Feature Interview: Matt Clinton


Chat with former winner of the Hill Climb Championship who has podiumed no less than eight times! Matt Clinton.

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Feature Interview: Matt Clinton

After a race on a hill that is steeped in hill climb history, Dovers Hill (Worcestershire), VeloUK spoke with Matt Clinton, the rider who last won the British Hill Climb title on Bank Road in 2008.


The British Hill Climb championship has for me, always seemed a race for the specialists and one that doesn’t draw the same level of competition at the top as a 10 or 25 for example. That does seem to be changing though or maybe I have that wrong but one thing is for sure, the 2016 edition is certainly popular and competitive.

Over 360 riders have entered the 2016 championship which has to be whittled down to 240 and we’re yet to see a start list. When we do, I expect to see many of the names expected to be contenders for the 2016 title.

Riders like defending champions Maryka Sennema and Richard Bussell. Others such as favourites Joe Clark, Adam Kenway (Metaltek Kuota), Dan Evans, Lou Bates and no doubt others yet to show their cards.

Add to that list of favourites Matt Clinton. Second to current champion Richard Bussell on Dovers Hill last weekend, the same position he occupied when former ProTour professional Dan Fleeman won the championship title in 2010 on the very same climb.

As we waited for the presentation in the village hall, Matt explained that the form was getting better. “Today I was ten seconds down on what I did in the nationals on here (Dovers Hill) so with two weeks to go, I’m about where I want to be”.

“Two weeks ago, I wasn’t so pleased when I did one of my worst hill climbs in several years and this time last year, I was slightly ill but I think the legs are coming back”.

Last year was the first time in eight years he wasn’t on the podium so the pressure is on for 2016!

The Hill Climb season is a short one, a month or maybe a little longer for some and many riders will get in multiple races over a weekend, something that Matt seems to think is essential in the ‘training’ process for the nationals.

”The number of races I’ve done varies over the years. The last few years, I have not been so keen on travelling up and down the country but in 2008 (the year he won the title), I think I did the most, thirteen I think in four weekends.”


2014 and the Hill Climb Championship where he was second

“This year, I have done one maybe two on a weekend so this (Dovers Hill) is my fourth one and I have two next weekend and then the nationals”. Matt adds that racing is essential for getting a feel for putting the power down on the road, something that isn’t the same when doing intervals on the flat or on the turbo.

One thing that strikes me about the championships is that it’s no longer the territory of the specialist which it has been during various periods of the discipline’s history. A look through the winners over the years and you’ll find the specialists but you will also find the names of all rounders in time trialling and road racing. Riders like Fleeman, Stuart Dangerfield, Chris Boardman and many others.

“It does seem to be more competitive these days” says Matt “with the quality of the riders racing for what is now a sought after title. It used to be specialists only with the odd professional jumping in like Boardman and Fleeman and then you had the specialists like Henderson etc”.

“Although it did attract roadman, that did taper off but now has more all rounders in it as well as the specialists and the event is just more popular now. They had well over 360 entries for the nationals for this year’s event for 240 places on the start whereas they used to run at a capacity of 90”.



Bank Road
The climb that Matt won his title on is Bank Road in Matlock. “It’s a tough climb” he says. “It is one of those climbs where you have to put the power down the whole way, there is no respite.”

“If you back off for just a second, I think that’s game over on that climb. You can see probably half the climb from the start and it’s a straight road ramping up in front of you, getting steeper at the top of what you can see in front and then it carries on getting steeper”.

“The middle section where the cross roads are really hurts!”

When he won in 2008 on Bank Road, he did it on a fixed gear and has used fixed in many of the championships like 2009 and 2010 only shifting to a geared bike for ones like the championship in 2011 which was more like a normal time trial and that saw TT bikes and discs being used.

“I’ve used fixed many times but you can do it right on fixed or it can go badly wrong! I found out the hard way you can easily be over geared or under geared. It depends on the wind for example and sometimes you have to ride with what you know and take a gamble.”

“Sometimes though it is better to go for gears where you may spin more like on 39 x 23 or 25 where as on fixed, you might go for something like 42×20, much bigger and that’s what you are stuck with”.

Matt won in a time of 2.24 in 2008 but thinks that will be bettered in 2016. “I would not be surprised if 2.20 gets beaten this year but it depends on the weather. If it’s warmish and a tailwind, it could be even quicker. Certainly Joe Clark and Adam Kenway on the shorter course did some phenomenal times.”


The Hill Climb Weapon
At the hill climbs I have been to (not many I accept) the majority of the bikes used are geared. The bikes seem to range from a normal road bike with a ‘climbing’ set up, ie, light wheels.

Then, there are the variations of that such as geared bikes with a single chain ring and chopped down handlebars to the fixed gear bike which are stupidly light. At the nationals, I’m expecting to see the latter two under the contenders for the titles.

Matt Clinton’s weapon is in the stupidly light category but understandably he doesn’t want the weight to get out before the championships. In chatting about it as I took photos, he was saying he’s happy with it and won’t be jealous of any of the other light climbing machines.
It’s a bike he’s had in his head for a while now and is based on his road bike frame, the Trek Emonda which is a frame that Trek developed specifically for climbers in the WorldTour races so it’s light!

“The hill climb bike is based on my road frame which Trek loaned me for the year. It’s around 700gms for the frame.” On the back, is a 36 hole spoked wheel with the old school looking rim. Matt was looking to have a 24 spoked wheel but as with most projects, things didn’t quite work out and he settled for a 36.

“It’s a stiff wheel, a bit heavier than I would like, but the power is going straight to the ground. Today (last Sunday) was the first time I have ridden it and it felt good”.

The front wheel he had in for Dovers Hill will be changed and the only other change may be the sprocket on the back wheel. “I know what gear I rode on Bank road in 2008 and highly likely I will use that again”.

“I used to go round seeing what other people were using like I used to find out what Henderson was using and maybe gear up one because he spun his gear well”. Matt though now has plenty of years behind him and the experience as well to suss out what gear is best to avoid making a mistake.  ... continued after advert


That experience is also paying off in training where he has tweaked the efforts. “Years ago, everything used to be on the turbo and only recently, because of the decent weather, I’ve done a lot of it on the road”.

Matt explained that he commutes to work three days a week, doing the intervals on the way home. “I’ve changed slightly the technique for doing the internals and there is specific reason for that for Bank Road. At this time of the year, intervals are the top of the game really.”

But where as Richard Bussell explained he doesn’t do much on the road and its mainly short commutes and intervals, Matt says that doing the miles is good for keeping the weight down which Richard does with all the walking that he has with his work as a postman.

But intervals in training are just the preparation for the effort on the day and Matt says it’s a tricky effort for a climb like Bank road. “”You are almost doing 100 per cent but you can’t afford to blow in that first minute because the climb gets harder for sure”.

He goes on to say it’s a power climb where as a four minute or longer climb will be more a roadman’s ones and a shorter one like Monsal, one for the sprinters.

Who wins the men’s championship on Bank Road is certainly a tough call but expect to Matt Clinton to be in the mix … his palmere’s says that is just how it has to be …



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