A MINUTE WITH: NICO MATTAN
Put Tigger on a bike and you get Nico Mattan — we spend 60 seconds with the bouncy Flemish Classic winner
Who is Nico Mattan?
I try not to make things out to be too big, and I try to enjoy life. Just before one of my Paris-Nice prologue wins I was dancing around the Cofidis team bus. David Millar was a Cofidis rider then and he wanted to win that prologue. Now David is a special guy, I like him, but he was sitting there concentrating with his earphones on and looking at me like I was crazy. I know what he was thinking, he was thinking I was not serious and that he, serious David, would beat me easily. But I won. That’s how I am. That’s Nico Mattan.
Why did you pick 2007 as the time to retire from racing?
Just because it’s time for me to go. I have no more explosiveness and I’m more scared. In Belgian races you need to be able to push and shove to keep your position. That is over for me, and I brake earlier too. I think you see danger more when you are older.
You won Ghent-Wevelgem in 2005, and you live in the area of the race. Is the Kemmelberg your favourite climb?
No, I hate it. I never ride it in training. The only time last year was for your Cycling Weekly ride. I go to the restaurant on top of it a lot, though, but I go in my car.
Your win was a bit contentious, wasn’t it?
Yeah, they always say that. They say I was taking pace behind a race car to catch Juan Antonio Flecha, who was alone in the lead, but I was doing 50kph when I caught the cars. They were going slower than me, so if I’d stayed behind them would I have caught him? I kept 53kph up all the way to the line and Flecha was going slower and slower, and when I caught him I went past.
Do you rate Ghent-Wevelgem as your best win?
It is the biggest race of my region, West Flanders, so it’s the one I wanted to win most of all. I am proud of winning the Paris-Nice prologues too. I was proud when I read in the papers what Tyler Hamilton was supposed to have taken for Paris-Nice, and I beat him on beer.
Victory in the Three Days of De Panne and second place to Johan Museeuw in the Brabantse Pijl made me very happy, but so did 21st overall in the Tour de France. That was a very good result for a rider like me.
Which was the best team you ever raced for?
Cofidis. A rider needs a good programme to do well, he needs to be paid regularly and he needs to be rested in his mind. Good directeurs aren’t important, but a good programme, peace of mind and money are. You need money, and even in the best teams there can be a problem with that. In my last year with Mapei I didn’t get my November and December pay until April or May the following year.
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