THE WINNING FORMULA, Giants Ride Unleashed.
Known as “The Flying Postman,” Matt Bottrill spent years perfecting the art of the time trial. After achieving all his personal race goals, today he helps others do the same as the owner of a coaching business in England.
Balancing a passion for cycling with real-life obligations is a challenge many of us can relate to. Career, family, social connections and community—it can be a difficult task to fit it all in.
Giant ambassador Matt Bottrill knows all about it. Nicknamed “The People’s Champion” and “The Flying Postman” in England, he’s been doing it for decades. From his early days as a junior racer, to becoming British National Champion, and later coaching some of the world’s fastest cyclists and triathletes, Matt learned a long time ago that what works best for him is doing it his own way.
Matt’s journey began in the East Midlands town of Coalville, England, where he began racing at age 12. Introduced to the sport by his grandfather, he proved a quick study, racking up wins as a junior including the National Junior 10 title and Junior British Best All-Rounder. In 2000, Matt won the British National Under-23 road race series and found himself on the same track as fellow British elites including future Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins. Recruited by England’s World Class Performance Programme to ride for Great Britain at the world championships and other major road races in Europe, Matt was on his way.
But before he was able to realize his full potential, Matt hit a bump in the road. “In 2000, I won all the Under-23 national championships,” he said. “I was told by my coaches to lose 4 kilos. I lost all this weight, and my form just plummeted.”
The young star went from winning races to not being able to finish them. It was a frustrating, mystifying experience that ultimately shaped Matt’s career and life in the years to come. “No one could really give me an answer about what was happening, and for six months I basically just stopped training,” he said. “I went out and enjoyed life and partying. In that time, I also met my wife. The following season I went and raced in France, where I had a great season.”
During that time, Matt made some decisions. “I developed a mindset of not thinking about what anybody else was doing and just controlling what I could do,” he said. “Training, eating, sleeping—I was looking at every marginal gain possible from myself to the bike. That’s when I really became stronger.”
At the same time, Matt had gained perspective about what he wanted to do and how he wanted to live. “Yes, I was part of the program with athletes like Bradley Wiggins, but I realized I did not have the same engine as those guys. But I knew I could be a good domestic athlete. It also allowed me to understand my own body better, which further down the line would help me coach other athletes.”
HAULING THE MAIL
Armed with that knowledge, Matt embarked on a different type of career—as a mail carrier with the post office. “After three years of being a full-time athlete, I began working as a postman and delivering mail on bike and by foot,” he says. “The job allowed me to keep fit by walking 10 miles a day, but also allowed me to fit my training in around my work. It was mentally taxing, but it gave me the ability to put everything I could into my cycling.”
The family and job left Matt with only 8 hours per week to train. With that in mind, he put a laser focus on the time trial. He had a proven talent for it, plus a keen interest in optimizing every aspect of performance. Physical fitness. Mental strength. The aerodynamics of body, bike and gear.
“It was really hard competing at that level with three kids and full-time job,” Matt says. “The key was always planning everything ahead of time from training to eating. But my biggest asset was the mental strength I had. Knowing I was doing what few others could. There are times when you reach a limit, but you have to push through. If you can’t get to that point, then you’re going to finish second.”
Matt was also an innovator, exploring every opportunity and exhausting every resource to help find the split-second gains that are everything at the elite level. And it was working. The wins began piling up, and in 2014 Matt produced a season that astounded British cycling fans. He won every major race he set out to and broke records in the 25- and 50-mile distances.
“It was really late in my career, and probably at that point I had won like 500 races,” Matt says. “But I had never won all the national championships. I had been second, third… But I came into 2014 and I won everything. As you get older, you get more confident in yourself. This self-confidence just builds and build and builds.”