Gibson's Second Lease of Life
This week I sat down with Matt Gibson, formally of Burgos BH, we spoke about his past within the sport and hopefully what’s to come for the 24 year old. The former Elite European Team Pursuit Champion will be riding for the British Continental team, Ribble Weldtite this season after being unsuccessful in securing a contract on the UCI World Tour stage.
SWpix.com 2019 - Matt at Otley GP
How did you get into cycling and how old were you? Or did you do any other sports beforehand?
I started road cycling at the age of 13 with my dad not long after he’d just started himself. However, I honestly can’t remember a time before bikes in some form or another, whether It was Mountain bike or BMX, riding bikes has always been a massive part of life. As a Kid I can vividly remember building jumps with my friends out of pallets, plywood or just anything we could find, and I was always the one trying to go bigger than everyone else. Then a bit later on riding my mountain bike down the local woods etc was a pretty regular occurrence as well the occasional trail centre visit. After getting into road cycling it wasn’t long until I was lining up at my first local road age 14 and I absolutely loved it, so after that I guess it just went from there really.
Through school I tried quite a few different “traditional” sports but never really stuck at any of them for a prolonged period of time, but there was one other sport outside bikes that has had a big impact on my life and that was skateboarding. Like cycling I can’t remember a time before skateboarding either, still till to this day I follow what’s going on in the skateboarding world and just love it’s creative nature and lack of boundaries. For obviously reasons I don’t skate much these days but still throughly enjoy the odd cruise around.
What is your proudest moment on the bike to date?
I guess that would have to be winning a stage and then finishing the Tour de L’Avenir only 3 1/2 weeks after breaking my hand racing at a local criterium. Initially the brake and then the operation to get it plated really wiped me out. I had a week completely off the bike before easing myself into turbo sessions and then was only able to get back out on the road one week before L’Avenir started. I was really lucky to have Keith Lambert as the U23 British Cycling coach at the time who still despite the injury really believed it me. So 3 1/2 weeks after the crash I took to the start line no where near the shape I’d liked to of been in but nonetheless, on stage 5 I managed to make my biggest ambition that whole season come true and it felt amazing to of achieved what I’d been thinking about all year.
The next part then consisted of me trying to get my slightly overweight and most definitely unfit body up the mountains which even the fittest of riders find tough. However, against the odds I managed to get round often riding on my own quite a way behind the groupetto, but I always managed to dig deep enough to make the time cut. This will always be a race that I’ll be incredibly proud of.
L'Avenir 2018 - Matt winning stage 5 at the Tour de L'Avenir
What hardships have you faced during your career and how have you overcome them?
During my time on the British Cycling track programme, I unfortunately suffered from post viral fatigue/over training syndrome for a prolonged period of time where I never quite rested enough or took it easy for long enough to come out of the hole that I’d put myself in. At the time no one really understood what was going on with me, I’d have days where I trained ok or put in a relatively good performance and then other days where an easy cafe ride would be incredible difficult. After a year or so of only getting worse I took 6 weeks off the bike and slowly started training very easily with gradual but very slow improvements, then 6 months later I decided to the leave the British Cycling track programme and joined JLT Condor. It was only on JLT condor that the markers for Cytomegalovirus (CMV) were found in my blood, a virus for that for many causes no systems, however when combined with a weakened immune system (like that caused by over training) will cause the extreme fatigue symptoms I’d be facing for year and 1/2 prior to the diagnosis.
It was a huge relief at the time to know that there was actually something not right with me, for a long time it had been very difficult not knowing what was going on with my body and at times having people tell it me it was all in my head. This was by no means the end of it, it took me roughly another year to get back to where I wanted to be in terms of being able to train consistently, which I must admit took a huge toll on me mentally, and till recently plagued my mind with thoughts that I was getting worse again or I’d never fully recover etc. The markers of Cyctomegolavirus will always be in my blood, however, I really do feel like I now know how to look after my body better than I otherwise could have done, so maybe in a way this was a blessing in disguise.
Bettini 2015 - Elite European Team Pursuit championships, Matt is second from right
What helps you to keep going / stay motivated?
As much as at times it’s been difficult I just love cycling and I love racing, I couldn’t ever see myself wanting to do something else. During those hard sessions when you’re maybe not feeling your best, I imagine winning certain races that are either long term career goals or maybe more short term goals and I think about how that would feel, and this session is working towards that. If you know me, you’ll know I just love bikes and more recently I’ve learnt that it's ok to mix up your training with the occasional mountain bike ride etc and this really helps to keep things fun.
Calvin Cheung 2020 - Macclesfield Forest
What does a successful 2021 road season look like to you?
Obviously the first part of that is going to be getting to race, but all going well I really feel that I have a point to prove so getting a few wins under my belt is the main goal - similar to that of my 2018 season. In the past I feel I’ve been pigeon holed as just a sprinter and I’d really like to change that perception of me, by getting results in harder classics style races and maybe even some TT’s, I’ve been making a few changes to my training to help me do that. Then finally I’d love to try and finish the year with a bang by winning a stage of the Tour of Britain, or a race of the same level.
How have you prepared this year and how is it different to last year’s preparation?
Apart from an unfortunate few weeks where I was suffering with/recovering from COVID-19, training has been going really well. I think in the past few years I’ve focus too heavily in quality where as now I’ve been turning my focus a bit more to volume whilst also trying to have the occasional session where I focus on trying to hit really good numbers. I’ve found that perviously I’ve gotten better through stage races often winning on the last - or one of the last stages. So my plan now is to try and incorporate that style of volume into certain blocks of training with bits of intensity added in there too for good measure.
I guess what I’m trying to say simply is periods of really hard training with lots of time spent on the bike with enough rest and recovery around them to get as much as possible out of these blocks. As well as that I’ve been trying to get 1 mountain bike ride in a week which when combined with strength and conditioning session really helps my overall strength and in my opinion improves my efficiency and sprint. Mountain biking is something I haven’t done so much of over the past few years, but looking back when I’ve spent a fair amount of time on my mtb is when I’ve done my best on the road.
What advice in retrospect would you give your younger self and why?
Relax, make sure you put the work in but also make sure you’re enjoying self too. Allowing yourself time to do what you love on the bike and off it has got to be one of the key components in getting the most out of yourself. Then also making sure your sense of self isn’t solely based around your results is also super important for when times get tough and your maybe not doing so well.
Morgane Bezannier 2018 - Matt's lucky tattoo
Thanks very much to Matt for his responses, another interesting and inspiring account. Good luck to him and his fellow team mates at Ribble Weldtite for this coming season. Fingers crossed that they get to race very soon. Be sure to follow Matt on his Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date with his racing and training. Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/matt_gibson96/?hl=en Twitter: https://twitter.com/matt_gibson96?lang=en