Matt Page is the UK and European 24 hour mountain bike champion, riding for the Wiggle.co.uk team. Hes turning his hands to a range of other events, from endurance DH to stage racing.
The Ironbike is one of the toughest mountain bike stage races in the world. 7 stages in 7 days, with around 100km and 4000m vertical ascent and descent per day – its tough! Matt took part this year, his first stage race, and came a fantastic 5th position. Here is his story.
The race started under the Ironbike helicopters down draught, with the racers setting off up the first hill. While the helicopter made the start exciting, only a 100m in the down draught blew a big plastic bollard into Matts path, knocking him off his bike. No damage done, so Matt was back chasing the pack quickly.
The stages are tough, Matt reckoning that each one is harder than any single day endure hes done back in the UK. Fortunately Matt was being supported by his Wiggle mechanic Ben, who was there to make camp, make sure Matt was properly fed and watered, and to make sure his bike was kept in good working order.
Racers were woken early by fireworks and trumpet fanfares the Italians dont do things by half! With long stages though, its necessary to be up early to prepare, eat and set off. Ironbike works on rally style timing, with special stages along the route. These make you race against each other and the clock, with points being deducted based on how far behind the leader you are, and if you miss the target times. When you consider a special stage might be the equivalent of an XC race up and down Snowdon, as part of one stage, you get an idea of how hardcore Ironbike is!
Ironbike is also known for the fantastic trails it uses using as much singletrack as possible. Scree slopes with barely visible lines drop into never-ending alpine singletrack. With steep sections, rock drops and high exposure, there are times when the penalties for failure are huge.
At times its difficult for Matt to get going in the race, taking time to get the legs working and the heart-rate up. Stage 4 went from 550m straight to 2300m, starting on steep tarmac before giving way to steep gravel tracks. By 1900m Mat was hearing cow bells, but couldnt see any cows the unrelenting climb, race pressure and noise made it torture. By this point though, Matt was steadily climbing the rankings. Fitness throughout the race, as well as good technical skills all helped, as did other competitors dropping out, or slowing down thanks to tiredness or crashes. Upon passing an injured Belgian racer, Matt checked he was ok, but had to continue racing, feeling terrible in the process.
If it wasnt monster climbs, or technical descents, racers also had long dark tunnels to contend with. Crossing through mountains as opposed to over them, the racers were required to use high-powered lights to get through the surfaces certainly werent smooth going, with train tracks still in the ground. Matt was required to bunny-hop over tracks and junctions, thanking his powerful lights. In the process!
The final stage of the race started a little differently, with a cable car lift to 2700m, above Sestriere. No rest for the wicked though, as the final stage was a big one still plenty of climbing, but even more descending, ideal for Matt, who was making up good time on the technical descents throughout the race. With the racers starting in reverse order, it meant that there was a lot of pure racing and overtaking through the day. Matt was confident that his performance on the long technical descent, which included switchbacks, a huge rocky stair-set (which was difficult enough to walk down in race shoes!), and plenty of big rock-singletrack, had secured his 5th position. The final piece of singletrack finished in the town of Sauze d’Oulz, where all the local people were lining the street to welcome the racers.

Matt Page is the UK and European 24 hour mountain bike champion, riding for the Wiggle.co.uk team. Hes turning his hands to a range of other events, from endurance DH to stage racing.

The Ironbike is one of the toughest mountain bike stage races in the world. 7 stages in 7 days, with around 100km and 4000m vertical ascent and descent per day – its tough! Matt took part this year, his first stage race, and came a fantastic 5th position. Here is his story.

The race started under the Ironbike helicopters down draught, with the racers setting off up the first hill. While the helicopter made the start exciting, only a 100m in the down draught blew a big plastic bollard into Matts path, knocking him off his bike. No damage done, so Matt was back chasing the pack quickly.

The stages are tough, Matt reckoning that each one is harder than any single day endure hes done back in the UK. Fortunately Matt was being supported by his Wiggle mechanic Ben, who was there to make camp, make sure Matt was properly fed and watered, and to make sure his bike was kept in good working order.

Racers were woken early by fireworks and trumpet fanfares the Italians dont do things by half! With long stages though, its necessary to be up early to prepare, eat and set off. Ironbike works on rally style timing, with special stages along the route. These make you race against each other and the clock, with points being deducted based on how far behind the leader you are, and if you miss the target times. When you consider a special stage might be the equivalent of an XC race up and down Snowdon, as part of one stage, you get an idea of how hardcore Ironbike is!

Ironbike is also known for the fantastic trails it uses using as much singletrack as possible. Scree slopes with barely visible lines drop into never-ending alpine singletrack. With steep sections, rock drops and high exposure, there are times when the penalties for failure are huge.

At times its difficult for Matt to get going in the race, taking time to get the legs working and the heart-rate up. Stage 4 went from 550m straight to 2300m, starting on steep tarmac before giving way to

steep gravel tracks. By 1900m Mat was hearing cow bells, but couldnt see any cows the unrelenting climb, race pressure and noise made it torture. By this point though, Matt was steadily climbing the rankings. Fitness throughout the race, as well as good technical skills all helped, as did other competitors dropping out, or slowing down thanks to tiredness or crashes. Upon passing an injured Belgian racer, Matt checked he was ok, but had to continue racing, feeling terrible in the process.

If it wasnt monster climbs, or technical descents, racers also had long dark tunnels to contend with. Crossing through mountains as opposed to over them, the racers were required to use high-powered lights to get through the surfaces certainly werent smooth going, with train tracks still in the ground. Matt was required to bunny-hop over tracks and junctions, thanking his powerful lights in the process!

The final stage of the race started a little differently, with a cable car lift to 2700m, above Sestriere. No rest for the wicked though, as the final stage was a big one still plenty of climbing, but even more descending, ideal for Matt, who was making up good time on the technical descents throughout the race. With the racers starting in reverse order, it meant that there was a lot of pure racing and overtaking through the day. Matt was confident that his performance on the long technical descent, which included switchbacks, a huge rocky stair-set (which was difficult enough to walk down in race shoes!), and plenty of big rock-singletrack, had secured his 5th position.

You can follow Matt on his wiggle.co.uk blog, and on his Twitter feed.

The Ironbike is also included in the muchbetter Adventure Events Calendar!