“Follow your dreams and never be defeated by anyone or anything…..” – LKJ
Leeana has been offered the chance of a lifetime to race for the “WhyBeNormal?” fixed gear cycling team based out of Milan. They also produce and manufacture some pretty cool cycling kit. Leeana is a fashion designer by trade & when not racing bikes. Will be helping the team to design a range of cycling apparel, both casual and kit.
“Why be normal? Challenge yourself and follow your dreams. Just do some epic sh#t!” – LKJ
In a short space of time Leeana has been able to achieve some truly amazing goals. She was the 9th woman in the world to complete a Hells 500 Everesting challenge. And in 2015 she blitzed the Melbourne track scene with some amazing victories.
Her move to Milan simply began with an interest in the Red Hook Criterium series. After being introduced to the fixed gear scene at the Cycle Messenger World championships in Melbourne in early 2015. Leeana wanted to know more about the fixed gear and track bike scenes worldwide. The Red hook Crit just seemed to stand out to her…..Red Hook Criterium Series is an annual bike race series held at night on track bikes in Brooklyn, Milan, London and Barcelona.
Leeana was hooked;
“I was interested & intrigued by it. I was like.. that’s pretty badass. That’s the most hardcore racing ever! I want in! I started to follow it on social media and friend some of the girls that were involved in Red hook Crit, one of those girls was Corinne Price, she is also on my new team “WhyBeNormal?”. We were liking and commenting on each others FB posts.. After a while I noticed two Italian guys that were mutual friends with Corinne, liking and commenting on my track successes and my edgy style… I was wondering ‘who are these guys?’ I realised that they were involved with the “WhyBeNormal?” team, and discovered that two guys were actually the team owner and one of the major sponsors (Roberto Ribaud and Marcello Marino). I though ‘this is pretty cool’. They’ve seen what I’m doing and they like my style…. thats a bit Rad…”
In mid January this year, as we were exchanging friendly banter on FB, I decided to put myself out there, lay it all out on the table and approach Roberto about potentially riding for the WhyBeNormal? team…. The response that I got was pretty epic. As they had been following me for a while, they were fully aware of all my racing results, my love for track bikes, rad kits and my background in Fashion. It was decided within a week of discussing with the team and crew, that I would be The ‘Aussie Chick’ on the WhyBeNormal? Red Hook Crit team.. “
Things happened pretty quickly;
“Before I had sent the message to Roberto, my plan was to go and race the first race of the Red Hook series in New York, self-funded….I was hoping to perform well enough to be noticed and hopefully get signed to a team.” LKJ
Leeana wasn’t always a Track racer. She used to be in love with the road & a normal week could involve up to 500 km of riding. In october 2014, Leeana was riding with a couple of mates. One of which had raced track (ironically they were all riding out to Two Bays Road for some Everesting training). They were hammering it along Beach Road, the track friend asked “have you girls ever done track? You girls are fast! Like crazy fast!”.
Leeana likes to tell it as it is:
“Track, that sounds like sh#t. My god that sounds so boring… going around in circles” – LKJ
So lo and behold Leeana was coerced into going to the Coburg Velodrome.
“First of all I couldn’t let go of the fence. There’s a hilarious video of me on Facebook talking to myself, trying to let go of the fence. Knowing I was clipped in, fixed gear and brakeless, there was something just not right about it.. I was totally freaking out….. But once I’d pepped talked myself into letting go of the fence, i rode down into the sprinters lane and before i knew it, I was riding fast and turning left, and thinking.. Yeah.. ok… I dig this! The next week I bought a track bike”. – LKJ
Leeana fell in love with the track scene & almost completely gave up road riding.
She trains 6 days a week. Although doesn’t log huge hours or 100’s of k’s anymore she focuses her training on shorter harder efforts, and more recently crit racing. Its gone from one extreme to another. Having trained excessive hours in the saddle to ride 387 km, including 8878m of elevation in November 2014 to complete her Everest on TwoBays Road. She now trains for track events. Some of which are over in under a minute and crits which are over in under and hour.
Her efforts were rewarded at the Masters State Omnium in 2015 where she hungered for victory. She simply trained hard. Focused all her energy on the event as a whole and won all 7 of the races, taking out the Gold. Which was an amazing result considering her relatively recent introduction to the sport.
Leeana Kate James
But cycling isn’t all of her life. Fashion is the other half to her love.
“Riding is all about fashion on the bike, especially in Melbourne… Every sub culture I’ve been involved with over the years has always involved fashion for me, Ive always been interested in this certain characteristic of a scene, it’s an identifying feature that we use, to express and represent the subculture we belong to.. and In Melbourne in particular, the cycling style game is strong…. I’m all about the #cyclestyle, Matching kit to socks to gloves to helmet to shoes to cap, the list just goes on!!! Its a pretty fun game now that instagram has such an influence on cycling apparel, with people sharing their #newkitday and #kitgrid selections, its become an art as much as it is a sport…- LKJ
Leeana knows what she wants and has worked hard on her succcess
“I gave up my job a University Lecturer in Fashion design earlier this year… as I just wanted to be a full-time bike girl for a while- working at Cycles Galleria and focusing on my training for the year of racing ahead … However now that this opportunity has come about, I will be able to combine my skills and knowledge from both sides of the coin to contribute to the success of the WhyBeNormal? Team and Brand….
This is just another chapter of my story that is ‘meant to be’. It’s quite ironic that the team that I’m on is called WhyBeNormal? I pretty much try to embody that statement. I’ve always strived for above and beyond the ‘norm’ in my own creative style, my career and my personal pursuits on and off the bike.. I always put, what some would say, unrealistic expectations on myself… But in the end… that’s what it takes to push to the limit!
Moving to Milan will involve much sacrifice. Leeana has to leave her friends and family and doesn’t speak Italian.
“I’m going to learn Italian. It doesn’t seem that hard… All that primary school Italian is coming back to me… oh and… Google Translate (she laughs).. I feel very much at home when i go to Europe, I’m hoping to immerse myself in the Italian culture as much as the fixed gear crit scene… I love everything about my life in Melbourne but I’m very excited about the new challenges awaiting… .”
You look back and know that you’ve put yourself through so much pain, but you’re glad you did it… I really hope that this happening to me, can inspire others to just put themselves out there, push above and beyond to achieve their goals…. Stay true to yourself, Focus, stick at it and keep riding with people faster than you! and before too long you will be the fast one….. #ridelikeaboss. – LKJ
Keep an eye on Leeana’s progress on social media follow her on: