From Broken Arm to Paris-Roubaix Glory, Mat Hayman’s Virtual Road to Recovery

With 14 editions of Paris-Roubaix under his belt, Mathew Hayman was training full gas for the 2016 Spring Classics season, with his sights set on a career best performance at The Hell of the North. That optimism came crashing down to earth when he sustained a broken arm at Umloop Het Nieuwsblad. Only 6 weeks out from Paris-Roubaix, Mat’s confidence was at an all time low, until he discovered Zwift.

We caught up with Mat and his coach, Kevin Poulton, to ask how Zwift played a starring role in Mat’s Paris-Roubaix and asked if the #ZwiftEffect was real?

How did you both discover Zwift?

Mat: I had heard about Zwift on social media but it was not till I became injured during the classics earlier this year that I tried it out. I was hooked straight away.

Kevin: I had used Zwift the year before to help prepare a rider for the Richmond Worlds, so I was excited that Mat was keen to use it!

"I had invested so much time and effort into getting ready for these races...I didn’t want to give it all away"

Kevin, what did Mat's injury mean to his goals?

K: Generally when a rider breaks their arm, they’re going to be off the bike for an extended period of time of 4-6 weeks. Particularly if your goal event involves riding over 52km of cobbled roads!

M: Roubaix was 6 weeks and one day away. When I said this to the team Doctor he just looked at me as if to say ‘take it easy, the classics are over for you.' I didn’t want to give it all away. If there was even a small chance, then I wanted to give it a go!

Kevin, Paris-Roubaix is 260km long. Did you really think it was possible for a rider to train indoors for a race of this magnitude?

K: Mat’s early season training allowed him to benefit greatly from the structured training on Zwift. Once we started to get through those first Zwift sessions, I was confident that we would be able to train effectively indoors.

Mat, what were your thoughts on Zwift before and after using it?

M: I did a few rides on the trainer after my crash before I got Zwift and even doing an hour was hard. But the first time I turned Zwift on straight away I was going for sprints and mountains, my heart rate was through the roof. I was racing around and time was flying by.

So tell us how Zwift helped with the training and monitoring of progress?

K: Training was planned and published using TrainingPeaks, which allows us to communicate effectively. Zwift allowed us to be very specific in the efforts that were completed in training. This data driven approach to structured training and the motivation of riding with the Zwift community provided Mat with the drive to get the required work completed.

So, is it a cliche that quality is better than quantity when it comes to training?

M: It’s not a cliche, but training is a science and every human is different. In this respect Zwift allows you to plan your training better and tailor it to your individual needs.

There are a number of reasons why I like doing a Zwift session, the first is how time effective it is. I get on and within minutes I am training, I am not at lights, trying to get out of town, riding for an hour to get to a climb that I want to do my efforts on. So, in terms of bang for buck training it’s hard to beat.

Another is that I am not alone. Zwift is a social experience. There are always people to ride and train with. It is really motivating to see those people from all over the world riding - even a bit daunting as I have a little icon that says I am a pro. I see that as a little sign for everyone to try and race me, but I'm cool with that!

Once we started to get through those first sessions on Zwift, I was confident that we would be able to train effectively indoors

It's such an iconic location in cycling, how did you feel when you entered the Roubaix velodrome? Did you still believe you had a chance in a sprint against Boonen and Stannard? How did it feel when you finally crossed the finish line? It looked like it took a little while to sink in!

M: That's a question that I’ve thought about a lot. I just didn’t want to get 4th or 5th - I was racing for a podium spot. The others were in the predicament that they were all expected to win while I was just happy to be there! I was going to give it my all, and try not to make any mistakes - miss one move and you are fifth. But I never expected to win, no, not in my wildest dreams. It was strongly serene when I entered the velodrome. I was in control, I was going to do my best, but I wasn’t feeling any pressure.

I was in total disbelief when I crossed the line. I was so shocked I didn’t really soak it up as much as maybe I could have.

So Mat, where do you keep your cobblestone?

M: I have a very nice alcove in the living room. It looks great lit up at night. I joke to my wife that sometimes I put the lights on at four in the afternoon, long before it's dark, just to make sure that it is always in the spotlight!

Zwift users often speak of the #ZwiftEffect - the theory of Zwifting indoors to ride faster outdoors. Do you think there's such a thing as the #ZwiftEffect?

M: Who am I to say that there isn’t? I won the biggest race of my life spending hours on Zwift!

It's the ability to do more training on a trainer than you would normally be able to mentally handle. If I was to get on and look at a wall or listen to music and start an interval session, it would be very hard to do an hour. I could, but to do regular training and enjoy it, that is the #ZwiftEffect I think. It is not just for rainy days (although I do live in Belgium so it does help with that as well!).

Will you be recommending Zwift to other cyclists, Kevin?

K: We are definitely using Zwift with riders of all levels at Powerhouse Cycling. Everyone can benefit from the specificity it allows you to put into place in your training. The intensity of training I prescribe for athletes preparing for events can mean BIG weeks on the road, but for those with Zwift, time efficiency means less hours to achieve similar quality work.

How would you promote Zwift the Mathew Hayman way?

M: I guess that “Hayman way” is efforts in the morning, group ride in the evening. I used to be the last guy who would get on a home trainer, I would prefer to ride in the rain! I am very goal orientated and if I was to go on the trainer, nine times out of ten I would not complete my training as planned as it was so hard mentally. So, if it’s good enough to get enough work done to win one of the longest hardest races in the world then I think with the right sessions you can prepare for anything physically on Zwift!

Finally, we try and ask everyone we interview to sum Zwift up in five words. Can you?

M: Time efficient (is that one or two?); Community; Motivating; Fun; Sweaty!