A Few Questions With: Justin Butsavage

Every few months, particularly here in the Lehigh Valley, a junior cyclist will pick up a good result in a crit or on the track- and the hype begins. Oftentimes, this hype ends up misplaced or unfulfilled for various reasons but this time, I can assure you that the hype surrounding Justin Butsavage is correctly placed.

Justin Butsavage (left) with a teammate waiting for the start of a race at the Kissena Velodrome. Photo by Miki Marcinkiewicz.

Over the past year and a half, Butsavage has become one of the top junior track cyclists in the country, largely due to his bronze medal in the team pursuit at the 2016 Pan-American Junior Championships. This event also set the course for the future of Butsavage’s career, as he says, “Medaling at Pan-Ams was a great achievement for me. It was what made me switch to endurance and showed me what I’m capable of”. However, 2016 wasn’t without its letdowns for the 18-year old. At Junior Track Nationals, Butsavage failed to come away with a national championship jersey at his home track, an experience that he describes as frustrating. “I was still trying to figure out the kind of rider that I was. I wasn’t really upset with the results, but I expected better than I had done”.

Butsavage on the podium at the 2017 Wilmington Gran Prix.

With 2016 in the rearview mirror however, Justin has shown his endurance capabilities early on in the crit season, with 2nd place at the Wilmington GP (Men’s ⅔) and at the prestigious Tour of Somerville (Junior Men) along with multiple top-ten finishes in pro events at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center. With results like these coming in at a consistent rate, it’s easy to wonder what Butsavage has planned for his career over the next few years. This year, the large goals are a gold at nationals and a spot on the world’s team. With his experience from last years Pan-Ams, barring injury or sickness, it’s likely that he’ll be in Italy this August, aiming for some rainbow stripes. Regardless if he makes it on to the World’s team or not, this is Justin’s last year as a junior, and he has already talked to a few bigger teams about riding for them, “but nothing is set in stone just yet”.

Butsavage in action. Photo by Shirley Kwan.

2017 is just the start, as the competition for a spot on the 2020 Olympic team is well underway, and there is a large group of under 23 riders competing with more established pros for a spot. When asking Butsavage about who is looking likely to get on the team, he said, very diplomatically, “There are a lot of great riders at the camps, and it’s pretty hard for me to tell who will and won’t make it since everyone is so close”. Despite this, Butsavage still is chasing after a spot in Tokyo and he plans it to be the first of many. As the man himself says, “In five years…I see myself just coming back from the Olympics, and getting ready for the next one.”