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Interview: Team Exergy Rider Matt Cooke
By Luke Allingham
Date: 12/2/2011
Interview: Team Exergy Rider Matt Cooke

Interview: Team Exergy Rider Matt Cooke
Boulderite,  Matt Cooke ready to ride with the wind  into 2012

Matt Cooke started his biking life at the age of 14 with mountain biking, after riding a couple of first races on his mountain bike, Matt knew he he loved the sport; later taking up Triathlons in High School. Cooke competed as a professional triathlete, but after several injuries from running he decided to focus on road racing. After a few years as an elite racer and a record of solid performances, he got the call and signed for the DIV 2, Navigators Insurance squad and raced an international schedule. In 2008 he switched to the NRC number one squad Healthnet-Maxxis where he was a key part of the teams success.

A years turn with Mountain Khaki- Jittery Joe's team and then in yeah in the elites and Matt returned to the pro ranks signing with Team Exergy in late 2010  for 2011 and recently the 31 year old pro  re-upped for 2012 with the team that has strengthened its squad over the off season. Entering his 5th pro season at 31 years of age, Cooke will ride with 'Fast Freddy' Rodriguez on a the team whose motto is "Ride with the wind."

Luke Allingham: How did you get interested or started in the sport of cycling?

Matthew Cooke: When I was 14 years old I started mountain biking, I just thought it looked like fun and I entered a race as soon as I got a good mountain bike and after that I was hooked. All I wanted to after that first race was just race bikes. Then I started racing triathlons starting in High School and I was a professional triathlete for a few years and you get some pretty good sized international competition in triathlons.

So basically I just did international triathlon racing and then I kept getting injured from running, so finally I just said the hell with this, I don't want to be injured anymore, so I um started bike racing. I had done some bike racing in previous, but that was like my first serious season, in my twenties, like 25 is when I really started bike racing on the road full time.

2007 Tour de 'Toona: Navigator's Matt Cooke and Kobzarenko lead the break.
© Kurt Jambretz

LA: Do you have your own reason why you are a professional cyclist?

Matt: Ok... I think for me, I want to do well for myself. I think most people do. I want to win, bottom line. I've really put a lot of hard work into this sport and a lot of time and dedication and I want to see all this pay off and I want to win bottom line. I mean I think about it all the time. I feel like, I don't know, it's a personal thing for me. I really want to do it and feel good about myself.

LA.: What advice would you give to an amateur cyclist who is planning to become professional?

Matt: I would just say, keep believing that you can beat these guys and that you can really be a top rider in the sport. Of course have a lot of confidence. But also be really willing to listen to these experienced guys, maybe you are not going to get the straight up advice from them, but try to soak in as much information from there. Make as few mistakes as possible.

LA.: You spent the season with Team Exergy, overall how do you think your 2011 season went, personally and with the team?

Matt: Yeah, personally, I am very very happy with the team. One of the best experiences I've had on a bike team here in the United States. Like everyone is 'all about' doing really well and also encouraging the riders and giving us everything we need so we can perform at a top level. That way there are no excuses at the end of the day.

It's really good racing with the guys, I enjoy riding with all of them, I know I can rely on all of these guys. Our staff side is fantastic, the race director has a pretty good understanding of what is going to happen on the road. Of course our road captain is Freddie Rodriguez, obviously, that guy really knows what is going on. He's been around for a long long time and I feel great, I feel like it's the best ever year I've had personally - my most successful year so far. I feel like every year I've gotten better, hopefully it keeps going that way for me.

LA.: How do you prepare mentally for a race?

Matt: I have actually been working with a sports physiologist recently and she has been really helpful and sort of what we do is walk through some successful races in the past and remeber them and then get those successes in your head. So we focus on the high point of all of these races and I replay them over and over in the head. It basically gives you confidence and focuses the brain on that, so that's all it knows.

You don't really think about the negative stuff, you just pump all of these positive thoughts into your head. It has actually helped me in my performance. If you keep doing that, rehearse those things in the race that are positive. Some of these races I've done at least four times, a race that I will do next year, it might be my sixth, so I know what's going to happen pretty much. I

'll think back to the past and say that's what I've done to screw up in the past and I am not going to do that this year. I will be in that day's breakaway, I will be whatever, what have you. But those kinds of things is what I repeat to myself. It's also important to pay close attention to the courses, the courses are very important, because that's a large part that goes into the preparation. .

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge is a good example, I didn't pay all that much attention to the courses, but I think I should have. I should have focused on the altitude and difficulty of the race. I do wish I had paid more attention to those courses, but it's tough when they are towns that you've never been to. You try to do your best, but seeing it on paper is not the same you have to wait until you really see it in real life.

LA.: Have you gotten back on the bike to train for the new season? What is your off season training season set up like?

Matt: I have been working full time since the season ended in September; but I've been starting to train more these last few weeks. I am not doing anything specific, just riding for fun. I'm going to get down to business with training here soon and I am going to Tucson not long after that. I've been going there every winter for six years and I really need that time in warm weather to be able to do the big miles.

LA.: What will be some of your main goals for the 2012 season?

Matt: I have some specific ones but mostly just to have a better one than this past year. This year went pretty well, so I need do even better. I am really going to aim for the big stages races in the US

LA.: Do you have a favorite training area -why is it your favorite?

Matt: Boulder is my favorite but I spent a summer in Palo Alto and loved the riding there. It is hard to beat Tucson in the winter. I spent a lot of time on Mt Lemmon when I'm down there.

L.A.: Any hobbies that you enjoy doing off the bike or do to relax yourself?

Matt: I just got engaged and mostly I spend time with my fiancée when I am not on the bike. I'm also working on Mario Galaxy 2, awesome game on the Wii.

LA.: What is your favorite career win so far?

Matt: I actually have not had too many wins; but recently it has just been high finishes or riding well in a stage. I was in the break the last day of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and that was a good way to end the season.

LA.: What is the funniest thing you'e experienced during a group training ride or road race?

Matt: Too bad for me but I don't remember the funny moments only the scary ones.

LA.: What are some of the bad experiences?

Matt:  It is something that all professionals have experienced. Guys go down next to you in the pack. Missing hitting a pole in the road but by only inches. Just missing livestock that has wandered onto the course during a race. 

All in a days work in road racing. Thanks Matt, have a great season in 2012.

Follow Matt on the Exergy Team Website; on his Twitter and Facebook.

Follow Matt Cooke on the Team Exergy Website

Matt Cooke's Teams
2007 Navigators Insurance Cycling Team
2008 Health Net p/by Maxxis 
2010 Mountain Khakis fueled by Jittery Joe's
2011 - 2012  Team Exergy 

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