Interview with Solo Specialist Matt Page

Matt Page
The 24hr Race Specialist is aiming to cast his racing net a bit further in 2011. Look out world…

What Matt Page looks like without a helmet on, not going fast.

2010 results:

1st – Exposure 24hr UK Championships
6th – 24hr World Solo Championships (Elite Men)
1st – Wiggle Enduro 6 – (Solo Elite Men)
5th – British Marathon Championships (Senior Men)
2nd – BMBS Dalby Forest (Expert Men)
3rd – BMBS Wasing Park & Sherwood Forest (Expert Men)
1st – Single Speed European Championships
24th Overall (1st British Rider) – Grand Raid Cristalp Marathon

Singletrack: Can you remember your first bike race?

Matt Page: Well it wasn’t really a race, but the first event I entered was the “Schwinn 100km” marathon in Builth Wells (now the Merida Series), September 2001. I started riding during the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001, this was one of the first events allowed to run. I think it took me about 6.5 hours to complete, pretty big first event!

ST: Why are you a Solo “specialist”?

MP: Well quite honestly because I know I do well in them. I spent two years as a Cycle Courier in Cardiff which helped the endurance, but since being sponsored by Wiggle in 2008 I’ve stopped as a courier to concentrate on racing, otherwise I would have run myself into the ground. Last year was the first year that I also started racing competitively over shorter distances like XC and Marathons and I’d like to do more of these type of events.

ST: What makes a good Solo racer?

MP: Mental toughness above everything else. You also need to have good endurance and speed, but if your mind isn’t in the right place you wont make the finish line.

ST: What are your goals – for next year? and for the years after?

MP: I’m hoping to become more of an all-round cyclist and my aim is to become the best all-round Mountain Biker in the UK. I will be racing Elite at XC and also doing a few big Marathon events on the continent and I’ll still be doing the 12hr and 24hr solo races, maybe even a stage-race. I am hoping to compete in the 24hr World Solo Championships again, but it will depend on where in the world it is. The ultimate aim to become the World Champion.

ST: What makes a good professional racer?

MP: That is a difficult question to answer. I think it is more a case of what it takes to become a professional. Self-motivation, determination and an ability to tolerate a fair amount of pain when training are all important. Personally I am also ultra competitive and that has helped me get where I am now.

ST: What is your favourite event?

MP: 2010 was a very special year for me and almost all my best races came from this season. The inaugural UK Solo Champs was brilliant, as was the experience of traveling to Australia to compete in the World Solo Champs, but the race that holds the best memories was the Grand Raid Cristalp, a huge marathon in the Swiss Alps. It was my first experience racing abroad and the atmosphere while racing through the Swiss villages was amazing! The riding and racing scene is very different over there, far more welcoming and supportive. I’m hoping to return again in 2011.

ST: What is the result you’re most proud of so far?

MP: I’d say there are two big results, winning the inaugural UK Solo Championships and also Winning Mountain Mayhem solo in 2009. Mayhem has always been a special race to me, so to win was very special indeed. Finishing 6th in the World Championships despite many problems was also a good result, but I know I can improve on that now that I have the experience.

The Doethie Valley is Matt's local training ground. Photo by Benji Haworth.

ST: What is your biggest disappointment or regret in racing so far?

MP: I don’t have any regrets, but I have had racing where I have been disappointed my performance. I will always try and turn a negative into a positive and also learn from my experience. In 2008 I didn’t perform well in Mountain Mayhem, but I turned it around and went back and won in 2009. The failure the year before really fired me on to win.

ST: Where are you favourite places to ride (in UK and abroad)?

MP: I’m pretty lucky where I live in Wales to have some great MTB and Road riding around me, but it is nice to travel as well. I love riding in Scotland, especially Kirroughtree and Glentress. Canberra in Australia is a great place to be a cyclist, the network or cycle trails and MTB trails puts the UK to shame.

ST: Do you ever ride for “fun” or is it hard to not think about training?

MP: During the Winter I’ll get out without any training in mind, but I’ll always be looking to improve on something, sometimes skills or even core work while on the bike. There is always another race on the horizon and something else to think about, so it is hard to completely switch off about training and racing.

ST: Do you have any heroes?

MP: Yes, there are a couple of riders who I really admire.

Nick Craig, UK racer who continues to win races in all distances. He is such a nice guy, always friendly and smiling whenever I meet him. A very good role-model to any aspiring racer.

Chris Eatough, 6 time 24hr World Solo Champion and featured on the cycling film 24solo. He dominated the sport for almost a decade and brought a new era of professionalism to the ultra-endurance section of MTB racing.

ST: What difference does it make being a sponsored rider and what obligations (not just getting good results!) does being sponsored place on you?

MP: It does make a big difference to have a good sponsor, but it doesn’t make up for hard work and solid training. Having access to a wide range of parts and having Ben (Wiggle mechanic) at all my major events obviously has its benefits. My obligations are to represent the company and be a good ambassador at all times, results are important but I’m never put under pressure to perform. I also keep an online blog where people can follow my training and racing progress through the year.

ST: Tell us a bit about your race bikes and typical race kit. How do you choose what bike/bits you’re going to use for a particular race?

MP: For the longer events I tend to use a Focus First full suspension, mainly because it’s more comfortable. I can ride 12 and 24hr events with no discomfort whatsoever. In the shorter XC events, or in the big European marathons where total ascent is in the thousands of meters I have been using the Focus Raven Hardtail. The bike setup stays fairly similar throughout the year, but I am always trying to keep the weight down by using lightweight parts. It is never at the expense of durability and everything is well tested before using in big races.

ST: Thank you.

Matt features in the next issue's route guide. Photo by Benji Haworth.

See more of Matt Page in the January issue of Singletrack Magazine as he shows us around the Doethie Valley for the issue’s Route Guide feature.

Follow Matt’s blog - http://blog.wiggle.co.uk/matthew-page-profile/

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