Matt Shriver is the Head Coach for the Fort Lewis Cycling team. A former collegiate champion, Matt retired from professional cycling in 2008 to focus on coaching. Its 2010 and Matt is still coaching the powerhouse Skyhawks, and has picked up coaching work overseas this summer in Germany for the U23 and Junior National riders through USA Cycling. It also is becoming apparent that Matt has not really retired. He is still super fast, and quite possibly faster than ever.
Q: You coach collegiate cyclists, what are the similarities and differences between the junior and collegiate athletes in terms of training habits?
A: It is surprising how many similarities there are with junior and collegiate athletes. The majority of the riders come straight out of high school and the junior racing scenes in their region. Most of them are very green and have a lot of things to learn as riders and adults. Their training habits really depend on the disciplines that they have raced and how competitive the racing was in their region. The mountain bikers tend to be a little bit more relaxed with their training, less structured and just roost trails whenever without a lot of structured training. The road riders usually do a little more structured training, and put in the miles.
The biggest difference between collegiate racing an juniors is that it’s a major step up in experience. The age and experience of the collegiate riders is across the board. We have 18 year olds traveling and racing alongside veteran pro’s for both road and mountain biking. In collegiate, you learn a lot about training and racing from your teammates as well as the coaches. That is probably the biggest difference from racing junior to collegiate, just the amount of experienced riders and enthusiasm for racing and training is a lot higher.
Q: What is the best thing about collegiate cycling? as a coach, and as a former collegiate cyclist?
A: Collegiate cycling is my favorite cycling atmosphere. There aren’t a lot of egos and the playing field is level. The passion for the sport and desire to succeed is at its highest in the collegiate years. There is so much energy and it really is racing at the purest form.
With collegiate cycling also comes the pride of your team and school. When you put on the Fort Lewis College jersey, you are a part of the best cycling program in the country. In the cycling world, coming from Fort Lewis College means so much because of the rich cycling history we have and the quality riders and people we have produced.
Some of my favorite times racing bikes where as a collegiate rider. The friends you make and the character of your teammates are unmatched. You meet lifetime friends and make connections that will last a lifetime. My favorite racing experiences are from the collegiate days, when nothing mattered but doing the best you could for your school. It wasn’t about sponsors, money, or trying to get a contract. The racing was about chasing your dreams and representing your teammates, your town, and doing the best you could. It was an awesome experience and I would do it all over again if I could!
Q: What is the common thing your collegiate athletes need to work on in terms of racing and or training technique, when they first come to the FLC program? (what did they neglect to train as a junior?)
A: Every rider is different. This is one thing that many coaches neglect with designing training plans. What works for one athlete may not work for the others. Finding each riders weakness takes some time to sort out and isn’t always easy. One of the most common areas the riders neglect is their recovery. A lot of them train enough, but forget that recovery is half of their training. Add the college lifestyle of a little more freedom and it can be disaster. Really getting their recovery dialed is important and for them to recognize that recovery is just as important as the training rides. You have to recover as hard as you train
Another common mistake is that the riders get carried away with base training. They come from racing juniors to stepping it up into the collegiate ranks and the upper catergories. Many riders put in way to many hours, more hours than some pros! Yes, it is important to get in a good base for the season. However when you are in school as a full time student, maybe working part time, having a life it is to much. That’s like having three jobs. Something’s going to give from all that stress and it’s going to be your body. Keeping the rains on the collegiate riders and their base volume and hours is important to me. It’s common for them to make the mistake of to much too quick and frying themselves before the season is even over. It is a fine balance, and balance is the key. Structured training is important and logging some miles, but so is enjoying your college experience and it will help your cycling overall.
Q: Has the transition from junior cat 1 racing to pro racing changed since you were a developing junior?
A:The transition from Junior to Pro has changed immensely since I was a junior (1998). There were only a few juniors that could compete with the Pro riders, so making that transition was huge and difficult. Some of the Juniors were even too fast too soon, and they made the transition no problem but were so burned out that they didn’t last long. Making the leap was really tough and discouraging without some guidance and leadership. We didn’t have programs like Durango Devo to help guide us on a good path for a successful and FUN career in cycling. Having programs in place like Durango Devo make that transition to the higher ranks much easier. There is a lot more opportunity for juniors now than before in both road and mountain biking.
Q: What is your favorite mountain bike workout in town?
A: There are to many to count! Right out my front door would have to be just shredding Horse Gulch. I love to ride hard up the Talker Trail into the Gulch, hit the meadow to Telegraph and down Yellow Brick road to Sidewinder. Hook up with the sweet flow of Cowboy trail over to South Rim and back up the Crites connection trail. Finish it up down Anasazi descent and an up Stacey’s down and out! It’s a killer sample of some of the finest trails the Gulch has plus some good climbing. I stay on it the whole way non-stop usually. Getting all that in about 2 hours always leaves a grin on my face. I can’t wait for the trails to dry up.
Q: What do you think about the Tellegraph Hill climb as a training tool? WOuld you be interested in coming out with us this summer and trying to break the record? You currently have the second best time ever at 15 min 3 seconds(?)
A: The Telegraph Climb is a great gauge of fitness. It is important to have indicators during the season to keep an eye on your form. Doing this climb once a month or a test similar is recommended. Actually, this past fall I smashed the record on the 5” Bike. 14:28 from the bottom to the top. 2009 was a good year and adding a new personal best Telegraph time trial was another milestone. I look forward to coming out in July and doing some of the time trials and Devo rides for Leadville 100 training. A lot of my summer will be spent in Germany working with the US Juniors and U-23 Mountain bikers with USA Cycling.
Q: Any sweet junior training tips?
A: Dabble in as many disciplines as you can and be open to learn. I hear a lot of mountain bikers say how they don’t like road racing. Or the roadies talking about mountain biking the same way. The truth is that they compliment each other and you really can’t be a great mountaan biker without some road racing. Road racing teaches you how to read a race tactically. Roadies need the mountain biking skills. Mountain biking also builds incredible strength for climbing. Get some education in training and racing from your coaches! Most of all keep it fun. This is so important at all levels, even the highest. If you think about why you love riding, love racing and why you do it, it’s for fun! Once you lose this perspective then it becomes difficult. It goes back to the balance of it all. Keep it fun!