In my never-ending quest for interesting topics to present through my blog, I will try almost anything. That includes firing off an occasional email to former and current professional cyclists around the world. To glean their viewpoints on anything having to do with riding a bicycle.
My list of attempts at correspondence consists of people like Lance Armstrong, and I even tried to connect with last year's lanterne rouge in the Tour de France, the competitor who finishes in last place. My philosophy is pretty simple with this harebrained idea of reaching out: Nothing ventured, nothing gained — so go for it. I realize they can tell me to "go pound sand" or just not reply, but I might as well give it a shot.
After all, the president of Trek Bicycle did respond to a request of mine back in July 2020 (Wow, Waterloo!) ... so there is always hope.
Well, to my amazement, I've heard back from someone else involved in the wonderful sphere of cycling. I was so caught off guard, in fact, I'd almost forgotten that I'd even sent it. Agreeing to participate in a short Q&A was Matt Stephens, a former road racing cyclist from Britain who rode professionally from 1998 to 2011.
My awareness of Mr. Matt stems from his current duties with Sigma Sports. Along with other tasks, he is the presenter of a video series on YouTube titled "The Cafe Ride." It is extremely entertaining, as Mr. Matt spins his wheels with various cycling greats, including Sir Bradley Wiggins and Fabian Cancellara, chatting away the whole time, and stopping for refreshments along the route.
I put three questions to Mr. Matt, not wishing to clog up too much of his valuable time and, hopefully, increasing my chances of a response. Here is the Q&A:
Q. What was your most memorable race as a professional?
A. My most memorable race as a pro was the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy, three-week stage race) that I rode back in 2000. I’d always wanted to ride a Grand Tour since I was a kid, and to start in the Vatican and ride through the Dolomites with the likes of Marco Pantani and Mario Cipollini was amazing, albeit brutally challenging. The essence of bike racing to me is instilled in the Giro.
Q. If you could have captured any race (classic or stage), which one would you choose?
A. I think the Tour of Flanders would be my dream race to win!
Q. Do you still enjoy riding a bicycle?
A. I still ride my bike when I can and love it more than ever. The difference now though is that I dictate how hard or easy I go! I also get to see some incredible places all over the world and the fact I get to explore them on a bike is something I never take for granted.
I cannot thank Mr. Matt enough for taking the time to answer my queries. He didn't have to do it, but it shows you that, in general, we cyclists are a friendly lot.
'Thought for the day'
"Romance is when they will wait for you at the top of the hill." — Alice B. Toeclips, also known as Jacquie Phelan, American road and cyclocross racer
From "Words To Ride By ... Thoughts on Bicycling" by Michael Carabetta (Chronicle Books, 2017)