Matt Beers on the race he has wanted to win for years

Earlier this month Matt Beers obliterated the field to win the South African Marathon Championships in Paarl. We recently caught up with him to chat about the race, that winning margin of over 5 minutes and cramping.

| INTERVIEW: Jazz Kuschke |

Matt Beers South African Marathon Mountain Bike champion
“I made my move on The Wall. Then tried to hold a pace which I thought the group behind would probably be riding. The route, with so much singletrack, did not really lend itself to groups working together, so I did not feel being on my own was much of a disadvantage. I saw Arno [du Toit] was chasing me initially; but when he dropped back, I just had to keep up my tempo.” – Matt Beers.

You’ve had a pretty good year so far, both on the road and off. Must be great to have a semi ‘normal’ racing schedule after 2020? I’ve had a pretty good year, yes. In fact, I think I’ve won every mountain bike race I’ve started, from Prudential PE Plett to Pursuit Challenge #4 and SA XCO cup at Bloemendal. Then I did road champs in which I was seventh and then was second at TT champs. All of those really were in preparation for XCM champs race, it was a big lead up but it paid off.

Must’ve felt really good to take the top step of the podium after that build-up and the history you have at the XCM event? For sure! In 2018 I was second to Gert Heyns, we broke away together and the race actually played out in quite a similar fashion to this year. I pushed the pace hard on the first climb that year and Gert was able to come with and we rode together for about 70kms or something and then in the end he had a better sprint. In 2019, I had a broken collarbone after getting hit by an Uber Eats delivery motorbike and then 2020 was COVID so I really wanted the win and wasn’t going to let anything get in my way.

Let’s talk a bit about the race and how it played out? It was a fantastic route. A proper tough route around Paarl, much like 2018, when we were in Grabouw with a lot of climbing. This suited me really well – it lined up with the way I train: My average hard ride is around 80kms with 2000-plus metres of climbing so that’s what my body is adapted to and I knew it would suit me. The singletrack and climbing is a great way to get away and get a small gap, which I like. Even like a minute or 40 seconds seems a lot further than it actually is and then you’re kind of out-of-sight and out-of-mind. I knew that would play into my favour.

How were the conditions on the day? It was really cool actually – considering it was in Paarl – two weeks prior we had a really hot spell, so we actually got quite lucky. I kept the nutrition strategy at a bottle-per-hour and then gels and bars on top of that. We had to plan it a little bit differently than in the past, because no outside assistance was allowed, so I put a little bit of a bigger bottle on the front to make sure we rather had a bit more than less.

Matt Beers South African Marathon Mountain Bike champion
Matt: “I continue to use a dropper post, I think a lot of guys removed theirs, but I’m comfortable on it and know it helps on the descents”

Did you change the setup for the day? The bike setup I used was the same setup I use pretty much at all the races. I continued to use a dropper, I think a lot of guys removed theirs, but I’m comfortable on it and know it helps on the descents. I’m on the 2021 Specialized S-Works Epic with full AXS Eagle, and the only thing we added which isn’t standard was the dropper post.

Did it all go according to plan out there? I pre-rode the course so I knew tyre pressures and I knew what had to be done. The race strategy was to go early on the first climb and push the pace there and I did. As in 2018, Gert came with me, almost like a replay. I eventually managed to get away from him but then Arno I saw pushing and I thought he would come across. Somehow the elastic slowly broke and then I was alone and raced at my own pace, which suits me. I did cramp a little bit toward the end, but nothing too crazy. After such a big effort and going solo from the get-go it is kind of normal to cramp. Your body can only take so much, especially since we were no longer allowed feeding. If we’d had more bottles perhaps that wouldn’t have happened, but we were only allowed to start with our two bottles and then pick up only two bottles so I knew that might result in cramp.

What is next on your schedule? I’m racing either the SA Cup XCO or Trail Seeker, still need to figure that out with the team and see which benefits us most for the rest of the year.

Matt Beers South African Marathon Mountain Bike champion
The day belonged to Matt Beers. Matthys Beukes and Arno du Toit finished 2nd and 3rd respectively.

| IMAGES: Charl Gerber & Facebook |


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