We caught up with Max for a quick Q&A in relation to his two recent wins!
Max, for our readers who don’t know much about you, tell us about yourself and your background?
I’m from Newton Abbot in South Devon, and work for my local bike shop Hot Pursuit Cycles. I’ve lived in Devon and Cornwall most of my life and studied at Geology at Plymouth University, where I also got into mountain biking and racing. I’ve always been around bikes, but in my younger years it was motorcycle trials being my main focus.
You recently won your age category at the worlds as well as the national title at Newnham, how do they compare?
The conditions were polar opposite for starters! We were blessed with hot sunny weather in Finale Ligure for the world champs, with Newnham being one of the wettest in recent years! Both were ace courses however. I think Finale was probably more physical, with some tasty technical sections and much more climbing than in Plymouth.
If you had to choose either Italy or the UK, which one would you rank as your biggest achievement ?
The World Champs in Italy was always my A-priority race for 2017, but it was pretty apparent after the race that there were a lot of Brits who would be keen for a slice of the action in Plymouth for the British Champs. I was over the moon with the win in Finale, but was super keen to ride as Twentyfour12 as it’s my local race. It’s one I do every year and after the worlds the pressure was always going to be on. Looking back now, I’d probably rank the British title as my biggest achievement this year, due to the quality of the competion that lined up and adverse conditions!
Most people will consider the conditions at Newnham difficult with high number of DNFs , What was your secret?
It was super grim that’s for sure. After the first few hours I just stopped thinking about the mud and rain. Everyone was in the same boat with the conditions, so it became a game of taking your brain out, and just pedalling through it. I had an amazing pit crew, and a lot of support out on course that pumped me up and I didn’t want to let them down either.
Do you think being local to Newnham helped you with your recent Victory ?
I think it helped in certain ways. I’ve raced there countless times, mostly in the winter too which defiantly makes me feel at home on the trails in those conditions. I don’t think the course was technical enough to give a me massive home advantage however. After a few hundred miles on the same course I think most people have perfected their lines!
You used to race Cross Country, what made you move to endurance events?
I got into Cross Country when I was studying and living in Plymouth, racing local and National XC races. I’ve always enjoyed the endurance events since doing my first 24 hour solo at Twentyfour12 in 2012. I’ve focused more on the endurance and 24 hour stuff this year purely down to my enjoyment of endurance events and inspiration from my coach and mentor (And 24 hour racing legend) Craig Bowles. The 24 hour events are pretty social too, and the sense of sportsmanship is great. Everyone is always willing to lend a hand, or lend kit if needed.
I still enjoy XCO and marathon length events and will defiantly be raceing some for fun and training next year again.
You rode a very consistent race with your average lap times of 55:30, you even put in some Sub 50s after 10 hours of racing when the course must have been at its most difficult, how do you summon the mental strength for this?
I think the course was probably at its best around then! The persistent rain made it more like river than a mountain bike course, but there was loads of grip to be had. For me this was the best time to put a few quicker laps in. Riding fast makes the time go quickly and keeps me happy, which is crucial when the conditions are so grim. 24 hours is a long time to be miserable!
As night fell at Twentyfour12, you were in first place with Matt Jones in second, as the sun came up Matt tried to reduce the gap by putting in some fast laps, you responded by doing even faster laps, at this point did what were you thoughts?
If I’m honest I didn’t really know where I was for the first 12 hours. I had a rough idea at who was in front or behind, but nothing concrete. Not knowing allows me to ride my own race and that’s cool with me.
When the sun came up and Matt upped the pace I was getting the information from my crew. This was really useful but also terrifying as the gap appeared to close super quickly. All I could do at this point was give it what I had and forget about lap times (doing maths after 22 hours of racing is never easy). We upped the feed rate, and my legs seamed to deliver!
You and Matt spend the last half a lap together after Matt sat up not wanting to cause you to crash on the already soggy course, even stopping by your pits for a bike wash and a chat and then Matts. This must have been the point you realised you won, what did you and Matt chat about over the last lap ?
I kept doing steady lap times for the last two laps, and it was a nice surprise to hear that Matt was only 3 minutes ahead at the top of Cliff Climb on what I thought was the last lap. I pushed on to meet him on course, meaning Matt could only match my lap number, to cement the positions. I was ready to go for another lap if needed, but it was a nice surprise for it not to be needed!
The last half a lap riding with Matt was great. We just chatted about how nuts the last 24 hours had been, and other parts of our own races. I think we were both slightly buzzing about the burn up over the last few hours. It had been a proper race! It was strange to see someone that you’ve spent hours racing against without even a glimpse of each other, but it was great to shake his hand and have a chat away from the crews and finish line hype.