Talkingshop: Fastest Postman in Britain – Matt Bottrill

After Silver medals in his favourite distances of 25 and 50 miles, i-ride’s Matt Bottrill is going into 2012 racing for Gold …

Larry Hickmott writes… it was 2003, unbelievably; that I last interviewed Matt Bottrill after he’d won the British classic, the Severn Bridge Road Race. I can’t believe it has been that long but the calendar doesn’t lie and while Matt doesn’t do so many road races these days, he has progressed to being  one of the country’s top time trialists.

2003 — Matt Bottrill wins the Severn Bridge Road Race, in 2011, the winner was Zak Dempster.

Silver in the ‘25’ and ‘50’ in 2011 may well rank him as the second fastest time triallist behind Michael Hutchinson but Matt does feel that with the help of a coach and powercranks, he is training better and getting closer to the rider most want to beat in a time trial; ‘Hutch’.

When VeloUK spoke to Matt, he’d had the end of season break and was getting into the training again and was focused on his assault on the competitions that matter to him in time trialling. In 2011, that included not just the 25 and 50 titles but also the Rudy Project Series which he won after taking the first four rounds.

Matt by day is a postman and I guess, like me, many will think he gets in plenty of miles doing that but not as many as you think. Matt says it’s about eight to ten miles on the post bike per day so fourty to fifty miles per week. With his ‘training’ only being about ten hours a week, those other miles do help him keep fit and Matt admits that he could probably not get away with doing the training he does, without the job as postman.

He certainly started the year well, dominating the Rudy Project series and winning it overall despite getting ill at the back end of the season. “I missed the final round due to illness” Matt explained. “All the others though went as planned. I broke the course record in the first event by six minutes, in round 2 just missed Hutch’s course record by 11 seconds and in round 3, I would have broken Stuart Dangerfield’s course record for the Buxton Hilly but punctured on the first lap and missed it by 20 seconds! Then, in Round 4, I broke the late Jason MacIntyre’s course record.”

Matt hard at work in the British Time Trial Championships won by Alex Dowsett in 2011.

Victory after victory saw Matt build up a good lead in the series but Round 5 did not go to plan! “I changed my bike to comply with the UCI regs in preparation for the British Circuit Time Trial Championships which messed my position up on the bike. I did a good ride but learnt a lot that day which helped me with the British champs”

Matt says he is very happy to have won the Rudy Project series for the second time and pleased to see that all the hard work, on the bike, in the wind tunnel and with his coach, is paying off on the result sheet.
It’s that hard work and progress that has seen him stay in the sport at the highest level. Matt has been racing since he was twelve  and at one stage, just as lottery funding came in, he was riding for the Great Britain team. It’s where he says he made his biggest mistake, and that was not getting involved with the track team.

Racing the track comes hand-in-hand with GB these days and Matt feels he may well have been able to do something in the Pursuit. With the success he has had in recent years, that may well have been the case. Instead, he tried to make it on the road with GB but in the end, just ended up over training and trying too hard to reach that goal.

Matt then continued to race, road and time trialling but things weren’t progressing fast enough. “I was just training like had for years and the times between Hutch and me were getting bigger and bigger. It was doing my head in!”

“It came to a point when I had to do something or call it a day. So I started training with a power meter and that has made a massive difference. It is very technical and you have to train like the pros to compete at the top.” Matt explained how getting a coach has made a big difference but like most riders who race, there is still a balance in life he has to meet. He works full time and has a young family so time to train at the same level as the full time pros is impossible.

Instead, his coach has him training in specific ‘zones’ based on the power required for a particular effort and with his first races expected around mid March time, Matt says he’ll be increasing the intensity of the efforts in training right up to the time of the Rudy Project races and then beyond to the two big championships, the blue ribbon event the ‘25’ and then the ‘50’.

The rider Matt, and probably many more all aim to beat, Michael Hutchinshon.

Matt admits he couldn’t get away racing the road having so little time to train and rest. But time trialling mean he can be specific about what he does and get away with doing less hours than he would like to. That doesn’t mean he avoids road races. This year he got the hands in the air in a category 2/3 event and he may in 2012, do a few more.

Matt used to race Premier Calendar events and while he feels he could still get round, he knows he would run out of legs at the back of the races because of the limited training. In time trialling however, he knows he can be one of the best, if not the best, with the right training for specific distances. So for 2012, Matt has high hopes for success…

“Next season, the plan is to try and beat Hutch and be number 1. That has to be the plan. I respect him but I still want to beat him” says Matt.

Talking about the differences between road and time trialling, it’s the banter at road races he says he misses. The pre-race banter in the village hall and the same again post race where as in Time Trialling, it’s much more of an individual sport where he explained you warm up on your own and then race on your own.

Matt rides for ‘i-ride’, the UK importer of lots of things to do with cycling including Eddy Merckx and Argon bikes. It’s the latter which Matt rides for time trialling with pretty much the same configuration for all his time trialling. He also does a lot of his training on the TT bike.

He’s looking forward to the new E18 E-118 Carbon Frameset Argon which he hopes will give him a few more watts explaining that the main things he looks for in a TT bike are stiffness and aerodynamics. The bikes have Fulcrum wheels and a Campagnolo groupset along with the very important power cranks. “I’ve been using them for about a year and half now and would be lost without them” he says. “I wish I had started to use them years ago!”

Matt carves his way through the rain at this year’s British Time Trial championships

Asked what are his favourite courses are, Matt says the rolling road time trials on quiet roads. Yes, he will do dual carriageways but he’s not into these drag strip courses the way many are. As a double winner of the series, he of course enjoys the Rudy Project events and in 2011, he won four rounds.

It has been noted that the numbers in the senior mens category are down in that series and Matt puts that down to the fact the rounds of the series are held all over the country and because there is only a small number of riders capable of winning them, not everyone is travelling to them especially these days with the cost of fuel etc.

Matt though doesn’t understand why more riders aren’t willing to take on the challenge of racing against the faster guys because it’s the same for him when the likes of the Wiggins or Dowsett race. Too many riders he says back away from that challenge and that’s something he’d like to see change.

SRM Powercranks says Matt, are one of the keys to his success in time trialling …

But while the Rudy Project series is important, his season is based around three championships; 25, 50 and the British Circuit TT Championships. “The rest of the events I race, I want to win and if I do, that’s great but if don’t, then I just carry on. You want to win everything because we love winning.”

And the race he’d love to win is the ‘25’ championship. “Anybody that’s anybody has won that race and I’m sure even the likes of Alex Dowsett would love to come back and win it” Matt explained. Another of Matt’s ambitions is to have a go at breaking the competition record for 25 miles. It’s about a minute and half better than his personal best but Matt feels that if everything went right and he has the form he has at the nationals, then he believes he could get close to it.

Asked whether he’s tempted by other distances, Matt says he might be tempted by doing another ‘100’ despite saying after the last one it would be his last. Although his 3.39 for the 100 (around his fastest for the distance) is a lot quicker than many people’s times for the distance, it’s still a bloody long time he says and it’s a distance he isn’t keen to do a lot of!

Finally, Matt says that Time Trialling is such an easy part of the sport of cycling to get into with local events all over the country. He reckons there must be a time trial within 10 miles of most people during the season and that, and the low cost of entering events, are just two reasons they are so popular.

It’s certainly a far cry from his days racing the road in France but Matt’s pleased with the success and admits that he know’s he can’t compete with the likes of Alex Dowsett and Brad Wiggins but locally, there are targets to be had and he’s getting closer to them every year. Perhaps, 2012 will be Matt’s … fingers crossed for you Matt!

Interviews from VeloUK

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