Rider Chat: Matt Holmes (Madison Genesis)

An interview with Matt Holmes of Madison Genesis who showed day after day in the Tour of Britain he has it what it takes to race with the best and finished the race Best British rider in 15th overall.

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Rider Chat: Matt Holmes (Madison Genesis)

There are riders from the British peloton who can ride a high ranking UCI race and then there are riders who can get involved in the race and go pedal stroke for pedal stroke with riders like Greg Van Avermaet and Gianni Moscon to name but two. One of those riders is Matt Holmes of Madison Genesis.

Matt Holmes and one of his highlights, winning the Manx International

In 2017, Matt was 5th in the Tour de Yorkshire and this year he was 6th. Another brilliant result for Matt was 4th in the Tokyo Olympic Test event and in this year’s Tour of Britain, day after day he was in the mix. The most telling day was the final one when he was away in a breakaway of three riders, Emil Nygaard Vinjebo and Gabz Cullaigh being the other two.

In that breakaway, Matt took six seconds bonus to lift himself up a few places and into the position of being best Brit. Before the stage, he was five seconds behind British Road Race champion Ben Swift and the bonus seconds lifted him above Ben and into 15th overall. But the most impressive bit about Matt’s ride was that despite being in the break, he then stayed in the decisive move all the way to the finish.

After that stage, he said “It was a lot harder than I expected. I got in the break and the other two were riding so hard, I found it hard anyway, so I took it easy as they thought there was no way the peloton would want to catch us before the end of all those climbs.”

“But then I heard over the radio, Ineos have attacked, and I thought oh my god, here we go. Going up the Rake though with the best riders wasn’t that bad actually because when they caught us, they’d gone really hard and so it worked out even the level of effort getting into either the break or getting in the split”.

“In the end it was full on” Matt added before he wasasked whether he fancied another effort in the finale? Matt replied “well I did, if I could and I did have one last go coming out of Horwich. I knew what was coming but they were going a little too fast for me up the steep hill but it was nice as I knew what was coming”.

Matt in the Tour de Yorkshire where the racing and terrain has suited him well

Matt Holmes follows in the footsteps of last year’s winner Scott Davies, in a roll of honour that also includes Geraint Thomas (2017), Steve Cummings (2016) and Sir Bradley Wiggins (2013 and 2014). It is also the first time since 2015 that the Best British rider overall has come from a domestic team, when Owain Doull won the award.

Matt’s performance on the final stage was even better than the one on stage 4 when the race was sprinting towards Kendal and Ineos rider Gianni Moscon attacked, and who should be on his wheel going with the move at a critical part of the race but Matt Holmes.

His hopes for a high GC place then took a nose dive in the time trial when he gave away a minute to the GC contenders which after five stages of not conceding any time except for time bonuses and a few seconds here or there, must have been disappointing.

The Tour of Britain is a race he went into looking for a result to get himself a team for 2020 as his current team, Madison Genesis, will be stopping at the end of the year.

But Matt knew the Tour of Britain was a difficult race to get a good GC position in because it is a very different race to the Yorkshire one especially with the time trial. Speaking before the Tour of Britain, Matt explained “I like going for the GC in the Tour de Yorkshire because I know it’s going to split up and I know am going to be strong enough to go with it”.

He added “where as in the Tour of Britain, it’s more about picking the right move as it’s not as hard but hopefully with the better riders this year it will be more like Yorkshire.” Whether it was like Yorkshire, only Matt will know but had there not been a time trial, I’m certain Matt would have been in the top 10 just as he was in the Tour de Yorkshire. Despite being eight days instead of four (Yorkshire) Matt was able to ride with the best day in day out. Who knows, he may have even been stronger on that final day!

Matt Holmes at the Bourne Road Race where we did this interview the week before the Tour of Britain, a race where Matt went all out to get a hard ride before the big goal.

Looking back at the race, on stage one, 114 riders came into the finish at the front of the race, on stage two 61 and on stage three there were 72 so bunch kicks and the race controlled. Stage four, a very tough one that suited Holmes and one his DS Roger Hammond had warned him would be a key stage. Only 20 finished in that lead group on that day but still too many to give him a high GC position or a healthy gap to the rest ahead of the time trial.

On stage five, sixty plus led the race in and then there was the time trial (stage six) that put a huge dent into his GC challenge. Matt though continued his show of strength on stage seven when he finished only 5 seconds down in 18th on the winner Mathieu van der Poel and again, in the mix of all the star names from World Tour/ProConti teams. And that after a breakaway effort in the stage.

So there is no doubt that Matt Holmes is good enough to ride World Tour and Matt says that the racing at WorldTour would suit him better than the domestic scene. He recalls a stage in the Tour de Yorkshire in the cross winds when he probably had the most fun he’s had in a race.

“All the good riders were there and we split it in the cross winds and it wasn’t anything to do with climbing. It showed me I’m not too far off and with Lawless winning it (Yorkshire), who’s got a much better sprint than me but the gap between us on the road isn’t so much and that keeps me going chasing the dream.”

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And therein perhaps lies the difficulty for Matt getting a team’s attention. Having that killer weapon, like the sprint Lawless has, or the time trial that others have. That killer move we saw he does have came on the Isle of Man for the Manx International which is a perfect example of what riders need to do but at the higher level at races the major teams are looking at to make teams sit up and take notice.

Asked before the Tour of Britain did he have a contract for 2020, Matt replied he was holding off signing anything until after the Tour of Britain as he was waiting to hear back from a few teams. When asked was it hard to race knowing a team he has been with for six years was folding, he replied ‘no’ as he knew he could do well in the Tour of Britain.

Matt’s 2019 Season
Matt’s season, prior to the Tour of Britain though has been a memorable one. “I have been consistent so it’s been a good season although I would like to have won a few more races” he says. Was the National Road Series, a goal of Matts at the start of the year? “It was, as I knew I’d be good this year and I thought it would be a good thing to do along the way”.

Looking back at the season, Matt says they only get two big races during the season, Tour de Yorkshire and Tour of Britain to really show themselves and he certainly did that in Yorkshire and has again in the Tour of Britain. Another highlight though was the Tokyo Olympic Test event which he says he took full advantage of the opportunity with 4th place.

“It was really good to represent the country. It was good GB didn’t just take academy riders but climbers who were riding well in the national series and opened it up for riders like me. If am based here next year, I probably won’t get to ride the Olympics but if I manage to get a WorldTour team then I would hope they would pick me for the Olympics because I would be so much stronger and lighter and I know the course well”.

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For me, Matt’s win on the Isle of Man was brilliant. He won the mountain time trial showing he can Time Trial on the right terrain and then that coup de grâce on the final stage to attack and go clear of what rivals were left after three times up the Mountain.

It was a highlight for Matt as well. “It clashed with RideLondon and I was asked to do that but I couldn’t do it because I’m not registered on the whereabouts programme you need to be on to ride WorldTour so it worked out best winning a race rather than just doing a job for GB.”

Matt also showed himself in the crits too. “I volunteered to do Birkenhead because I wanted to help the team as they were leading and I found out it is a very different sport and I got a good kicking! It was hard and I wasn’t up to speed for it. Otley was hard too but was more like a road race. The only other crit I did was the Isle of Man and I did alright in that except for the last corner when I nearly lost it (the bike)”.

What races we will see Matt racing in during 2020 will depend on what team gives him a chance. He should have no problem getting a chance in a British based UCI one although how many of them will be about is yet to be decided as the demands on them by British Cycling at the start of the season could make it hard for a few teams financially to have what it takes to step up to UCI level.

Should he get his wish though of a chance at a higher level (fingers crossed), then who knows where we will see him race. He certainly deserves the opportunity and it is a huge shame that a team like Ineos have not given him and a few others (James Shaw being one, Mark Christian another) a chance. Or better still, how great it would be if the country had a pro conti team to give those good enough to race at that level, a team to do it in.

Matt’s skill is that he can race at the front with the best in the world day after day and we know when you can do that, the win will come. … we wish him well in getting an opportunity to show case his talent in the pro racing in Europe. To those riders from Madison Genesis who are retiring, good luck in the next stage of your career …

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