Talking Cycling with Matthew Glaetzer
He’s a sprinter who has only ridden a few ‘kilo’ in competition but Matthew Glaetzer posted a sub-60 second time at a recent World Cup. He is aiming for gold at the Commonwealth Games in April… after riding a 24 hour race in January.
“Times are just going to keep falling”
Talking about the ‘kilo’ and what Matthew Glaetzer expects from the Commonwealth Games in April 2018.
In November 2017 Matthew Glaetzer posted the fastest time ever in the ‘kilo’ when raced at sea-level. The week before that he won the sprint at another track World Cup. He has been an integral part of the Australian track cycling team for years and his biggest result is yet to come.
In his first Olympic campaign, he earned two ‘chocolate medals’: fourth in the sprint and team sprint. But he’s only 25. Time is on his side and his riding into his prime right now.
At 190cm (and weighing in at around 85kg) he is an imposing figure on a bike. He has a unique style and oodles of power. And he doesn’t mind doing a bit of experimentation to get the most out of himself in racing.
His time in the kilo is should be talked about in revered tones, it should be the stuff of legend… it should earn him considerable publicity. But it happened at a World Cup in Britain at a time when cycling wasn’t exactly getting a lot of attention. If he repeats a sub-minute time in competition next April – when track cycling gains some traction with the Australian media thanks to a Commonwealth Games at ‘home’ – he is likely to get wider recognition. He deserves it.
Glaetzer is known for his short bursts of power and he’s dabbling with larger gears and working on refining his technique. The effort has its rewards: the 59.970 kilo is one example. But cycling should also be fun. For this reason, he has decided to step out of his comfort zone next January and be part of a team for the Revolve24 Australia event at ‘The Bend’ in his home state of South Australia.
RIDE recently caught up with Glaetzer to talk about the kilo, his track racing, the Commonwealth Games, his experiments with gearing… and Revolve24 Australia, for which he is an ambassador.
We present out interview in two parts: the opening stanza (see below) – about the serious side of his racing, and part two where he talks about what he expects from the innovative 24-hour ‘fun’ event that will be part of the so-called ‘Festival of cycling’ in South Australia early next year.
Glaetzer (above) is an ambassador for Revolve24 Australia and a rider who is bound to impress at the Commonwealth Games in April.
RIDE: It’s a Monday evening and Matthew Glaetzer has just got off the track in Adelaide and we thought we’d have a chat about some things he did in Manchester just recently. You’ve been accomplishing quite a lot lately but the sub-minute ‘kilo’ is something in particular that’s worth talking about, isn’t it?
Matthew Glaetzer: “Yeah, it was a good moment for me. It was a good test to see how I’d go and we managed to post a cracking time.”
No one really expects to go that fast, certainly at sea-level. The 60 second barrier has only been cracked a few times in cycling history. Did it feel fast? Did it feel like you’d gone at that kind of pace?
“I didn’t think I was… I thought it might be close to a minute dead. But I actually felt pretty good coming into the last lap. Normally you feel pretty rubbish and, especially the last half lap, I felt like I was still going at a decent speed.
“I gave it everything, lunged for the line, and all of a sudden ‘59’ pops up.
“It did actually feel really good through the ride, which is pretty rare for a kilo.”
Exactly. I know that you can start out strong and then you get the rock ’n’ roll happening in the last lap and that’s when you really see the pain as a spectator. Were you in a new aerodynamic stance? Did you do something special that achieved that time or do you just think conditions were good and your legs were good that night?
“My legs were pretty good coming into the event and I was also working on some things we’d been doing at training.
“The kilo is all about pacing. And you lose a lot of time in the last lap, so our goal was just to minimise the loss in the last lap.
“I gave away time in the first half of the race but managed to make up for it in the back end which is really the business end of the event.
“With it being an event at the Commonwealth Games, we thought we’d put some focus on it and I managed to pace it really well. I mean, I felt good all the way through the event and I came in [after the race] and thought, ‘Well, I think I just nailed that!’”
It must be wonderful when you’re training so hard to try and get The Perfect Minute – and then you do that. Do you think you’ll be able to replicate it on the Gold Coast (at the Commonwealth Games) in April?
“I think so. I mean every athlete strives to beat their previous best and that’s exactly what I’m gunning for.
“I love a challenge and my coach has thrown down a challenge to me – to reduce my time even further – and it’s exciting.
“The [Queensland] track is fast. And I know that track is conducive to time trial events as well, with the design of it. So we’re really excited and optimistic [about] what we can do and hopefully we can wow the crowd even further.”
Hopefully you saw my little write-up after what you did in Manchester because I know there’s a long and rich history in Australian cycling…
“I did actually. That’s one of the greatest articles I’ve read. I really appreciated that. It was really well written, thank you.”
[Blushing] That’s cool because I think what it does is echo the sentiment that we lived through in the 1980s and 1990s… we can cast our minds back to the names of Vinnicombe and Kelly and Kersten and now you’re up there beating their best marks. It’s quite an accomplishment.
“Yeah, it is. And it’s just the way sport is going these days. Everyone is training harder from an early age and technology is improving and the way of thinking is being challenged – so times are just going to keep falling.
“It’ll obviously get to some sort of point where you can’t improve much but it’s just the way elite sport is going: we’re all striving to constantly improve. And that is evident from the kilo with that fast time – ‘Yep, these things are possible now…’ [things] that we previously didn’t think were.”
Glaetzer in his first (and so far only) sub-minute ‘kilo’ (above).
Photo courtesy of Cycling Australia.
I’ve got 56.303 in my head. I think if François Pervis riding that fast at Aguascalientes a couple of years ago and it blows my mind what happened that day. Did you race on that particular day at that World Cup?
“No I didn’t race the kilo.
“I remember qualifying in the sprint that day and we geared up for the conditions but no where near enough. I was one-10th off Pervis’ fastest time and his world record. But I sat down [during the race] at the pursuit line in the front straight – about 40 metres earlier than I’d planned – and I thought, ‘Oh no…!’
“It’s a super fast track and special times are created on that one in Aguascalientes.”
Tell me about Manchester: was there something exceptional about the conditions or was it a bit like what I said, ‘Just a fairly ordinary British day…’
“The track was certainly warm [for the World Cup], they were heating it up a fair bit. So the conditions were pretty good, I do believe. But it’s not the fastest track in the world.
“Although it is a quick track, I think it was probably slightly faster than normal conditions, I haven’t really done a full debrief of the times – with conditions being factored in – with my coaching staff because we’ve kind of moved on.
“We were like, ‘Right, we’ve done that – now let’s aim for faster…’
“But it was certainly good conditions to do it. You can’t go sub-minute, really, with bad conditions. It was all pretty much all heading towards a fast time, I think.”
Glaetzer in sprint qualifying at the Rio Olympics (above)…
Photo: Yuzuru Sunada
We know that for the team pursuit, for example, cranks have gotten longer and gears have gotten bigger. And the like. But I spoke with Michael Freiberg and he us a little rundown of his history with crank lengths – and that certainly got people paying attention to tech changes. What have you done in recent years, or months – or let’s even consider the lessons of Rio – did you apply any of that, or refine it, for this ride in Manchester?
What are you doing technical-wise that might be worth referencing?
“We chose the simple [thing] of trying to get the rear wheel as close to the frame as we could so we selected the bigger chainring and bigger rear cog to bring that wheel closer. That’s just a simple gain aerodynamically.
“And the way sprinting is going these days, the gears are only getting bigger. We tried something in the kilo, to go on quite a large gear. And… yeah, it seemed to work. Obviously.
“It’s just trying new things that we think might work but we’re not 100 percent sure. It’s all about refining those ideas. That was one main change that we made, the gear size – it was a pretty big one, one closer to a sprint qualifying gear…
“It’s just interesting to find out the time you lose in the first few laps, whether you can gain it in the back half.
“It seemed to work originally with the Manchester ride but we’re still looking over data and refining it.
“But those are the key things that we did try.”
Can you give us a hint of what the roll-out is?[Laughs] “I’m not sure.”
“My coach hasn’t given me the all clear.
“I mean, yeah… it’s pretty big but… I don’t want to get in trouble. Sorry.”
“It’s might not be a serious thing but I’ve just got to play it safe.”
Well, just from your original description of having that extra last half lap… a little bit of extra energy, it has paid off clearly. Did it feel like you were going to pop a hernia when you came out of the gate though?
“Oh man! Yeah. Definitely. It was the toughest one lap I’ve ever ridden.
“I knew that I wasn’t in my peak physical form either, so I knew that I was going to give away time just because of the size of the gear. But physically I wasn’t 100 percent so I knew that it was going to be a tough ask to get that thing going.
“It’s not easy getting off the line. It’s a challenge but, as I said before, it’s just trying new things and just adapting to it.”
It’s wonderful to have the Commonwealth Games program – and to have it in Australia – just to lure people back into the beautiful even that is the kilo. We don’t need to go on about it being absent from the Olympic program; we know that, that’s old news now… I can’t imagine it’s ‘fun’ to race but are you looking forward to the challenge that awaits?
“I can’t wait to be honest. It’s a new event for me at the moment. I haven’t raced it… well, Manchester was actually the first time I raced [the kilo] at a senior international competition.
“Yes, the event hurts and it’s a brutal event but because it is new to me, it has that air of, ‘You don’t know what’s possible…’ because I haven’t done many of them.
“It being in the Commonwealth Games schedule – and especially it being at the end of the schedule for the track cycling – means that we don’t have to back up after it. We just have a ‘Hail Mary attempt’ and go for it and see what we can do.
“That’s the approach we’re having. And I seriously can’t wait for the Commonwealth Games to come around and have a crack at this kilo.”
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– End of part one: click here for part two –
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– Interview by Rob Arnold