The last time we spoke to 22 year-old Englishman Matt Gibson he’d just won the European u23 Scratch Championship. Since then he’s gravitated away from the track spending the last two seasons with John Herety’s JLT-Condor team.
Season 2017 saw him post good criterium results both in the UK and Australia but last year saw a massive step up in the quality of his palmarès with a raft of strong UK results and stage wins in the Tour of Wellington in New Zealand, Tour of Normandie, Tour of Loire et Cher and perhaps most significantly, the Tour de l’Avenir.
Unsurprisingly, he’s been snapped up by a pro team – Spanish pro continental outfit Burgos-BH.
We were intrigued by his choice of team and contacted Matt for a chat about his new direction.
How did you get the ride with Burgos-BH, Matt?
“Part way through last year John Herety contacted me saying that there was an agent interested in me with a pro conti offer on the cards, with that in the bag I kept trying to get better results seeing If I could maybe push for World Tour but in the end I wasn’t lucky enough to get a WT offer which I’d be lying if I didn’t say is still the end goal.
“So in the end I went with the offer from Burgos BH, which is a pretty small team as far as Pro Conti Teams are concerned but I think that could be a good thing helping me to get plenty of race days and plenty of opportunities which will obviously continually help me to improve as an athlete and gain more experience.”
Where will home be for 2019?
“For the most part of this year I’ll be living at home in Lymm, Cheshire.
“You see a lot people moving abroad for better training conditions, but as far as I’m concerned I’ve got everything I need there and even though it can be a bit wet and cold in winter its home and I always love riding there.
“On top of that it’s close to family and friends which to me makes it a no brainer really.
“At the end of the day you spend enough time away on training camps and at races so why not live where you’re happiest?”
How’s the Spanish coming along?
“I’m trying to get to grips with it, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t struggling but I’m trying where I can to learn new bits here and there.
“I’d definitely say being in Spain around the team is completely different ball game to the likes of learning from a ‘Duolingo’ course but I’m giving it a go and the team are very understanding of that.”
Have you met your new teammates yet?
“Yes, I’m currently on my second training camp with the team so at this point it’s coming up to around three weeks I’ve spent with the majority of them.
“I have to say they’re all very welcoming and I’m looking forward to getting racing with the guys.”
Has your role in the team been discussed?
“Not in great depth but I’ll be focusing on sprints and also something I’m looking forward to working on a bit more are the harder more classics style races.
“Who actually goes for the wins on the day is something that’ll be talked about closer to the time when you know how everyone is going, but hopefully I should get my fair share or chances.”
Do you have a coach – and do the team give any guidance on how they want you to train?
“Here on camp we all train together with a little room to change bits here and there to suit you, for example more specific efforts to the kind of rider you are.
“But the rest of the time I’m coached by ex-rider and British Elite Champion, Kristian House, it’s a joint effort really.
“I tend to come up with majority of the plans and he suggests slight changes as to what he thinks.
“I find this really works well for me as it helps me to focus on exactly what I want to, whilst also being able to fit training in well around my personal life.
“I really enjoy setting out my own training plan, thinking about what’ll get the best results but at the same times it’s also great to have a second opinion to help reinforce I’m doing the right things.”
Do you have an idea of your programme yet?
“I have a pretty good idea for the first half of the year and it looks pretty good to be fair.
“The first race I’ll really want to target is the Tour of Turkey in April which should have a few good sprint chances, and then after that I’ve got a good block of racing in France and Belgium including the Tour of Belgium, which next will be called the ‘Baloise Belgium Tour’.
“In that block there will be a few good chances for me to test my legs in some of the most classics style racing which is something I’m really looking forward to at that level.
“Then after Nationals I’ll have to see what opportunities come my way.”
How are you getting along with your new BH?
“I’m actually loving the new bike, the frame is super stiff and handles really well.
“I’m really looking forward to racing on it!”
How would you describe yourself as a rider?
“I have to say I’m still figuring that one out.
“If you’d of asked me when I was junior I would of said more of a time trialist/all rounder; whereas now I’d say I’m more of a sprinter that’s still good at harder classics style races and not too bad at short steep climbs, but guess I’ll just have to see how racing at this level goes and I might surprise myself at what I do best at.”
Obviously your track ambitions are shelved for the moment – do you ever see yourself back on the boards?
“No for now I’ll be focusing on the road and don’t have any plans of getting back on the track at any point soon, for me the road is just where I prefer both in training and competition.
“I always found the track nice but there’s no sense of adventure and I don’t really like being inside all day I find it makes me really lethargic so the road obviously appeals to me for these reasons.
“The road also just seems so much more epic to me.”
Last year you stepped up a level or two – what do you put that down to?
“Back in 2015 I ended up contracting Cytomeglavirus which affects the body in a similar way to glandular fever.
“This wasn’t actually discovered till late 2016, although taking 2016 pretty easy and barely racing I’d still been trying to train in 2015 and this had taken a massive toll on my body, so for me 2017 was more about getting back in to racing and slowly trying to progress with my training with the whole time aiming to be better and stronger in 2018.
“The step up in performance and results was solely because I was still recovering until last year and arguably still not quite myself at points of 2018.
“Although this was a very difficult time for me it taught me a lot about my body and I’ve no doubt this will help me for the rest of my career.
“I feel like I could step oup another level going into this year and I’m feeling super strong in training so I’m really excited to see how it goes.”
Which was your most satisfying performance in 2018?
“I’d have to say the most satisfying performance was most definitely winning the stage of Tour de l’Avenir, it was more of a relief than anything else, It was a race that was super important to do well in with regards to bigger teams looking at me in the future.
“I’d pretty much been thinking about this all year so it was mega to pull it off.”
Two years at Condor; tell us about the highs and lows…
“Well I have to say it was great two years at Condor, there was also such a great atmosphere within the team including riders and staff.
“John Herety really helped me a lot other those two years and I’m incredibly grateful for that.
“If I was to pick out a point that wasn’t so great, that would have to been after going to Australia in 2017, things just didn’t feel to go too well for me for a few months after that, training was difficult because I was still recovering from the last few years illness and because of that I just wasn’t going too well and that did a have a bit of a knock on effect on my confidence – but hey ho! that’s the way it goes sometimes.
“Then as far as highs go there was a lot!
“Plenty of good races, good results and plenty of fun had on and off the bike.”
Burgos have had their woes recently with ‘positives’ – how is that affecting things?
“Well yes, it’s a real shame that we had to miss a few races early season due to the doping cases last year, but I’m very glad to say that after being with them for a few weeks this clearly doesn’t reflect the ethos of the team.
“So from now on I don’t think it should really affect anything, other than potentially maybe making it a little harder to get new sponsors for the team over the next few years.”
2019 will be a success if…
“For me it’ll be just about getting stuck in, upping the training load a bit, getting all processes right and seeing if I can get a result or two along the way.
“There’s not one thing I’d say would make or break it for me, I’m starting to think it’s a bit silly to put so much pressure on a certain race on one day, there’s so much that can go wrong.”
We won’t leave it so long before we speak to Matt again and wish him well with his new team.