Yes, we know – we should have been at Gifford at the weekend for the first big race of the Scottish season but fear not; no report but there is an exclusive interview with the winner, Mr. Matt Kipling.
Here’s what he had to say to VeloVeritas just a day or two after the dust had settled.
Tell us how the Gifford race panned out, Matt – were you up on your own or with a team?
“I’m in a team of two this year with James Moss. He was unable to race this weekend but for the rest of the year we are doing the same races. We are both returning to our original sponsor, MTS Cyclesport in Durham.
We have always got support from them even when riding for other teams and they have managed to get us sponsorship from Scott UK who have supplied us with the top Addict bikes to race on.
“It was at the half way point in the race that the break formed with about eight riders and we managed to get organised, gaining about a one minute lead. Then, in the last lap and a half the attacks started and we stopped working together.
“I never really thought about winning before the race but I managed to save my energy while others were attacking each other and as the final lap went on I noticed people’s legs going and I felt good.
“I was happy to leave it to the uphill sprint and I went at 200m to go, which was earlier than I wanted into the wind, and was surprised that no one came around me.”
What did you think of the circuit?
“I like the circuit.
“I won this race in 2010 and it’s a great event.
“There is normally more wind which makes the race split up early, whereas this time you needed to get further into the race before people start to hesitate and a group could go away.”
Have you raced in Scotland much before – what do you think of the standard?
“I have done quite a bit of racing in Scotland. I really miss the Girvan Three Day over Easter. There hasn’t been anything to replace that race over the years and it’s a real shame it’s gone.
“I usually do the Drummond Trophy and the Anderside Classic as well. They’re tough 90 mile races on good roads for racing.
“I think the standard is rising everywhere.
“The amount of people racing is increasing and so that drives up the standard.
“The race on Saturday was safe, it was well organised and marshalled, so riders will have enjoyed it and will be keen to do more.”
Did any Scottish guys catch your eye?
“I thought the rider who rode for Achieve racing, which is a team from the North East, rode well.
“I’ve never seen him before so he’s either improved a lot in a short time or has been abroad racing.”
How’s the North East calendar for 2015 – it used to be very strong?
“The North East Calendar is looking good this year.
“We have got a new road race league (www.ttrrl.org.uk), with a good mix of stage races, single day races and criteriums.
“I will be riding all of the rounds and it will be my main focus for the year. I hope some of the Scottish riders will support these events too.
“We also have plenty of National Series events in the North East with the Tour of the Reservoir, the Velo29 Stockton criterium and road race, and the UCI ranked Beaumont Trophy.
“With these races and a couple more in Scotland and Yorkshire that will be sufficient racing for me.”
You were second in the British Junior ‘Cross champs way back in 2000 – did you ever think of becoming a ‘mud man’?
“I rode seven cyclo-cross events over the winter.
“I haven’t done much since 2000 but I really enjoy it.
“The problem is that you can’t race 12 months of the year in top form.
“I’m going to try and not kill myself by over-racing on the road so that I can do some more cyclo-cross this winter.”
You were with Phil Griffiths at Pinarello in 2008 – tell us about that.
“It was a great experience and I got to ride the Tour of Ireland in support Russell Downing, who had the Yellow Jersey on the final stage.
“I made some good friends but I never raced very well due to overdoing the training.”
Who were you with 2009/10?
“In 2009 I rode for Kinesis and in 2010 MTS cyclesport.
“I had two great years and raced really well gaining me another chance on a UCI team in 2011.”
That was Raleigh 2011 – what was that like?
“It started well but then went downhill quickly.
“The problem was that there were 12 riders trying to get into either six or eight places and once you were out of the team it was hard to get back in and even harder to stay in.
“As a rider, when you don’t know if you are racing from one week to the next it’s very frustrating.
“For me especially as I have always worked during the week, my weekends are supposed to be for doing what I want and having fun.
“However, I could not race what I wanted to – then the morale goes and you stop enjoying it.”
You’ve been with Velo 29 since 2012; tell us about the set up, please.
“Velo29 is great events company which is getting bigger and better every year.
“Richard Williamson who runs it also wanted a team that could compete at national level.
“But fuelled with the motivation to prove myself after the previous year I trained myself into the ground, tried out some very silly diets and never got anywhere near a result.”
How was season 2014 for you?
“2014 was like the previous two years; I was gradually getting slower and slower.
“I was getting round races but had no zip.
“I did not know what was going on and racing is not much fun when you’re so far away from your own expectations.
“In August I stopped racing, bought a power meter and have revamped everything I do on the bike.
“Volume has been cut from 14-16 hours a week to 10-11 hours max, I train alone 90% of the time and I feel 100 times better.”
What are you looking for from season 2015; are you full time on the bike?
“I have never been full time on the bike and have never been paid.
“I work just the same as when I rode for Raleigh and Pinarello and I am pleased I never packed in working as after one bad year on a UCI team you are gone.
“This year I want to be fit enough to race in the ballpark of where I want to be.
“That means making the breaks more often than not and maybe winning the odd one.
“I’m not doing the first National Series events but will build up doing other races until June/July when I should have some four or five hour rides in my legs and can tackle the 100 mile plus races.
“I have got a good setup with MTS and Scott and they are happy for me to pick my races and I want to hopefully repay their support with good performances and present a good image.”
It must be tough racing against the GB Continental squads – Condor, Madison, NFTO, Raleigh and the soon to be Wiggo outfit – with their continental training camps and race programmes?
“It does not bother me at all.
“I’ve been in these teams and it is never as easy as you think.
“Their riders will have their own problems like missing out on races they want to do, travelling to Tour Series events when they are knackered, being bored during the week or spending too much time riding.
“I never use the ‘you’re a full time bike rider’ excuse that you hear many people say to the UCI team riders; or have even said to me even though I work.
“Plus, it’s great to go to races and be around all of the team cars and busses.”
Any other Scottish adventures planned?
“Drummond Trophy on the 19th April for a race and maybe a few days holiday in Kipford at some point also.”
With thanks to Matt for some nice insights into the British scene and wishing him well for the rest of 2015.