Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Mikey Mottram – Looking Back at the Gravel Worlds


HomeInterviewsMikey Mottram - Looking Back at the Gravel Worlds

Gravel, it’s piqued our attention here at VeloVeritas.

Perhaps it’s back to those halcyon days in the 70’s when Andy Henderson, Dave Chapman and I would hurtle at daft speeds across the ‘Hangingmyre’ track high on the Lomond Hills in the Kingdom of Fife?

Rough stuff‘, we called it back then.

Despite the fact that it’s hard to be delighted about the UCI, ‘getting it’s hooks into’ gravel, the first ‘Gravel Worlds’ did hold a bit of fascination for us.

You may have read the interview we did recently with EF Education NIPPO Development rider, Toby Perry who rode the Gravel Worlds.

But Toby was on a UCI continental team with rides and top 10 placings in numerous UCI races under his belt.

Mikey Mottram
Mikey Mottram just after ‘the worst 10km of cycling’ he’s ever had. Photo©Gina Ball

However, a name which caught our eye in the result of the Gravel Worlds was that of Mikey Mottram, who was a rider with UK continental team, Vitus a few years ago but hasn’t been riding as a pro for a couple of seasons.

‘Interesting…’ we thought to ourselves, best ‘have a word’ with the man.

The basics first please, Mikey?

“I’m 32 years-old, come from Oxfordshire and work in the family flooring business on the financial side.

“I used to ride with the Vitus pro team but now I’m with Team Spectra Wiggle p/b Vitus which is a multi-discipline, 50% male 50% female team.” 

How did you get into Gravel?

“I rode the Kings Cup, which is effectively the British Gravel Championship at Bury St. Edmonds, two years ago and enjoyed the experience.

“I rode again this year and finished sixth to Jacob Vaughan out of a nine man sprint over 76.6 kilometres.” 

Mikey Mottram
Mikey Mottram. Photo©Team Spectra

Is the UK Gravel scene strong?

“Not at the moment, it’s still finding its feet as a competitive entity.

“In the USA they have ultra-endurance events like the 200 kilometre ‘Unbound,’ won by the Dutch specialist, Ivar Slik; whilst here in the UK we have 100 kilometre, ‘have a go’ type events where within the 100 K you have timed sections within that, these can vary from one to five minutes and you can go after as few or as many as you like.  

“However, on a the bigger stage, the UCI has got involved and have given things more structure with a 12 race series –  seven are in Europe, two in America, one in the Philippines and two in Australia.

“The man behind the series and the Gravel Worlds is former World ‘cross Champion and UCI Gran Fondo manager, Erwin Vervecken.

“The events are over 120 to 160 K and there are rules about how much gravel should be included in the parcours. 

“But irrespective of the UCI, races like ‘Unbound’ will still go ahead.”

Mikey Mottram
Mikey Mottram during the Gravel Worlds in 2022. Photo©Gina Ball

How did you get the Worlds ride?

“I rode three of the UCI series of gravel races; one in Millau in France where I was sixth to former Flanders and Roubaix winner, Niki Terpstra; in Sweden I was 12th to another Dutch guy, Jasper Ockeleon who used to be a bit of a Beach Race specialist, and in The Netherlands I was 15th to Andreas Stokbro of Denmark who won the GP Herning this year, which is a well-established UCI road race in Denmark and has numerous gravel sectors in it. [And won by Scottish Eurosport pundit, Brian Smith, back in the day, ed.]

“Those rides qualified me but the National Federation had to put your name forward; British Cycling didn’t have a team in the race but they didn’t stand in the way after they’d vetted your performances to make sure you were worthy of a place.” 

What did you think of the Worlds percorso?

“One thing you learn pretty quickly is that no gravel routes are ever the same, the three I rode to qualify were all different.

“It was a bit of a silly start at the Worlds, up that big hill… because I had ridden and done OK in those qualifying races I should have had a decent grid place – but then they gave the UCI World Tour and ProTeam riders the front grid places based on their UCI road points.

“After the opening climb there was a technical descent and then another climb before what was pretty easy gravel.

“Through the woods there were hairpins but guys were cutting the corners; I’d been distanced with the chaos at the start so I spent the next hour working my way into and through groups until I reached the main bunch. 

“The accelerations were hard, but I hung on in this chasing bunch until about 40 kilometres to go. 

“I then had the worse 10 kilometres of riding a bike I have ever had before finding a second wind, digging deep and riding tempo to the line.”

Mikey Mottram
Mikey Mottram. Photo©Gina Ball

What about lining up beside the Sagans and MVDPs of this world?

“I wouldn’t say that I’m used to it but I did ride the Tour of Yorkshire with Vitus and the quality of field was pretty good – but yes, cool to be in the same race as those guys.”

Tell us about your bike.

“It’s a Vitus, that’s our sponsor, Wiggle’s in house brand – it’s a prototype, not available until next year, an aero gravel machine.

“I was running 1x originally but after France I changed to double chainrings because there was so much climbing; the thing with gravel is that on some of the climbs you’re going really slowly and need low gears but some of the descents are very fast so you need big gear ratios.

“I was on Schwalbe G-One fast gravel tyres which are really good.” 

Mikey Mottram
Mikey Mottram. Photo©supplied

More gravel in the future?

“I didn’t intend to do as much as I did but I enjoyed the UCI series races and hopefully will do more next season; there are more events coming around now but it’s very much a summer sport because many of the trails become un-rideable in the winter.”

With thanks to Mikey for his insight into the world of gravel, just a pity I’m not 45 years younger…