First things first, introduce yourself
Hello, my name is Matt Kamermans, I’m a 23-year-old from Nova Scotia, Canada.
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I still live in the town where I grew up, Dartmouth, though I was born in Ontario, but that’s another story.
How did you get into riding a bike?
Bikes have always been around in my life, but until I was 15 or 16, they were just a ‘for fun’ thing, or a way to get me to a friends house. Racing happened almost a bit by accident. I did a few triathlons when I was 13 or 14, whether my parents signed me up for the experience or to tire me out remains unknown. I think I was last out of the swim every time, but I would always manage to bring back 75% or more of the field during the bike portion, it was a pretty easy decision to drop triathlons for bike races. I started those properly when I was 16.
What is your local climb? The climb you do the most out of any other.
Cranehill for sure.
What is it like?
There’s only two ways out of the town going East if you want to get to the good training roads, and Cranehill is the more direct way. It’s not long, but it definitely makes up for that with its gradients: 1 kilometre, 11% average with a maximum pitch somewhere around 25%.
What kind of efforts is the climb suited to?
When something is that steep, the only real effort you can do on it is full gas. It’s about 2.5-3 minutes to the top, but the climb can be split in two: the hardest part - the wall - is the first part, where you either make it or break it. Go to hard from the bottom and those 20%+ gradients will end you pretty quick. The second part is a long drag at 2-4% to the top. Do the climb right and you can flick it into the big ring here and drop anybody who’s left or make up ground if you’re the one who’s been dropped.
Is the Strava KOM for the climb ever in your thoughts, or do you strictly focus on the goals of the current effort?
I know I’m close to the KOM, maybe 2 or 3 seconds off...one of these days it’ll be mine.
Any other climbs in the area you prefer, or is this climb your favourite?
I try to ride in the Annapolis Valley as often as I can. It’s a lot more quiet there, the kind of place where you have to be more cautious for livestock than for cars. Being a valley it also has a lot more to offer for climbs, and it doesn’t disappoint! My favourite climb there is Shredded Wheat, I don’t know what the road is actually called, that’s just what we all know it by. 2 kilometres at 9% and a maximum of 18%, so it’s not an easy one. The effort is worth it though, once you make it to the top, you’re rewarded with some pretty fantastic views of the vineyards below.
What about favourite climb overall? Any reason?
Favourite climb ever? Tough question, I want to believe that I haven’t found it yet! Caesar’s Head, along the border between North and South Carolina is an amazing climb. 11km at 6%, it’s got some steeper bits, some not-as-steep bits and is overall just super twisty the whole way up. As much as I love climbing, I also really like pushing the limits and railing descents (sorry mom) and this is also a crazy fun ride down.
What is the hardest climb you’ve summited by bike?
Sassafras from Rocky Bottom is far and away the hardest climb I ever did. Admittedly I was a bit out of shape heading into the February training camp, but it’s just a super hard climb. I forget that numbers, something like 8km at 8 or 9% but it has several ramps where the gradients go well over 20%. I think we also had to do a smaller, 4 kilometre climb to get to the base of it too.
What kind of riding do you do in general? Is it more for training or pleasure?
Ride for training or pleasure? You mean people don’t train for pleasure? Definitely the bulk of my rides are training, I try to switch up the roads I use often enough to keep it from getting too monotonous and travelling a lot for races means there’s a constantly renewing source of unexplored roads to ride. As we’re now on the edge of the off-season, some of my rides in the next weeks and months will definitely have more of an “adventure ride” feel to them.
Touchy subject, but something that has happened to every bike rider at some point, getting dropped. When did you last get dropped in a race or ride? What was going on when you got dropped?
The last time I got dropped? Uhh...a few days ago? I’m just getting back from the Green Mountain Stage Race, a 4-day event held in Vermont. The 3rd stage of the GMSR is (in)famously hard with 3 major climbs and a really tough summit finish. I ended up having a mechanical issue that left me stranded on the inner ring for the last 75km of the race, and had to spin a 39/11 for all I was worth to finish within the time cut. It was a super frustrating day since I knew I had the legs, I just couldn’t turn them quickly enough to stay in the pack. I yo-yo’d for a bit, but once I was dropped for good, I was on my own for the last 70 kilometers and ended up losing 20 minutes to the winner. Winning the following day’s stage softened the blow a little bit, but that’s definitely going to sit in my mind for a while.
Gruelling turbo session or climbing the worst climb you can imagine in wind and rain?
How cold is the rain? I live on the North Atlantic coast, we get a lot of wind and rain as it is. Typically my outlook is “race in the rain, train in the rain”, but there’s always a line. I’ve done races in rain storms when it's only been about 3C. Turbo sessions can feel rewarding and I don't mind doing them, but any longer than 45-60 minutes and I start to lose my mind. So, long story short - I'll just ride in the rain if I can.
On to more current matters. Which team/club are you riding for this year, and what do you aim to achieve in 2019?
I was a bit of a journeyman in 2018, so I was excited to sign on to the Cycles Régis-360 Agency squad for this current season. The big focus of the team is criteriums, more specifically the Mardis Cyclistes de Lachine criteriums in Montreal (where the team is based). For these, I was on leadout duties. I got the chance a few times to ride for myself and managed a several top-10's, a little bit of the mark but the fields of those races are pretty stacked. Sagan’s former lead-out man, Guillaume Boivin, raced a few of them this year - it’s always a bit eye opening seeing how fast the top names in cycling can go when they hit the afterburners. Outside of these, I was looking to score a victory or two, to prove my mettle. I recently won the 4th stage of the GMSR and I'm really happy with that.
What are your interests away from the bike?
I'm a full-time student at Mount Saint Vincent University. I’m in my final year of a History degree. Between that and bikes there's not a whole lot time for other things, I'm a bit of a coffee snob so I can usually be found haunting one of the local cafés.
Quick fire questions
Tell me your… Go to summer road bike?
My current summer bike is a Garneau GR1 with Di2. Simply put, I love it. It's super light, but also really reactive in sprints and tracks really well at higher speeds so it's a great all-round race machine.
Mathieu van der Poel's Dutch national champion-painted Canyon Aeroad. Rim brakes, not disc - I just think it looks better. I love a bike with a classic and simple paint job. Or maybe a Rondo HVRT, they just look super cool, and a race-ready gravel bike...that sounds like a good time.
One climb to ride said dream bike up?
I can't think of one, specific climb, maybe just a day exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia - that's on the bucket list for sure.
Favourite cycling book?
Either of Phil Gaimon's books, Pro Cycling on 10$ a Day or Draft Animals
Favourite cycling movie?
Les Triplettes de Belleville. Kinda quirky movie, but I love it. The creators did a really good job working in all kinds of little throwbacks and references. I'm a sucker for those.
Favourite pro rider(if any)?
He's the 'hometown' boy and he still has a bit of that 'underdog' vibe when he races...even though he has GT stage wins and a podium at Worlds. Big love for Boonen, Cancellara and Voeckler too.
Favourite piece of cycle clothing you’ve owned?
My current team-issue kit from Castelli is the best I've ever owned, I'm a big fan of the 6.0 Aero jersey/ 4.0 bibs combo. Sentimentally, I have a Team Nova Scotia skinsuit in my closet from the 2017 Canada Games, that's pretty special to me as it was my first big target event and I had spent the entire year working towards making the team selection. I don't wear it anymore, it's been retired, but it meant a lot to me to earn that one.