SoCalCycling.com caught up with newly crowned Masters National Road Champion, Matt Carinio.
SoCalCycling.com: Congratulations on winning the Masters Road National Championships in the 40-44 Road Race! What does winning the Stars ‘N Stripes mean to you?
Matt Carinio: I still can’t believe that it actually happened. The week before I left for Bend, I had a dream that I had won in a sprint from a small group. When I woke up I was pretty dejected when I realized it hadn’t happened. Then the night after I actually did win, I had a hard time falling asleep. At 4am, I woke up not really knowing where I was and for a split second I thought “oh no, not again”. I got out of bed and turned on the light and felt such a sense of relief when I saw the jersey next to the bed.
Winning Nationals is definitely a dream come true, not just for me but for my team (ArtsCyclery.com/Wild Horse Wines). The amount of sacrifice and work that my only teammate in the race, Nate Erickson, displayed made the victory special for both of us, and having Craig Nunes, Patrick Hampton, and Blake Reed there allowed us of to celebrate in the moment together as it should be. Additionally, since our team is completely made up of riders from San Luis Obispo, we tend to get overlooked. We don’t race in SoCal much and in NorCal they know we aren’t from their district. Hopefully now, we have earned some respect.
SoCalCycling.com: Can you tell us a little bit about your preparation / training going into the Masters National Championships and how the road race played out for you?
Matt Carinio: As far as motivation, I look to a specific moment that dates back to ’11 Masters Nationals. I remember it vividly; standing on the podium after I finished 2nd in the TT and 5th in the Road Race and feeling extremely proud, but both times when I saw the jersey up close being given to the winner standing right next to me I quickly realized the Stars and Stripes was the only prize that mattered.
Upon learning that the course was going to be identical to the 1st stage of the Cascade Cycling Classic for Masters, I knew exactly how I wanted to train, the races that I would use to gauge my progress, and the competitors that would pose the greatest threats.
Without going into details of preparation, I have to keep some secrets, the three things I concentrated on this entire season were 1) Nutrition. I wanted to continue the fairly dietary plan that I adopted in ’11. Doing the Tour of Gila with the Pros last year made me realize that I needed to take nutrition more seriously. I wasn’t heavy by any means but there was room for improvement. That experience motivated me to lose close to 20lbs over 3 months and get me down to the weight that I raced at over the last 18 months. 2) Functional Threshold Power (FTP for all the watt geeks out there like myself). With the course being relatively flat until the final 8km climb, I knew that it would be a Watts/Kg arms race for the jersey. During the season, I did close to two hundred 10 and 20 minute intervals on two climbs in San Luis Obispo that average between 6-10%. Most of the time these were done in solitude at 6am in the freezing cold. 3) Recovery. Foam rollers, tennis balls, and golf balls were all used daily to help me get ready for the next day’s training. I also have a friend who is a masseuse and he did an amazing job giving me bodywork over the last 4 months.
The race more or less played out as expected. Nate and I knew that my best chance was to have the race all together at the bottom of the final climb and then attack as soon as we hit the first ramp. Chris DeMarchi and the Monster Media team made sure that it wasn’t a club ride to the base and Nate did an amazing job of helping bring back the dangerous break that looked threatening for a while. Since we race so much in NorCal, we had quite a few friends in the pack to help us make sure the race came back together since that’s what all the top NorCal guys wanted as well. I won this stage at Cascade 6 weeks ago so I was confident in my knowledge of the course and the tactic. The steepest section of the climb is the initial 3km (8-10%) and I went full gas from the bottom to eliminate as many riders as possible. There ended up being five of us at the end and I had the best sprint from the best climbers. Sounds pretty simple when I say it, but it was anything but.
SoCalCycling.com: How, where and when did you get started in the sport of cycling?
Matt Carinio: My dad had an old Peugeot that I took around the neighborhood in Ventura when I was about 13 in ‘85. I begged for a bike of my own that summer and started racing within a month or so. I loved the entire scene but I had no idea what I was doing for the first season and got dropped in EVERY race. I had this stubborn determination and great encouragement from my parents that got me through that year. I remember my 2nd race was the Acton road race. I finished 45 minutes behind the pack, the finish line had been taken down, and the only people left were my parents cheering me on. I still think back to that experience when I feel that results are starting to come easier than expected. It was very humbling.
Just like all juniors back then, I was obsessed with watching Paris Roubaix and the Tour de France on tv. There was only 3 hours of coverage for the entire Tour but I would record it on the VCR and then record the audio onto a cassette tape. I’d train as a junior while listening to Phil Liggett commenting over John Tesh instrumentals. Quickly, I knew that racing in Europe is what I wanted to do and made my first trip to Belgium at 16 racing the summer in West Flanders. I met a family there and they invited me back to stay with them the following year. As a junior, I raced the Tour of Flanders, Het Volk and countless smaller races in the rain, cobbles, and wind that I loved in West Flanders. I would end up racing 5 summers there over the next 7 years before retiring at 23.
SoCalCycling.com: What is your favorite race and why?
Matt Carinio: Outside of Nationals, without a doubt it’s the Tour of Gila. I believe that my ability to recover compared to other Masters is a relative strength of mine, and Gila is the only 5-day stage race, at +7,000ft elevation with massive climbs that us young guys can do.
In SoCal my favorite race is San Dimas. It’s the top stage race in the area and I love racing for jerseys. I was really disappointed to miss the race this season due to an injury, but it’s already on my wish list for next year.
SoCalCycling.com: You live in San Luis Obispo, which allows you to race both in SoCal and NorCal pretty easily. Do you see any differences between the types of races and styles of riding and the general racing scene in SoCal and NorCal?
Matt Carinio: Speaking of the 35+ scene, I think that every year there seems to be a different team in SoCal that can impose its will on the rest of the field by numbers, strength, or both. This tends to make the racers seem more serious with an era of trying to intimidate one another. At least that’s my perception. That is not the case in NorCal. Everybody seems more laid back up there. NorCal also has a little higher quality and deeper competition for time trials, hillier road races, and stage races. SoCal has the crit scene on lock and their sprinters scare me. If you look at the results from Nationals it really does shake out that way.
SoCalCycling.com: Since you don’t race in SoCal often, what are some results this season that we may not be familiar with?
Matt Carinio: I tend to be fairly selective when it comes to racing so I probably race a little less than most. I believe I did 36 Masters races this year winning 12 of them. The highlights would be:
Valley of the Sun: Stage 1 TT and 1st GC
Tour of the Gila: Stage 3 TT, Stage 4 Crit, and 3rd GC
SoCal State Time Trial Championship (40-44): 1st
SoCal State Road Race Championship (40-44): 1st
NorCal State Road Race Championship (40-44): 1st
Cascade Cycling Classic: Stage 1, Points Jersey, and 3rd GC
SoCalCycling.com: You compete both in Pro 1/2 races as well as Masters races, how do the two compare in terms of speed and tactics?
Matt Carinio: Pro races and Masters races are two entirely different sports. In general, Masters races are more unpredictable. Attacks can go anywhere by anybody. One of the contributing factors to the overly aggressive style in Masters racing is the distance. The top Masters racers can go full gas for 3 or 3 ½ hours. I’ve been in races with guys who usually race P/1/2 and when they participate in a Master’s race, they usually come up to me and say “What the hell is going on?”. This style holds true in both NorCal and SoCal. In contrast, P/1/2 races tend to be under the control of the strongest pro team that decides to show up. Additionally, the distances of P/1/2 races tend to put most Masters in trouble since our training time tends to be more limited.
On flatter terrain, the speed of P/1/2 and Masters are comparable, however when the road starts to point up forget about it. Watts/Kg between the Pro’s and Masters is not even close.
SoCalCycling.com: What tips do you have for Masters Racers that are juggling family, work and are looking to improve with the limited time that they have?
Matt Carinio: Get a coach! (Shameless plug, email me at [email protected]). Masters tend to ride to hard but not train hard enough. This might sound odd, but I see it all the time. Most cyclists need guidance and mentoring to maximize their performance with the time they have available or want to dedicate to training.
I’m married with 3 children and it isn’t easy. You have to be organized and willing to squeeze the hours on the bike in when they are available. This usually means I do a majority of my rides as early as 5:30 in the morning, but there are times when I will be on the trainer in my garage at 10pm for a few hours. My wife and kids sometimes think I’m crazy and I can’t blame them. Luckily my wife knew me, and even spent a year with me in Belgium, during my previous cycling career so she understands it.
SoCalCycling.com: Have any riders influenced you in your racing or have been instrumental in your success?
Matt Carinio: Riders? Not really. I grew up idolizing Greg Lemond and Miguel Indurain and they provided me with a dream but that was their extent of their influence. The people who were most important to my development in cycling were my parents. They took me to every race growing up. They instilled a never give up/”never drop out” mentality during my first races. They have seen more races and probably know more about the sport than a majority of the guys I race with which is pretty amazing. They recently moved form California to Hawaii so they didn’t get to see me race this year, but I know they missed the scene and will be attending a few events next season.
SoCalCycling.com: As an experienced rider do you mentor any up and coming riders?
Matt Carinio: A few years ago Stephen Leece rode on our team, he’s from SLO as well. A few years ago, he was instrumental in me winning the Cat3 GC at San Dimas and he came in 5th on GC I believe. He’s gone on to some big NRC results as a U23 rider for Cal Giants. I’d like to think I gave him some advice that he took to heart during his first season.
More recently I’ve been working with a soon to be U23 rider Ian Moore. He had some big objectives going into his last year as a junior this season. We mapped out a plan of and he reached most of his goals. He reminds me a lot of myself when I was his age. He has a great work ethic and an unbelievable support system in his parents.
SoCalCycling.com: What are our long-term goals in cycling?
Matt Carinio: I’d love to get more involved in the development of riders. I started coaching as a hobby this past season and I found it very rewarding. I’d like to grow it into something more than just a hobby and maybe this result will help open some doors in that respect.
In the near future, I’d like to expand the types of races that I do. I’ll probably do Masters track nationals next season (aiming for the pursuit) and I’d love to do Masters Worlds someday.
SoCalCycling.com: The season is winding down, how do you plan to stay fit but still have fun in the off-season?
Matt Carinio: I start coaching my daughter’s U12 soccer team this week. That is a lot of fun. My two younger kids also play soccer and I look forward to being a spectator at their games. My teammate Craig Nunes talked about dusting off the golf clubs and playing a few rounds. More importantly, I’ll be ditching the road bike for 6 weeks and going on mountain bike rides around SLO through the end of October. Then it’s back to base miles in early November to somehow top this unforgettable season.
SoCalCycling.com: Any last words?
Matt Carinio: I look forward to showing off the Stars and Stripes at Masters races next year and hopefully I can represent it well.
SoCalCycling.com: Thanks for the interview Matt! We look forward to seeing you represent the Star ‘N Stripes.
Interview by Christy Nicholson / SoCalCycling.com