Matt Wilson Whaka 100 Report

Lester Perry | Mon 2nd Nov 2020 09:08

Matthew Wilson is one of the Showroom Crew at EVO Cycles Mount Wellington, Auckland. Matt’s a dead keen mountain biker, and in the last couple of years, through some focussed training and hard work, he’s come up in leaps and bounds through the ranks of Cross Country races. More recently he’s been putting the hurt on some experienced riders in Gravel races and knuckling down with some hard training in preparation for the 2020 Whaka 100. We caught up with Matt a couple of days after his 5th place overall finish at the Whaka…

pic: Images4sale

First of all, a huge congratulations on a solid finish! How did your race play out?

The race started out fast, with my heart rate getting sitting around the high 190’s up the first big climb which isn’t exactly where you want to be with nearly 4hrs of racing still to come. Luckily the pace eased up so I stuck with it and held onto the lead group up until the Hot X Buns decent roughly 2hrs into the race. This is where the biggest split of the race occurred with 4 guys getting away leaving Caleb, Brad and Me to battle it out. We rode together well holding a steady pace over most the course, knowing that we still had a lot of climbing late in the race. On the largest climb of the day heading up to the Split Enz trail, I noticed I was starting to put a small gap between me and the other 2 so I upped the pace and pressed on opening a small 1min gap by the top of the climb. However, later Caleb caught me with about 5km to go. From then on it was a flat out sprint through the remaining trails with us crossing the line only seconds apart.

Were there any key moments through the day that impacted your finish?

2 points really stood out to me from the race. The first was when I realised that my recent knee injures were in fact not fixed and already starting to flare up just a few hours into the race, from then on I was in survival mode just trying to see how long I could last. The next key moment was on the longest climb in the race (Pondy Elevator up to Split Enz) where I finally decided to make a move as I knew it would be a fast run to the line from there on, and had to open up a gap.

pic: Images4sale

What was the biggest challenge you faced over the Whaka race?

My biggest challenge was by far dealing with my knee. To get through the race I had to spend most of it out of the saddle as pedalling seated put to much stress on my knee, I also stood with my legs locked out whenever possible to try and rest my knee. I seriously contemplated pulling out of the race multiple times but am glad I didn’t as it was all worth it when I crossed the finish line.

How'd you fuel your big day on the bike?

I knew I just had to get in as many calories a possible so went for a 50/50 split of Clif bars and Clif blocks. The Bars were good early on in the race to keep me feeling full and to get a longer-lasting energy source into me. Later in the race, I swapped to the Cliff 50mg caffeine blocks for the extra kick of energy needed to survive the final hours.

What was your favourite trail used in the course?

My favourite trail in the race has to be Box of Birds, it’s got an awesome mix of steep chutes and techy root sections all based in some sweet native bush. It was also early enough into the race that my arms weren’t too blown out to enjoy the trail.

What was your favourite part of the day?

I think my favourite part of any race is catching up with mates for a good yarn and sharing our stories from the day. Especially with the lack of racing this year, it was great being able to meet up with friends from around the country again that in a normal year I would see on a regular basis.

Looking back, would you change how you prepared for the race, or how you raced during the event?

Honestly, I wouldn’t change much, I had put a lot of hours in on the bike and felt like I had some great form coming into the race. Maybe I could have benefited from a few more long days on the MTB as my arms and back did suffer a bit late in the race. It also would have been nice to know what exactly caused my knee injury as was not ideal needing to deal with that.

Any lessons you can take away from the race?

Never Give Up. Keep on moving and you might just surprise your self with what you accomplish.

Now that this big goal is out of the way, what are your plans over the summer season?

Firstly I'm planning on having a bit of a break from the bike before going back to the basics. I'll be focusing on some more strength and conditioning work along with a bit more time on the MTB to keep improving on my bike handling. With such a large gap between now and my next key race (XCO Nationals in late Feb) Its the perfect time to work on the basics and build a good platform to launch from and into what will hopefully be a busy season of racing.