County bike hero Page delights in following great footsteps
LLANDOVERY mountain bike star Matthew Page, who was voted Carmarthenshire Sports Personality of 2012, follows in some very famous footsteps, writes Huw S Thomas.
He succeeds world 400 metre hurdles world champion Dai Greene, Shane Williams and Robert Croft in the county's hall of fame.
"To be mentioned in the same company as these great sportsmen and to follow in their tracks is an immense honour," said the 28-year-old former Llandovery College pupil.
He is the son of Malcolm and Catriona Page, who are both keen sports figures in the town.
Malcolm was a front row stalwart for the Llandovery and also captained Llandovery Cricket Club for many years. He is still chairman of the club.
Catriona was an experienced marathon runner and has competed in the London Marathon.
Matthew's mountain bike performances in 2012 were outstanding.
"Last year was a great year for me but I still have a lot to do to get to the top of the tree," he said.
"Since turning professional I've put in a lot of really hard work and the commitment is starting to pay off.
"I've always cycled and mountain biked since I was 16, but initially I just rode and entered the occasional event, but nothing too serious.
"In 2006 I moved to Cardiff and worked as a cycle courier. I was riding 100 miles per day within the city, four days per week.
"It proved to be excellent training and I soon started to get good results and become noticed."
His first major win was in 2007, a 12-hour night race, called Dusk til Dawn. Soon after he got sponsored by Wiggle and moved back to Llandovery to work as a postman.
For three years he raced on a semi-professional basis. During that time he won several top events including the world's biggest 24-hour race — Mountain Mayhem — and two UK 24-hour solo titles and two European titles.
Now professional, the Llandovery cyclist travelled to Australia in 2010 to compete in the Solo World Championships, finishing sixth, but it spurred him on to greater things.
In 2012, he took on some monstrous challenges, finishing a desperately unlucky second at the UK and European 12-hour solo championship after puncturing when in the lead. He lost 12 minutes and ended up just two minutes behind the winner.
He went on to win three major marathon events in Wales — the Dyfi Winter, Dyfi Enduro and Coed y Brenin enduro.
In July he travelled to the Alps, taking on a series of events that no-one had previously attempted — three long distance road events called Etape du Tour 1 & 2 and La Marmotte, finishing as the second-fastest British rider in each race.
He went to Italy to participate in what is regarded as the toughest mountain bike race in the world, Iron Bike. It is an eight-day race covering 700km and involving 28,000 metres of vertical climbing.
Page was in contention when crashing on the penultimate stage while descending 4,000 steps at the medieval fort of Fenestrelle.
The main events of the year came in October in Australia. The biggest race of the year was the Scott 24-hour where, against the top racers in the world, Page finished second, close behind the winner and three-time world champion Jason English.
A week later he travelled to Queensland to compete in another major stage race, the Crocodile Trophy.
With temperatures in the high 30s every day, he finished a creditable 11th.