rodriguez and Tom Boonen; Spring Classics star and multiple Tour de France yellow jersey wearer Fabian Cancellara; former Saeco teammate Mario Cipollini; eternal domestique Jens Voigt; 2007 Paris-Roubaix winner Stuart O’Grady; three-time world champion and Milan-San Remo winner Oscar Freire; two-time world and Olympic road champion Paolo Bettini; 2013 Milan-San Remo winner Gerald Ciolek; 2012 ATOC winner Robert Gesink; 2011 ATOC winner Chris Horner; and three-time ATOC winner Levi Leipheimer. The 6-foot, 150-pound Spinelli finished 70th overall behind Leipheimer, sandwiched between compatriot Rodriguez and multiple Tour de France yellow jersey wearer, the punchy Frenchman Thomas Voeckler.

5. Regarding wheelbuilding: “The first pair of carbon wheels I built was in 2005,” he said. “Craig Gaulzetti had a stash of LEW rims and EDCO hubs and he gave me the go ahead to build them into wheelsets. Today, I select the best possible material, period. It’s also important to remember, it’s how I work with the material that matters most. The rim is not the wheel. The spoke is not the wheel. The hub is not the wheel. The wheel is the wheel.” When asked how long it takes him to build a set of wheels, uninterrupted, he said two hours for alloy rims and four for carbon. “ I savor the latter,” he added. “The actual act of building a wheelset is the closest I come to feeling perfection, if that makes any sense.”

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    Curtis Boivin says:

    August 23, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    What Dr. Dawn M. Richardson is not telling you is that all of this happened 9 months after she had an affair with Justin Spinelli.

    She is also not mentioning that this reconciliation that she is referring to consisted of her manipulating a 9 year old to tell her Dad not to leave. So in the future, avoid being at the ER at Huggins hospital in Wolfeboro NH or your story will be shared too. She keeps a collection of patient X-rays in her home and enjoys sending her friends any story she finds humorous.

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    Dawn Richardson says:

    September 2, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    NIce try baby. When we reconciled and resumed intimacy in June of 2013, you said we should be “open and honest.” “Open and honest” for you meant bullshitting me and immediately pursing a second affair with Erin behind my back. It meant lying to Erin that we weren’t still intimate. As soon as I found out about the affair with Erin, I filed for divorce. I didn’t stop sleeping with you though, my huge error in judgment, since you’d given me herpes during your first affair with Veronica. 6 weeks later, in September of 2013 you and I both tested positive for Chlamydia. How did that happen, Curtis? Erin or some different skank you were sticking it in? Have an awesomely shitty life dude, don’t miss you, can’t wait to get rid of that couch Veronica blew you on when I had to work or the fridge you put your knuckles in when I had to work. My life is 100 % better now without you & your whiny drunk ass in it. Thanks for doing me a favor and declaring yourself to be the loser you are while I’m still young. I DO NOT miss paying your rent…..sorry about your shitty life choices, dude…..

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    Dawn Richardson says:

    September 3, 2014 at 8:23 am

    I guess what it really boils down to is behaving with integrity in a marriage. You wouldn’t know anything about integrity, Curtis. When you are simultaneously lying about fidelity to to both your wife and your mistress, that’s not integrity. When you are drunk and unemployed for 2 years right after the marriage, pretending to start a business and drinking instead, and racking up $300/month in liquor store charges on your wife’s credit card, that’s not integrity. When you finally go back to work and then refuse to put any of your paycheck towards the mortgage, that’s not integrity. When you invite women over while your wife is at work for a blow job on the couch with the kids asleep upstairs at the marital home, a sex weekend in your family vacation home with the kids, when you contract STDs from your affairs, give them to your wife, and tell her she caught them somewhere else, that’s not integrity. When your wife has emergency surgery as a complication of one of the STDs, and you move out 2 weeks post-op and heave her to fend for herself, that’s not integrity. Again, you would know nothing about integrity, because you have none. You are a taker and I am a maker, and you lived the good life at my expense for 14 years. You were just along for the ride and not capable of true love, commitment and normal family life. I am so so grateful to have you out of my life. Best of luck trying to rationalize your horrible behavior during the marriage and living with your conscience.

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