An Ordinary Bloke Vs. An Extraordinary Challenge: Matt Jones & The Madax - Pedal Progression


13 March 2018

An Ordinary Bloke Vs. An Extraordinary Challenge: Matt Jones & The Madax

Meet Matt Jones. Matt lives just outside Bristol and can often be found on our local trails, riding with friends, training and generally enjoying being part of the Bristol MTB scene. He started mountain bike racing relatively recently for someone with so many significant results to his name.

As well as competing in and winning some of the most well known national endurance MTB events, Matt was UK and European 24 hour champion in 2016 and came 9th in Elite at the 2017 24 hour world champs. The more I chat with Matt about his journey to MTB endurance riding the more it seems initially his achievements on his bike were a bit of a surprising side-effect of his passion for riding and ability to suffer longer and harder than those around him. In 2015 he decided to take his commitment to his riding to the next level and signed up to work alongside his coach Jon at E3Coaching to meticulously plan and execute his training schedules and race plans! Basically, he loves to ride and loves to race and I am very fortunate that he has offered his advice, experience and expertise to me whilst I prepare for my 24 hour challenge.

One of Matt’s key pieces of advice early on was, ‘there is no better preparation for racing than racing’. After a bit of a low following my race in Dartmoor at the end of January, he suggested I join him for a 60K event up in the Cotswolds. This sounded like a great opportunity to get back on the horse and try something a bit longer. On the way to Gloucester I had the perfect opportunity chat with Matt about how he got into racing MTB and also to quiz him about a few things that had been on my mind since I decided to take on this challenge a bit more seriously. What does the life of an elite MTB endurance racer look like? How do they get it all done? What does it take to be at the top of this game and how does it compare to what I am doing?

Ollie: “How did you get into 24hour racing? And why is it something you have stuck at?”

Matt: “Like Redbull rampage riders hucking off canyons they probably didn’t just decide to start doing that one day. They probably started with a curb then, steps then on a low wall before even contemplating some life threatening leap. Same goes for me and 24 hour racing. It’s a case of slowly building up to these things unless you are some sort of athletic freak of nature. For me the turning point in realising I could actually do ok at 24 hour races wasn’t actually doing a 24 hour MTB race. It was after doing the off road Kielder marathon with 2 days notice and having done an endurance mountain bike race the day before. In the context that I’m no runner it tapped me in to something deep down that said I had a surprising ability to suffer and keep going when it hurt, perfect for 24 hour MTB racing then! Doing the Kielder Marathon and surviving then led to a bigger challenge the following year (2011) when I completed ‘Killer Kielder‘ and that was that I was hooked on the feeling of pushing myself beyond what I thought possible. In 2013 I entered Relentless24, came 2nd overall and 1st in category. This was my first big result in MTB endurance racing, the rest is history! Now 24 hour racing is more than just the individual challenge it’s seeing the amazing team effort and comradery amongst fellow riders that I don’t think you see in any other sport.”

You can learn loads more about Matt’s approach to getting in endurance MTB in a blog he wrote here

Ollie: “What does your training week look like at the moment?”


– “Riding 90 minutes total most days to work and back including lots of specific on route workouts

– 1x turbo session

– A 2 hour ride mainly zone 3 work currently building base

– 2-3 core/strength workouts

– 1x 3-4 hr weekend mtb or road ride and a shorter ride on the other weekend day

– stretching as much as I can be bothered to

– Foam rolling ditto

– 1x rest day

All of this now has to be more flexible around family life…2am squats with baby body weight anyone!”

Ollie: “That’s great to hear! Mine is similar, my commute time is a bit less, I am not a foam roller (yet), and my kids are a bit heavy to squat with now days but looks like I might be on the right track! I also sneak in an extra rest day at the moment.”

Ollie: “I am starting to find that my training is taking up a lot of time (as I expected). Something I didn’t account for is the planning and documenting of the training to attempt to analyse what is working. Before you had a coach how did you approach your training in a way that gave you the confidence you were doing the right thing?”

Matt: “When I started to train a bit more I read as much as I could and spoke to fellow riders who were happy to give their advice. 24-hour legends like Ant White and Jason miles would be happy to give bits of advice here and there. I then started to diarise training more, just using my work calendar at first. I used some of the guidance that Joe Friel gives in his book the MTB training bible. Generally though like everyone you have doubts as to if you are doing the right thing and what you should believe. A lot of it is learning by trial and error, working out what is right for you. It got to the point where I had too much going on which felt like 3 job equivalents, my actual paid job, 15 hours a week training then, the third part, the planning of the training and doing stuff to try and get sponsors to lower the cost of all this! One thing had to go and that was the planning so I called Jon at E3 Coaching and just over a year after signing up I was stood in a muddy field in Switzerland wondering how the fuck I had just won the European 24 hour championship! Coaches work!”

Ollie: “You sound like a busy guy! Full time job, new dad, I hear there is a big house project on the go…not to mention your training, how do you fit it all in?…Do you ever just sit down chill and have a beer? Or is it 110% all the time?”

Matt: “Ha! Yes, I am a yin and yang kind of guy, just ask the Nova Scotia (a pub in Bristol) about the double mixed grill. I am prone to a Ricky Hatton style blow out. This does make it bloody tricky to get back into shape but for me it’s worth it. You aren’t going to train hard if your not happy and for me sometimes this is pizza and beer above kale and beetroot! As Graeme Obree pointed out sometimes you need the lows to reach the highs. Everyone is different but do what makes you happy. You have to fit it in where you can, I am kind of known amongst friends for turning up for a weekend get together having ridden there or arrived following some convoluted adventure. Why sit in a car if you can ride?! If I know I am going to have big weekend on the beers I will make sure a get some hard sessions done in the run up to try and offset. I will also try and use dead time where I can, stretching on a train, standing on one foot when stuck in a queue or more recently yoga stretches at 2am with my baby boy.”

Matt is pretty matter of fact about his 24 hour experience and achievements, he says it like he just gets on with it, he takes it seriously because he loves it. What has come across in his emails comments and conversations is that it is the events, people and community that really drive him and give him the great pleasure, enjoyment and motivation to keep going. He loves to go to, and support all different types of events, he wants to see more grass roots racing and he shows this support by turning up! Whether it’s quick fire road sprint for an hour, a muddy slog across the Cotswolds or the world champs its all the same and when it comes down to it. The training is part of the process and becomes enjoyable, rewarding and gratifying in the way that it feeds into the big picture of people having good times on bikes.

Matt has been generous with his time and words of wisdom! So much so that I couldn’t fit it all in! I wanted to save a bit of space in the blog to fill you in on the Madax – It was quite an epic day! But keep your eyes peeled in future blogs for loads of great nuggets of advice for training, race prep and working on cracking the psychological aspects of motivating yourself when the going gets tough.

Matt on the right looking pleased after finishing the Madax 60 in 4hrs 5 minutes.

The Madax

I bid farewell to Matt just before the start. I had arranged alternative transport home thinking he might be a little faster than me! He had estimated about 4 hours ride time, I had estimated 6, so I wasn’t far wrong! Matt looked like he was travelling light, a couple of bottles on the bike, slightly bulging jersey pockets and top tube bag. I, on the other hand, a full 15 litre pack with a 2 litre hydration bladder, a bottle on the bike, 4 energy bars, some tasty pitta breads filled with hummus and peppers, a few spare clothes and first aid kit (safety first)! I think Matt was amused by my food choices, but you have got to know yourself! For me, when the going gets tough…I need tasty snacks, but something tells me this is going to have to change!

The Madax was a new event format for me. A 60K loop self-navigated. Riders needed to use their own GPS and the race organisers provided a GPX file. I always enjoy a bit of navigating, a bit of getting lost and ‘finding myself’, so kind of liked the idea. I don’t have a Garmin so I decided to use my phone, a backup power pack (GPS drains battery hard!), waterproof bike mount and a free OS mapping App which made the total cost of my set up… £20! It took a few goes to figure out how it all worked but performed flawlessly on the day.

After the starter shouted ‘Go’ we went round in circles for a few minutes whilst everyone’s GPS kicked in then got onto the first section of trails – which turned out to be some lovely greasy fields. I have never much enjoyed riding through muddy fields and today was no different. I was surrounded on all sides by other riders, trying to find grip, puffing away and possibly (if anything like me) already thinking twice about their tyre choice, fitness and decision to take part. Luckily this was short lived! The route emerged onto some country roads before turning onto a steep, rocky bridleway climb that pretty much set the tone of the terrain for the rest of the day – lots of ups and lots of downs.

In the conditions we had (mud, mud, mud – we were warned by the organisers) it was one of the hardest 60K rides I have done for some time. The route was varied and filled with spectacular views, swoopy single track, techy descents and lots of technical climbing. We rode through old quarries, forests with designated MTB tracks, along bridleways and what felt like over the top of every hill in the Cotswolds. When I rolled in at 6.5 hours later my body was drained but I had a big smile and great sense of satisfaction. Greeted with a hot coffee and slice of cake, what more could you ask for from an event. If you like the sound of the format, it was organised by MAD events who have just announced something very similar in the summer. You can find out more here. I highly recommend it for fun times, great trails and a good challenging day on the bike.

What I am starting to really enjoy about my prep for the 24 is the amount of time and new experiences I am getting on the bike. As I go searching for new trails to make my rides more interesting and challenge myself in new ways, I am stumbling on new events, new places, trails and meeting new people. I have started to get out there more than I have for quite a few years…probably since before I had kids! (that’s about 10 years in fact) and this has been one of the great rewards of the challenge so far. It kind of comes back around to something Matt said about making sure you enjoy it. Ultimately I am doing this because I want to, it’s not always pleasant but I like to think that is part of the fun! Make sure you are doing it because it makes you happy and the good stuff will follow! If  the training ever feels like a chore, I always try to focus on the end goal and remind myself that the delayed gratification you get from completing big challenges is always the best type!


To Keep up to date with what what Matt and his sponsors are up on his blog site.

You can also follow Matt on Instagram.

Find out more about Matt’s coach.

Find out more about Matt’s Team.

Fancy signing up to a MAD Event



Written by:

Ollie Cain