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Matt Rotherham:
For the Love of T-Town and Tandems

Talk of the T-Town Podcast Show Art

Episode 5

There was something different about it… it was a show! The announcers were energetic and it made it feel like.. NASCAR–just cycling!

– Matt Rotherham
Track Cyclist
6x World Champion Tandem Pilot

This week on Talk of the T-Town, Joan and Andy sit down with Matt Rotherham, former Rider of the Year, and discuss what T-Town means to him, racing tandem bikes, and fond memories with friends.

Find Matt on Instagram @matt_rotherham94


Transcript

Joan Hanscom:

Welcome to the Talk of the T-Town podcast, where we discuss all things track cycling. Broadcasting from the Valley Preferred Cycling Center, I’m your host and Executive Director, Joan Hanscom, along with my co-host, Athletic Director, Andy Lakatosh.

Andy Lakatosh:

Welcome to the Talk of the T-Town podcast. I’m Andy Lakatosh here with Executive Director, Joan Hanscom. Today we have Matt Rotherham, legendary rider of the year, track record holder, Commonwealth Games gold medalist, Paralympic tandem driver world champion. Are you world record holder as well, Matt, for the kilo?

Matt Rotherham:

Yes. Hi, everyone. Yeah. World record, both the 200 and Kilo. Yeah, been going all right.

Andy Lakatosh:

All right. Welcome, thank you for joining us. How are things in the UK?

Joan Hanscom:

Andy, we should add that Matt is on vacation, so he is not in the UK. He’s on holiday. And for our listeners who can’t see Matt, he’s wearing an absolutely delightful Hawaiian shirt and making me exceedingly jealous of his location.

Matt Rotherham:

I’m very sorry. But yeah, we’ve done a lot of hard training recently. Last week was the end of a big training block for us on the tandem. Yeah, it kind of felt like a well deserved break at the end of that. And then I guess, get home Monday, hit the ground running and get back to the grind and hopefully then set up for next year.

Joan Hanscom:

Right on. Right on. Andy, you’re in somewhere sunny as well, yes? Calling in from delightful sunny SoCal?

Andy Lakatosh:

Yep, from San Pedro in the Los Angeles area. The sun just came up not too long ago. So Matt’s sipping his afternoon wine and I’m getting ready for coffee. Anyway, Matt, you’ve been to T-Town a bunch of times. Obviously, you’ve stayed in my house with me, so we’re good friends.

Andy Lakatosh:

I know how much you love it, but for the listeners and our local spectators and stuff that don’t the backstory, you’ve been riding a very long time and have really progressed your way up. You understand the value of watching compelling racing and it motivating someone to go all the way to a Chris Hoy, Jason Kenney level of riding.

Andy Lakatosh:

Can you tell us about your start, how you discovered cycling? I know your brother rides. Was it a family sport for the whole family? Just a little bit about how you got into that and how you fell in love with riding.

Matt Rotherham:

Yeah. Well, we’re not actually a traditional cycling family. My dad had seen it… I don’t know, at Commonwealth Games in Manchester or the 2004 Olympics. And he went to get riding on the Velodrome. He essentially took me down to have a watch of some local racing down there and that sparked my ambition to give it a go. So I joined my cycling club. Which I mean, I’m now chairman of the cycling club I first started with. It started at Eastlands Velo 15, 16 years ago now, just as a beginner and really just went from there. Just progressed through the club and I was looking to progress through to the under 16 national team and won medals at national championships and that kind of thing and progressed to junior level and interest was sparked through the local T-Town style racing that we had for a while in Manchester. So those big Friday nights that people are used to in T-Town. We had a similar thing going for a while and Manchester caught the Revolution series. I remember going to those and thinking this is exciting and I wanted to get into that myself. So yeah, I was looking to progress through to junior to under 23 level and yeah, everything went well. I was junior European champion in the kilo which is my kind of main event and yes.

Matt Rotherham:

But then when I got to 20, I hadn’t made much progress for a while, so I was removed from the national program, which ultimately brought me to T-Town and a lot of the ways to keep my cycling career going. And I was lucky that the guys at T-Town looked after me and gave me accommodation to get there and entered me into races. And from then that being out in tea town and getting stuck in and I don’t know, just being part of the atmosphere really sparked my ambition again in cycling and it helped me progress onto where I am now.

Joan Hanscom:

It’s super interesting just to touch on what you said because you were part of the very famous British system, right. Like you came up through a track program that’s pretty world-renowned and does an amazing job of development of athletes. And of course, that’s something that I think traditionally our Federation has struggled with a bit and I would love to get your insights on what the value of that Devo Pathway was. You said you washed out at age 20, but it’s an incredible pathway and it’s one I think our Federation would love to be able to replicate but hasn’t got the resource. Talk about that just a smidge.

Matt Rotherham:

Yeah. Well, it starts off at the bottom with a large pool of riders and it’s built on this pyramid style model where every step up the ladder gets more and more removed. And the system in the UK does work and there’s times I guess around my time when I was on the under 23 development team, that things didn’t work at that time and there were riders that did not make it around the same time. But generally it’s a good system that gets everybody involved with at the lower level. They encourage you to do all different disciplines and then as you get a little bit older, you get towards 16, 17, they start to ask you to specialize in chosen discipline and that kind of thing. So it’s not just you go in, sprint straightaway. It was always like build a well-rounded athlete as a young rider.

Matt Rotherham:

Hence, I guess why when it came to T-Town I was quite good at, I’ll do all the races from Sprint to Madison. I’ll do all the length racing. Because that base that you build throughout the formative years as a cyclist. You’re encouraged to do as much variation as possible. I think that’s pretty key is that you do a lot of different things and then as you progress on, you pick which things suit you the best and hone in those skills. But to start off with, you do a little bit of everything and I think that seems to work.

Joan Hanscom:

Right on.

Andy Lakatosh:

So it’s really interesting. We had Kaarle McCulloch on the podcast. We did hers last week. And she was similar to you in the sense of like showed up and like, you got racing, I’m for it, right. Put him in, coach. I’m ready to go. And she said that she really liked it. And that doing the Tuesday night scratch races and points races and stuff for her was really a tipping point because she had only been in the sprint type world for a long time and then she had been very much focused on riding team sprint and in her job in team sprint and riding the 500. And she kind of shied away from some of the sprint and keirin because she felt it was outside her range. And so she started doing the bunch races in T-Town, she said it felt like it was sprint and keirin racing, just slowed down, so she had more time to think about it. And that she really left here, and since then in the individual events has really been trending up because she has started to look at it in a different way and gained a different type of confidence.

Andy Lakatosh:

But I know for you, it’s part that, and it’s also part, you just love racing your bike and you love being under the lights on a Friday night, the energy, working with the crowd, and that’s something that’s unique and I’m sure high on your list of things that you love about T-Town. But one of the questions I had was, Your first visit to T-Town, coming off getting booted from the national team program slash wanting to leave and then getting dropped into a dorm room in a college in the middle of a cornfield, and riding yourself to the track. Anyway T-Town has got a lot of elements that make it special, make it unique, but I was wondering that first visit, what stood out, what things stood out to you the most and really made it the most special? That you were like, “I’m coming back every chance I possibly can.” Besides Tommyboy’s Pizza.

Matt Rotherham:

Yeah, so there are things like Tommyboy’s Pizza and floating down the river. But no. What really got me, it wasn’t what brought me back, but when you were just talking then it reminded me of what really got me stuck in straight away, when you are coming round turn 3, turn 4 and you hear the bell going mid race, and it’s like, “Attention riders, attention riders, we’ve got a preem, a 50 Dollar preem.” Things like that, that break things up, but that I just loved. There was something different about it, it was a show the announcers were energetic and it made it feel like NASCAR just cycling. And the commentary was different to what we get here, and things like that. The music that was played was just, hooked me in really. Yeah, but in terms of coming back, it’s just probably for one, having good weather out there, racing in extreme heat sometimes is difficult. But generally we are able to train hard, we’ve got the derby ride on a Sunday, that you can get stuck into and different things like that, you can race a crit on the weekend and, there is just so much going on.

Matt Rotherham:

Obviously, you guys have got races Tuesday and Friday, and so you ended up racing as part of… you didn’t do much training, you just race all the time, but that just helps you progress. Yeah I just loved the friends I made out there and the community of T-Town. And then having that weekly, or twice weekly racing to really get yourself stuck into. There’s bits of prize money to win which really just pushes you each week right. Come on let’s get this and the varied race program is amazing as well. I personally over the last few years have as I’ve been doing my tandem riding now I’ve not had the need to score UCI points so I’ve not needed to focus on those races so much. So I prefer to come out when I can come and do things like Madison Cup and Tandemonium obviously. That are the sort of really fun races that I think people still come out to watch. Because everyone likes coming to watch tandems race. Yes, actually that does remind me, and you say, “What did I come back for?” I think Tandemonium and making those memories, that very first year, and I think we might have come close to track record that year, but didn’t break it then. Things like that really just highlighted for me how fun racing was.

Andy Lakatosh:

I think a lot of what you’re describing is two things. One it is a very summer campy type thing. Especially if you’re staying in the dorms and stuff, there is just that routine of Tuesday, Thursday you have your training sessions in the morning. Racing Tuesday, Friday, like you said the derby, the training crit. There are all these… You almost don’t need to have a really structured plan to come and get really great training and racing. And even on the endurance side of things, which is something that makes it unique. But the energy, and we are very lucky in the sense of, we have great ambience that we’re outside on a summer night, and the lights are on and it’s hot and that’s something that you can’t get on an indoor track. I have often said when I come back from LA and being indoors all the time. Man I love to just be riding at sunset on the track in the warmth. It’s great. We also have a legacy of bringing spectators and having great racing. How does that energy compare to the energy that you would experience at the revolutions, which are a very high caliber event? They weren’t run in a weekly series type of format. Similarities and differences between the two, in terms of energy of anything else that stands out to you.

Matt Rotherham:

You look at opening night and step up to the track and fire service have turned up and they put the crane out.

Andy Lakatosh:

The big flag

Matt Rotherham:

And draped this humongous American flag and the sun is just starting to set. You’ve got country music playing in the background and you’re just building the atmosphere and then someone comes up and sings the national anthem. That brings goosebumps, you can just feel the atmosphere at that. Everyone is excited and then it would be like, “Pro men to the ready area.” It was always Kick Start My Heart by Mötley Crüe getting you ready to go. You’d line up on the rail and the boom, off you go racing starts. There is just something straight away that hooks you. I guess racing we have here is a little bit more clinical really. When I used to watch it as a kid, the Revolution series, it wasn’t weekly, but we tend to have maybe one every 2 or 3 weeks over the winter. So it got that short little burst of a little season. And when I first went to watch that it was all about being, not necessarily an exhibition but it was the fastest riders in the world coming to put a show on, there would be Chris Hoys, Arnold Turnan they were both bitter rivals in the kilo. And then Jason Kenny and Chris Hoy would do battle and things like that. They’d turn up in the Sky Plus HD kit that looked incredible and things like that.

Matt Rotherham:

But it was very clinical I guess. As a kid you’d turn up and watch the races and you would see 80 laps for a points race on the scoreboards, you’d be like, “We’re not doing this.” Then you’d go off on a walk go to the track center and at that time you could go in to the center of the track and you could go get autographs from everybody and all the riders. There is something you could get involved there and T-Town does have that same thing of that fan interaction which is good. I do always like when we hang around after racing and just to say, “Hi.” There is something really cool about that. I saw that growing up in cycling. So I guess this is a thing T-Town brought back some of those fond memories I had of growing up, going to watch track cycling. But both equally professional events. And then added to that the weekly format you have in T-Town where it’s always one after the other. Next week, you finish Friday night and then it’s like what is next week. Maybe you change your training a little bit but what is coming up.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, that’s awesome.

Matt Rotherham:

There was just always something to keep you excited.

Joan Hanscom:

I think there is something to be said for that consistency of a season. Because it is that, it doesn’t… In a rider of the year competition. It just all ties together in a really beautiful 3 months of summertime thing that people do. 4 weeks if you’re only here for the UCI block, but it is kind of magic when you have that camp T-Town for the summer. It’s the thing for a whole three months of just get away camp for bike racing.

Matt Rotherham:

Exactly and for us riders as well, obviously unfortunately there has only been one year that I’ve made it for the whole season, that was 2016. That brings Rider of the Year into play, we see. You go racing, and there are points every race night to try and win that Rider of the Year. That for me was a big draw as well. There is a sort of extra thing to it. And so for me it takes the focus away a little bit from the big UCI stuff, and you’re there for Rider of the Year races. Which I Think is really cool as well.

Andy Lakatosh:

So popping back to the, we’ll talk about Rider of the Year and some of your T-Town accomplishments in just a second. But popping back to the T-Town versus Revolution series. Because we’ve come a long way, Because I’ve known you for going on five plus years now. I’ve seen you kind of grow up and mature, both as a rider and also in terms of how you view and understand the eco-system, the fragile eco-system that is cycling events. The Revolution was this massive behemoth, amazing thing that drew all these spectators and yet somehow it just disappears. Effectively overnight and pretty much without warning. And if you look historically through a lot of different tracks and a lot of different race series, that happens a lot. And Joan knows this from all the events that she has promoted. To a certain extent I would say a lot of cycling, the majority of cycling events, you basically have a life expectancy on them. Where you’re like, we are going to run this every year for a couple of years, and we’re going to milk it for as long as we can, and eventually it’s going to dissolve, and that is just a natural thing.

Andy Lakatosh:

And then something else takes it’s place, and something else takes it’s place. But we’re going on, this is our 45th year of racing, and we have still got something in COVID, not the normal Friday night, but we’ve still got something. Which is, I would assume a true rarity aside from the classics or something like that, that happens every year. And we’re talking about a season. You’ve grown and you definitely have a different perspective than say, five years ago, in terms of understanding what actually goes into it and what makes it possible. And some of that is from me yelling at you and saying, “Matt, this is why we do these things, this is why you can’t have your cake and eat it too, it’s for the best of everybody.” I was wondering if you could just share some of your insights having been deep in both, in multiple aspects of it. What you see and some of how your perspective has changed over time on that.

Matt Rotherham:

Yeah, you’re right. I think the benefit that you guys own or run the track and also then promote races. You talk from a financial perspective, I guess you’re in a lucky position to run things without the cost of an indoor velodrome for one. And that is a real killer here. The thing is you can try to put events on. So we’re obviously talking pre-COVID at this point. It is sad and I don’t know at what point cycling crowds will be back, especially indoors. It’s fortunate, and the track, if you want to run a race, the track here costs double, than in Manchester for example I think. Which is really counter productive when you’re trying to run an event to inspire kids. Because I’m riding now because of the events I went to as a kid, because that’s what inspired me, and kids don’t get that now. Yes, you’ve got maybe Six-day have started up in the UK a little bit more and so you have got that aspect but that is a very different style to T-Town or Revolution and that kind of thing. And so we are losing that draw for young riders to aspire to.

Matt Rotherham:

Yeah, I don’t know who the onus is on now. I would like to start getting involved with the… Not with the running, but with the encouragement of organizations who run things because I can really see it with my club. I don’t know, I look at the kids and I’m like, “What are they actually going to watch?” That we had the beauty of being able to go to when I was young. T-Town, you guys have that, the kids that get involved with the Air products classes, will also then turn up on a Friday to watch. So you get that, both that introduction to beginner classes to be able to get into riding, and then you can also go and watch the pros on a Friday night. And you can really see clearly how you can go in T-Town from Air products through to BRL and then you might do the Saturday racing and then you get into Tuesdays, and then you get into Fridays, and there is a clear progression through the T-Town system really.

Andy Lakatosh:

We should just be the national team right?

Joan Hanscom:

Now you’re talking Andy, now you’re talking.

Matt Rotherham:

But it’s not surprising that you guys have made great riders throughout history. Because there is that clear progression, Air products have been involved for a number of years, haven’t they?

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, their support has been tremendous, and this year for example, we have Kim Giest coaching the team T-Town kids. She was a product of Air products. Kim Giest got her start riding in Air Products. she is a multiple time world champion and now she is retired and working with our kids. And what a life cycle. That’s such and incredible eco-system to have cultivated. She understands the program because she did the program and now she is giving back to it, which is really amazing. But it’s that lifecycle. You can say, “Ow my gosh she did this and became world champion, I want to do this.”

Matt Rotherham:

Absolutely, and you can see how it’s possible in T-Town. Because you can genuinely start as a… Well you’ve got PeeWee Peddlers before Air products. You can start at that young age and just move on through the programs, and it’s relaxed and fun, unless it’s like over, Ow I’m going to struggle with Fahrenheit, over a 100 degrees is really hot, isn’t it?

Joan Hanscom:

Yes.

Andy Lakatosh:

It’s a little toasty.

Matt Rotherham:

So I know we coached in over 100, and so that, okay maybe that’s not enjoyable for kids. But the rest of the time it’s great. They can get in and they can go watch Friday nights, and then eventually they can race it. I’ve got friends out in T-Town who talk about that, as young kids All they wanted to do was race Friday night. And then when they did, I was there with one of my friends, eventually wins a race on a Friday night. And you can see how he has started as a kid and gone through and then to win it on Friday night, which is what he has always aspired to. So I think that progression through T-Town is mint.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, totally.

Andy Lakatosh:

I think you hit on a… To me I’ve always thought this, I think you touched on a key thing there Matt. The track, we own every aspect of that. We own everything from PeeWees, which is where I actually got my start, to Air Products, to BRL, to Saturdays, Tuesdays, Fridays. We own that whole progression so it’s our own vested interest that it succeeds and that it happens. And that definitely makes it a lot better than, like you said, especially in a… Now granted Manchester is an overwhelmingly busy venue because the national team books out 20 of the 24 hours of the day for training there. So there is not a whole lot of time to put on racing, and it’s obviously at a premium. But that makes it hard if the track is not the one putting on the racing or British cycling isn’t putting on the racing. Like you said, they want to charge and make money off that track time, regardless of whether, they don’t have… There is that x-factor, like you said that is tough to quantify.

Andy Lakatosh:

We talk about development pathways and having this opportunity and that opportunity, but it’s like, how about just the motivation to get up and actually come out to the track in 100 degree heat, and ride. You said it might not have been fun, but guess what, the kids all still came. They didn’t stay home, so that is a testament to how fun it can be, and also another thing that we glossed over, didn’t really point out is that not only can the spectators come and meet the riders, but the riders are doing the coaching. I’ve coached Air products, Missy has coached Air products, you’ve coached Air products. Kim, Bobby-lee, all of these great athletes that have come through T-Town coached these programs. For us as athletes at the time, we’re like, “I can’t believe these kids are listening to us.” But they go on to really value and remember that. And I Think that plays a huge part in really having a love for the sport and not just… It might generate better high level success, an identification program that says, “You have talent. We’re going to take you and fast track you to being junior world champion or being team sprint starter.” And that’s great in that respect, but do a lot of people come out of that pathway loving the sport like you do and wanting to give back to it.

Andy Lakatosh:

You say you want to get involved in helping to get racing going in Manchester. Hey come over and you can sit in the office with me and do Joan and I’s job. Any day of the week in the summer and we’ll show you, I used to think a lot too, Man there should be more prize money, or there should or this racing, more of that racing. Then you actually get on the other side of the counter and you go. “Ow there is no money to be made in this.” And, “Wow, the UCI schedule really fills up quick when you are trying to do every event, in every discipline, in every gender, equally.” It definitely gets tricky. But I definitely think you hit on the head with the fact that we own that. You’ve obviously gone on to win some really big stuff. Multiple tandem world records. Commonwealth games medals, world championships and medals, and then you have T-Town Rider of the Year. Tandem record holder. Which I will take back at… I think it should only count if you go ride at 104 like we did, because I know junior girls that don’t sprint on 104s. 60 12 was a little bit of cheating, but I’m going to let it slide as long as you get on the tandem with me, 2021 or 2022. And we have a fair crack at it together.

Andy Lakatosh:

In your personal ranking of victories and results and stuff, and things that are memorable. Where does some of that T-Town stuff fall amongst some of the other great things that you’ve accomplished.

Matt Rotherham:

The thing is for me, I want to have a good career in cycling and achieve as much as I can I guess. The thing that I want to take away at the end of my career is as many memories as I can. And so it’s not for me in terms of ranking, which was more important, obviously the world records are massive and looking forward to Tokyo next year, that is the number one target. Ask us in a years time, hopefully we go there and take gold, I expect that would be the career highlight. But then that doesn’t make it any less important to me that winning Rider of the Year, or taking the track record on the tandem, or I don’t know there have been some good Madison’s that are up there. It ranks high as far as I’m aware. Because it’s not about what is most important, it’s what I look back on the most, as being the fondest memories ultimately. So winning Rider of the Year was pretty massive and it was nice to win it alongside Missy that same day, and that for me was pretty cool. Yeah, I’ll never forget that.

Matt Rotherham:

But at the same time, we look at the Gold coast commonwealth games, and we went the fastest we’ve ever gone on the tandem there, when we went like nine five for the 200 meters. And the thing is, I can remember that where we are coming down the home straight, about to come into the final lap and the corner just approached ridiculously fast.

Andy Lakatosh:

Really quickly

Matt Rotherham:

You’re coming down the home straight and then you’re like, “Ow no turn one.” And that was throwing the bike down and we did this in training last week, one of the coaches pushed us in using the motorbike, and pushed us up to speed, and it turns we were going nine five, nine six pace then. And you realize how scary fast that is. And that’s becoming like white knuckle ride at that point. When its like, hit turn one and you’re like. “Hoa, turn it in.” And that for me is really thrilling, so whilst we won gold that day and took home a record, that’s not necessarily what I took away from that. What I took away from that was the feeling flying into turn one, at 76, 77 kilometers an hour, and the thrill of that.

Andy Lakatosh:

Am I going to make it out the other side still below the blue line, let alone the red line.

Matt Rotherham:

And then the standing ovation that came from the…

Andy Lakatosh:

Well that never hurts either.

Matt Rotherham:

6000 people there as well. It was incredible. We won gold and I’ve got the medals hung up at home, but it was that, that I take away as the fondest memory. So while you don’t put that on a [inaudible 00:33:17] particularly, to me that is one of the biggest things.

Andy Lakatosh:

I’ve seen smaller things on peoples resumes recently. Like I won this on a Tuesday night, and you just look and you’re just like, “Are you kidding?” Come on you won an event on a Friday night, that is great, but let’s talk about world cups and stuff. Anyway what I wanted to say generally about that is that I’ve often discussed this with friends, where it’s… We say all the time, “Like focus on the process. And its about the journey not the destination.” 100 percent, my biggest wins, my Pan Am games medal or when I set the track record on the tandem, I remember little aspects about the ride. And just to put this all into perspective for the people that are listening.

Andy Lakatosh:

My record on the tandem for the flying lap was 17.3 which at that time was basically and average speed of about ten four and now T-Town is obviously shallower, but it’s also a bigger longer track. And notoriously tandems are very difficult to hold below say the red line. And we’re also taking about tandems that were manufactured between 1944 and like 1995. So we’re not talking about the same tandem that Matt goes nine, five on, that is a whole different animal. But as a driver what I could feel on the bikes is you would steer down, and then you could feel when the back rider would catch up, like the back end of a tractor trailer, getting into the lane with you. And then it starts to pull you down track so you counter balance up track. You just start this weird oscillation. And so my trick was always get down there, pin it, quickly balance out the oscillation, then hold on for dear life.

Andy Lakatosh:

And you know, ten, four speed on T-Town on the tandem, and of course we are not doing it every single week. So this is not a normal thing for us, was absolutely pure shit terrifying. So the concept of going nine, five, whether it’s on a better bike or a steeper track to me is absolutely mind blowing. So kudos to you for doing that, but then again you know, the dutch guys going nine, two at sea level. Ow, there is an interesting question, if you can divulge. Gearing to go nine, five on a tandem?

Matt Rotherham:

Well that was essentially the biggest gear we could find to be honest. We can only, because of the way the tandem is spaced out at the back, for our training wheels it is spaced wider than a normal bike wheel.

Andy Lakatosh:

It makes it hard to get a big ring on.

Matt Rotherham:

No, it’s to do with the sprockets on our training wheels. We use normal sprockets, but then the disk wheels have not got that wide axle. So we have got our own manufactured tandem sprockets, which are spaced out. They only go down to 13. So unfortunately we can’t go… Our normal range is up to 64. So we would normally go 64, 13 which is 133 I think. Now Commonwealth games when we had done well that season. We were like, “This track is super fast.” The conditions were amazing, the air was thin it was hot, the track is literally the nicest surface I’ve ever ridden on. So we were like, “We’re breaking that world record.” And also the sponsors of Commonwealth games that year were Longines, the watch company and they said, “If you break a world record you win a watch.”

Andy Lakatosh:

Game on then.

Matt Rotherham:

We’re breaking a world record. Shout out to the Trinidad team because they sort of ran around track center trying to find a chain ring. So we managed to get a 65 from those guys. So we got the biggest gear we could and, I don’t know if we could go a 12 sprocket we probably would I guess. But that was big enough.

Andy Lakatosh:

Here is what is mind blowing, obviously national teams are not calculating gears of other riders just off of video. There are no secrets, it’s funny when you ask someone a gear and they go, “Ow I can’t tell you.” It’s like really, I can probably call six different people that would tell me every different gear you have rode in every race last year. But we know that the Dutch guys on their individual bikes are going 140 to 150 inch gears, for their 200s. Which is, tandem used to always be like, “Okay this is where we go one cog smaller than we go on our individual bikes.” Which is why we were on 104 when we did our track record, versus say 96 back in 2007. Now we are talking 115 inch gear on an individual bike. So if you applied that same thing, you’d be on a 165. If we were still using that same mentality, which I am sure you would love right.

Andy Lakatosh:

Then we are talking about eight, nine. Which is for driving the motor on the track, I can say nine, five is pushing it. That’s quick. But the fastest I ever went was eight, six on my own, which I got off and I was shaking afterwards. And I got I think it was Hugo from Canada timed at eight, nine one time. And it’s absolutely terrifying. And now we’re approaching those speeds on individual bikes which is mind blowing to say the least. But thanks for sharing. That insight is really funny. You were the stoker for the tandem record here and now you’re a driver. Which one do you prefer?

Matt Rotherham:

The thing is, in Great Britain, there is a big history of tandem racing. So 30, 40 years ago the tandem national championships were massive, and it used to be a Commonwealth games discipline, able bodied. And the thing is then they always said, “You put your engine in the back and essentially your brains at the front.” Now I’m not saying I can’t ride a bike.

Andy Lakatosh:

So you’re saying Tom is the brains? And just so everybody knows, Matt set the track record with his brother Tom, who also came to T-Town and raced every year, and is our defending Rider of the Year. He gets two years to now claim he was Rider of the Year. But Tom is quite a character, and we’ll have him on here at some point. If you really know Tom, that is a very troubling statement. That Tom is the brains and Matt is the engine. Anyway, continue.

Matt Rotherham:

Well no, you’re right, but the thing is I’m built more like a stoker sort of potential. Just the… I’ve got a bit more strength than Tom for example. So the natural choice, If we were racing tandem 30 years ago, I would be the stoker. So that has always been my natural position. I’m reigning able bodied sprint tandem champion. I race that with one of my teammates Helen. But even then I was stoker. So she drove and I was at the back. And the thing is she got both world records in the para cycling herself, so I know she can ride the bike doing ten, four. So the day we went nine five or they might have gone ten , five, ten, six but I know that she can handle the bike so I was… It’s nice being with a rider that you’re confident to go full gas. So I don’t know if we rode together whether I’d be able to go full gas or not. I’d be like, “Whoa I’m not so sure.”

Andy Lakatosh:

Ow come on. I’ll tell you, we tried, the guy I rode with Bembar Chesky one of my absolute best friends, the very first time, because he had driven tandem the year before. We tried where I rode in the back, we did about four laps, got off the track, he was like, “All right, I want you to try.” He was instantly like, “All right, I trust you.” And really that is the crux of the issue right there. Because I rode with another great friend of mine, teammate Gideon Massey a couple of years later. And he is considerably taller than me, we were on a bike where he could see over me into the corner, and he trusted, but it was one of those, I trust you to a point type thing.

Andy Lakatosh:

When you’re really dialed in as a driver you know, we did a really hard effort we came in and I’m sitting there and I turn to him like, “Hey were you looking in the corner?” And he’s like, “Yeah, why?” And I’m like, “Because I could feel you subconsciously as I’m trying to get to the black line.” I can feel you being like, “Laky, a little bit higher, too low, too low.” And he’s like, “You could really feel that?” I said, “Yeah no I could feel that.” And you really can, when you’re dialed with your stoker or not dialed. It’s definitely a make or break thing, it takes a lot of trust there.

Matt Rotherham:

Yeah, you’re right, and this is the thing that I’m now, have raced a number of years with Neil Fachie who has got so much experience. And the thing is he having done it for so long has got that intuition. Really so, he is only 60 odd kilograms. So we is considerably lighter than me as well. If I say you don’t notice him on the bike, that is no disrespect. You feel the power that he produces but in terms of when you go into the corners, it’s like riding an individual bike, you point the bike and we are sort of playing at the moment with head position, so we are both tipping our head in a little bit or tipping it out. We are sort of experimenting with the way to go with that. But I think a good stoker is that one that knows to relax, knows to tilt the head in slightly and essentially just don’t look. Essentially if you close your eyes and pedal it’s probably easier and [inaudible 00:43:52] T-Town I’ll have two different gears in my legs when I’m stoking there. Because I’ll go into the corner and it will be like pedal smooth and just keep the bike nice and low and then you get to the straight.

Andy Lakatosh:

Here comes the turbo.

Matt Rotherham:

And then you get to the corner again and it’s like, “Okay, smooth, smooth, smooth.” And then you come out into the home straight, boom, boom, boom. Yeah you have to balance the effort a little bit more.

Andy Lakatosh:

That is definitely… as a driver you appreciate the smoothness. We are going to take a quick break here to hear from our sponsors and we’ll be right back with more from Matt Rotherham.

Speaker 4:

The talk of the T-Town podcast is brought to you through the generous support of B. Braun Medical Inc. A global leader in infusion therapy and pain management. B. Braun develops, manufactures and markets innovative medical products to the healthcare community. They are also strong believers in supporting the quality of life in the communities where their employees work and live. We here at the Velodrome have a special affinity for B. Braun, because not only are they innovators in the medical field, but they like to race bikes. Every season you can catch the B. Braun team competing in our corporate challenge, and man does their team bring out the stoke. In 2019, they packed the stands with employees cheering for their team and we can’t wait to see them out on bikes again soon.

Andy Lakatosh:

All righty, welcome back to talk of the T-Town podcast. I’m Andy Lakatosh, with Joan Hanscom, here with Matt Rotherham. Matt so we just talked about tandem, having a stoker. Smaller stoker versus a bigger stoker on the back, and where you put your power and all that kind of stuff. I’m going to get a little personal here, because you and I are in the same club, and we’re in the bigger side of sprinters, guys right? And sometimes that’s just, we’re very endowed to put on muscle. I eat chicken and go into the gym and it’s like, “Ow look there is four more pounds of muscle.” We also very much like wing night and Tommyboy’s that is absolutely delicious, I know it is a… you share the… It’s a struggle for us at times. Some people can just eat whatever they want and stay super lean. I know you’ve experienced in your national team some of what… because you guys hold a very high standard for how lean you should be 24/7, and if you’re not then obviously you’re just not serious enough, and there is definitely a healthy balance with that. Because I was always, even amongst well… Usually your friends are the worst.

Andy Lakatosh:

But amongst friends it was like Laky is the fat one on the team. It’s difficult right? That can really mess with your motivation and then I always wound up turning to food which didn’t help the situation at all. But if you’re comfortable with it, because you seem to be like me, to be in a much better and happier place in terms of accepting that, and also being like, “This is where I’m at, and this is how I work, and this is what is healthy and good for me.” If you could share some of your experiences with that.

Matt Rotherham:

I mean if we talk about the sort of, the progression with the academy at British cycling, when I was on the program, there was not much focus on the training, every meeting I had was, “Ow you need to lose weight, ow you need to lose weight.”

Andy Lakatosh:

Just Exhausting.

Matt Rotherham:

We’ll do a… and it just wore me down. It wasn’t motivating, it wasn’t… and at that time I didn’t see that, that was the key to my potential. We didn’t really look at anything else. Any other bit of training. It was just, “You need to lose weight, you need to lose weight.” And that didn’t work for me. I’ve realized that, yes it is simple physics. If you have a higher power to weight ratio you are more likely to go faster, so I use that now as motivation to be the right weight for race day, because I know it can positively affect the performance. And it takes time to learn that I guess. And that is kind of the way that it is setup now. The riders do seem to learn a lot more about themselves, it’s your choice if you want to lose weight or lift more in the gym. You can take ownership a little bit more. And yes, I needed to take ownership at times, but the mechanisms weren’t there to do that. And recently, I’ve realized the way to do that. You find an event that you’re focusing on and look at the weight that you are, look at the target weight you want to be. And now I plan week on week what the progression needs to be to… essentially I’m looking towards Tokyo next year and trying to be in the shape of my life.

Matt Rotherham:

And so I have a better healthy relationship with food and drink, that means when I go on holiday now, that is time to relax a little bit more. And when it’s time to train and you’re two, three months away from an epic goal, I’m more motivated to knuckle down and lose a little bit of weight and… Which is why it’s lucky that T-Town falls in the summer, when we’re away from racing. When it gets to half price appetizers at Applebee’s on a Friday night after racing, or Taco Tuesday at 1760 or whatever. You can let your hair down a little bit. We’re also riding a lot more when we’re there. I guess it falls in the right time, but as long as you then come back and it’s like, that was the relaxation time, and then now it’s serious training and knuckle down. If you come at it from a healthier way, I think it works better.

Matt Rotherham:

So yeah, we are lucky, and I don’t know which way I would have it, would I rather be that type of rider that can’t put muscle on, but at the same time, doesn’t also put much fat on. Or be in the position that I am, where we can go in the gym, we can eat well and put muscle on, but with that comes the potential fat gain. I think I’ll take it as I am now. I’ve come to, not come to terms, but I’ve recognized how I best work within that routine. To fluctuate throughout the year, that maybe you put a couple of kilos here, and the lockdown over this summer wasn’t helpful in that perspective. But since then, like I say. We set little goals weekly, hit majority of them and got to this… we had a little in house race last week, and I was my target weight. And so I know I can trust myself when the time comes to get in shape. And ultimately the main goal is Tokyo next year, and we want to go there and win gold, and especially we want to accelerate that bike as fast as we can. So I know that If I can lose five kilos say, that it has a potential increase in time.

Matt Rotherham:

I’m kind of excited really, because I want to get to that ideal race weight. And make me super fast. And hopefully we get the best performances out when I’m in that shape. So yeah, we’ll see, and hopefully the year plans out in the right way to hit all those targets.

Joan Hanscom:

I mean I think this is a super important conversation to have in our sport broadly speaking. I grew up in [inaudible 00:52:22] where I had a director of the company I danced for who would put teacups in our clavicles to make sure we were thin enough. If you could hold a teacup in your clavicle you were doing okay. Or if who could count, who could count the most bones in their sternum. If you can count the bones in your sternum, you’re doing all right. And then you translate into road cycling, in my case. Where it is the same thing, power to weight ratios, and eating disorders, and for both men and women. We recorded yesterday with a sports psychologist talking about the same thing. I think this notion of having a healthy approach to your body weight, having a healthy approach to how you’re going to get there, instead of really a disordered approach. It’s rampant in our sport and it’s really great to hear you say, both of you actually. Because I know Andy, how hard you have worked over the summer as well to pivot on that sort of approach mentally. That we’re taking a healthier look at how to get there.

Joan Hanscom:

Instead of just a pinch test and lose weight, it’s important that we have that, “Ow, you know what this is an approach, for a goal like Tokyo.” And we’re going to get there, we’re going to get there in a healthy way, we’re not going to become obsessive about it.

Matt Rotherham:

And with… The thing is I now want to go on that journey, and it’s not like right, you have a skin pinch test next week, you better be in shape. It’s now, I ask for those tests, I go, “Right, I would like this test here.” I want you to challenge me on my weight at this time. And I’ve worked out that’s the best for me. If I’m the one that goes to them, to my nutritionist and say, “I want help with this.” Then I guess it’s that ownership that I mentioned before that works better. Where I’m going to them and saying, “I would like to do this, please help me.” Not, “Ow yeah you’ve got to do this.”

Joan Hanscom:

Much healthier

Matt Rotherham:

Yeah, it just doesn’t work. And I guess had I got challenged at that time, that I didn’t want it enough, because I never wanted to lose the weight. And I’m not sure that that is the case. I think where once I got to the academy I’d lost that drive potentially and there are certain reasons for that. I didn’t want to lose weight because I didn’t, yeah… But now I know the benefits of it, I have a healthier perspective on it, I ask for help when I need it. I recognize when I’m struggling and I recognize when things are going well, and I am just more self aware of what is going on.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, so much healthier.

Andy Lakatosh:

For me personally it comes down to balance and just accepting accountability for my own actions. Sometimes you do just let yourself have the pizza and you need to just be okay with it. But you also need to hold yourself accountable when it’s like, “Ow that’s the third pizza this week.” And I don’t mean slice, I mean entire pizza. So there is some balance there. It would be a whole separate discussion, but that drilling it into you every single session about, this is what you need to do, and this is what you need to focus on as a coach, and as an athlete. I see both sides of it. In terms of as a coach when someone is in a program targeting X objective and someone is missing a very key, core concept. Whether he is doing all the training, getting to bed on time, not partying, or selective partying I’ll say. Selective river floating. Whether it is food, it’s really like, as a coach you sit there and go, “You said you want this. Why are you not doing it?” It’s a very simple, just make the choice and do it. And really eating, and we’ll have a nutritionist on here eventually that will talk about a lot of that and what goes into that, but the eating part is just as important as the training.

Andy Lakatosh:

And the analogy that my nutritionist uses is. Does training make you weaker or stronger? And you always default to is, “Ow it makes me stronger.” It’s training. No, how do you feel at the end of a session of 500s, over-unders, threshold work? Well I feel weak. Okay so what makes you stronger is what you do in the kitchen and what you do in the bedroom. In terms of eating and sleeping. And so your training is so detailed and so specific. If you really want to operate at that level it takes the ability to focus like that. And just like you need off days in training, you also need off days nutritionally right. It’s just a matter of how far off center you wind up going with that. Like I said we could do a whole another call and get way into the weeds on that. We’re approaching a good amount of time here. So a few more questions that I have, just real quick.

Andy Lakatosh:

So 2020 obviously not 2021 was supposed to be your year to come and challenge me for rider of the year. Keirin Cup and all that other stuff, that’s going to now have to be still on tandem. Beyond 2021 and the Paralympics, what is the main objective for Matt Rotherham, or will you just see when you get there?

Matt Rotherham:

Yeah, I don’t know and the thing is, I’m interested ultimately just out of pure intrigue more than anything else in. I get to Tokyo hopefully the best form of my whole life, so then I would also like to get on the solo and just see what I can do there. But I have no plans on that ultimately. We have the Commonwealth games which are kind of a major event for us. And they’re in, well it’s the Birmingham Commonwealth games but the Cycling is going to be in London. But that will be a pretty major event. And so we come off Tokyo next year and we are sort of into Commonwealth games and Paris prep. So ultimately I would love to build a legacy doing what I’m doing. And we are starting to push the boundaries with the tandem riding. And the thing is, when you look back at the old tandem racing at world championships, the tandems were always faster than the able bodied riders, sorry the solo riders. If the solo riders were doing ten, six the tandems would go ten, four or something. I think that is roughly what would happen at our nationals for example.

Matt Rotherham:

So tandems are always faster, but over the last 10, 15 years, when we have had the tandem racing in the Paralympics, there has been this slight disparity where the solo riders were significantly faster. Whilst the tandems were going 1:02 for the kilo, [inaudible 00:59:14] is doing a minute flat. So it’s like, “Wow what is going on there?” But over the last three or four years, we have got to the point where Commonwealth games for example we actually on the tandem qualified faster than what Matthew Glaetzer did, who qualified fastest there. So that was pretty cool. Our world record on the tandem is faster than… It is the fastest sea level kilo out there, which is a good place to be. I want to keep pushing that boundary ultimately. We are figuring out the best ways to go about that, and I am genuinely excited for the next few months of seeing where we go. We are now on a position to really push the boundaries and I’m really excited for that.

Andy Lakatosh:

I think what you have got to do, is you have go to take the tandem and go to Moscow, I mean honestly you’ll just run out of gear, right, but three 33 banked at 45 degrees, I mean I would guess you could drive a car on that at about 100 miles an hour without issue. I would like the test that out personally. So all right, in the appropriate for general consumption on a podcast. Craziest T-Town story, funniest, most unbelievable scenario. It doesn’t have to be in the track, just from your experiences being in Pennsyl-Tucky to race, what is the craziest memory you have? Or funniest?

Matt Rotherham:

You get pop bottle rockets in America, they are banned in the UK. But me and friends, we would be lighting them out of our hands and do silly things like that. I don’t know how crazy the float is, the podcast version. We blow up airbeds and just sleep, we would park down the river. So we would park the cars down the river and then ride back, and then we would pump some airbeds up, jump on the river and float the day down. And things like that, it’s not particularly crazy but they are the good little extras that we don’t do at the track. Yeah just really good fun I guess.

Andy Lakatosh:

Good stuff, yeah definitely, it’s one of those whole experience things, you have just got to come and just soak it all in and enjoy the whole thing. So before we wrap up, couple of rapid fire questions, and Joan, Omar feel free to jump in here, I just have a few jotted down here so. All time favorite race in T-Town?

Matt Rotherham:

Do you know what, one of my earliest best results, one of UCI keirins, I managed both semi-finals, finals to get Ellie [inaudible 01:02:27] wheel and I got second. I only got second, but that for me was like a thing. I could do this.

Andy Lakatosh:

London Six-day, a win at the London Six-day, a win at T-Town, like a big one like keirin cup or whatever is the most memorable for you. Or a win at the revolution, which one would you take if you could do any one today?

Matt Rotherham:

You are asking me to choose between home…

Andy Lakatosh:

Ow yeah, ow yeah.

Matt Rotherham:

And my second home. Give me a Madison cup win or something.

Andy Lakatosh:

All right there we go. Uptown espresso bar or bagel bar?

Matt Rotherham:

Bagel Bar.

Andy Lakatosh:

Okay, wing night or taco night?

Matt Rotherham:

Do you even need me to…

Andy Lakatosh:

I do, I do, for the general public, not for me.

Matt Rotherham:

The Tavern Monday night wing night. In Kutztown there is two bars that do wing night, and there are two separate… half the riders go to Bason street is it down at the bottom? Half go there for wing night, and I don’t think I’ve ever been. The Tavern, Kutztown Tavern wing night.

Andy Lakatosh:

All right, last one from me. Favorite T-Town song that you hear and you’re like, “That is T-Town.”

Matt Rotherham:

Yeah Kickstart my Heart, I already mentioned it, and there was recently… and recently we haven’t don’t it but the first two or three years when I was going you’d do the national anthem and then attention pro men, to the ready area, and then Kickstart my Heart gets going and get ready for a 10 lap scrap to something really short and sweet. That got the goosebumps going absolutely.

Andy Lakatosh:

Joan any quickfire questions?

Joan Hanscom:

No I Think those are all good ones. We don’t need to go into the Crocs or Birkenstocks questions today. Crocs or stocks? No, we are not going to do that this week. But yeah those are awesome answers, we’ll have to queue up the right playlist for you when you’re here next Matt. So you can fire yourself up accordingly.

Andy Lakatosh:

That’s all I hear from these guys. Is playlists, playlists playlists, every single year.

Matt Rotherham:

But it’s atmosphere, and the thing is, you ask us what brought us back, it was little things like that, you know there are loads of songs that I listen to, half of Florida Georgia Line would get played before racing. Or Country Girl I think is it Luke Bryan. That just remind us of T-Town. The music is half of it if I’m honest.

Joan Hanscom:

We’ll take requests, we’ll have the DJ take requests.

Andy Lakatosh:

We’ll have a DJ which will make it considerably easier. So all right. I think that wraps it up here for us. Thank you very much Matt for getting on and doing the podcast with us, especially on your holiday. Although I know talking about T-Town is always a fun experience for you. That wraps it up for us. Thanks for listening to Talk of the T-Town podcast, thank you to our sponsors and we’ll talk to you all next week.

Joan Hanscom:

Good luck in Tokyo Matt.

Matt Rotherham:

Thank you very much, Cool hopefully see you guys soon.

Joan Hanscom:

Bye bye.

Joan Hanscom:

This has been the Talk of the T-Town podcast with host Joan Hanscom and Andy Lakatosh. Thanks for joining us for this week’s episode, bought to you by B. Braun Medical inc. Head on over to our website thevelodrome.com where you can check out the show notes and subscribe, so you’ll never miss an episode.