Matt Hoffmann entered Race Across the West (RAW) 2014 with limited experience in multi-day endurance racing, but a vast amount experience in road and track racing in the US and in Europe. His mental toughness and physical fortitude, along with an easy-going attitude carried him through RAW 2014 in 73 hours. Join Matt as he brings those same great qualities on his journey to complete Race Across America (RAAM) 2015 in under 10 days.
Here's an interview with Matt from August 2014.
You have a vast background in bike racing, which started in your late teens. Do you have a definitive memory of when you decided to give bike racing a shot as a full-time thing?
I was a wrestler before ever riding bikes. A friend bet me to try a bike race. I remember thinking what a lame sport and what's up with those clothes! I entered the race and long story short, after the gun went off I won the first lap. Sadly the race still had many more laps to go, so I went from off the front to off the back in about twenty meters and spend the next 45 minutes about 20 meters behind the field. Good news: I finished and made my first $50 dollars as a racer via my friend and our bet!
You raced in Europe. How long were you in Europe and what type of races did you enter?
I did race in Europe; Belgium mostly. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity and made the most of it. I was there for a few years and did all the races I could attend: road, stage, and track.
Is there any one experience from racing in the US that stands out?
The race that will always stand out in my mind was back in the early 90's. I had taken a long road trip to Columbus, Ohio with Chris Horner. We trained a bit on the way, along with sleeping in the van and one time, driving off the road ... so normal road trip!
I had a horrible race both on the road and the criterium. On the drive back, I decided to go the track Nats to help a teammate. I had only been on the track a couple of times that year, but figured why not? The heats for the points race went great, but my teammate did not make it through. I was riding on a borrowed bike, which another rider was using for the spring, so we had to keep switching bikes!
The finals came and at the start of the race the field pulled up and I drilled it at the bottom full gas, to my surprise at the same time two other rides ( the strongest riders in the field ) went over the top and the three of us were able to get a lap on the field. When we caught back up to the field, the lap cards showed 94 laps to go! Ouch! I dangled at the back a few times, but managed to fight my way through. That was a race that helped me to realize that being brave and opportunistic combined with good old mean would get you results.
You are a highly active coach as well. How did you get started in coaching? What are your interests in coaching?
Coaching came about in a funny way for me. I have always been a bit of a caregiver. In a different chapter of my life, I was working with a pro triathlete. I started as a ride partner for her and helped with training rides. As I was doing that I started learning about tri and even competing. After my training partner won the worlds in Kona, I started working with a multi-sports group and things took off from there. Helping people to meet their goals is a true passion of mine and I feel just as happy as they do when we achieve them.
We know you are coaching San Diego VeloYouth. Anyone experience from coaching at VeloYouth that stands out?
I do coach and work with the San Diego VeloYouth. This for me is one of the most meaningful things I have ever done and I can truly say I have learned as much if not more than any one of these young athletes. Velo Youth is a values-based program. We take at risk teens from our local area and transport them to the San Diego Velodrome. This combines two of my most favorite things: personal growth and cycling.
We teach the teens, S.T.A.R.S.: Self respect, Teamwork, Achievement, Responsibility. There are many, many proud moments for me with this program. From kids finding the focus to get their necessary credits for graduation, to others coming out of their shells, and finding self worth and confidence.
I could talk about this for days, but being able to help these kids, help them find themselves, keep them from making the same mistakes that I have in the past, and getting them to understand goal setting and being positive are just a few great moments.
What motivated you to take a shot at RAW in 2014?
I was motivated to do a RAAM challenge (400 miles) by a now good friend, Dave, who I met in 2013. Dave Preston and Rick Schulze were a two man RAAM team in 2013 and like many teams, they were looking for crew members. So I crewed for them. It was so hard and what I saw out on the road was not pretty, but with some determination and pure will, we saw the finish line. It was a hard, fun, ugly, physically challenging, and mentally tough week.You get to see a lot of what a person is made of and how they handle themselves when things are tough.
As someone who personally has been working very hard on making positive changes in my life, I saw great opportunity to challenge myself both physically and mentally, so I planned on doing a little 400 mile race to test myself. Then Dave signed up for RAW 2014. As we talked and even rode together when he was in town, he convinced me that if you're going to ride 400 miles why not do 880 miles. Oddly, that logic made perfect sense to me and so we did it RAW 2014!
What is one or two or few standout experiences from RAW 2014?
There are a few standout moments for me from RAW 2014. First, raising money for the San Diego Velo Youth at the same time. Second, finishing the race: showing myself that I have the inner strength that I hoped I would have. I set a goal for myself and finished it. There were great times with each and every member of my crew that will stay with me forever. I have helped others for all my life in some way shape or form in both healthy and unhealthy ways, but for me I focused on one goal and with my team's help stayed the course and found a focus I had not known I had.
What is your motivation for taking a shot at RAAM 2015?
My motivation for RAAM 2015 is simple: I have been given the opportunity to do so. I am blessed to have a single sponsor (Equal Earth) that believes in me enough to go out the set a new harder goal and to meet it with all I have. I look forward to finding that focus one more time. To be the person I know I am kind, blessed, grateful, and strong, and at the same time I get to ride my bike! This will be the hardest test I have taken on to date and I look forward to it. I have tested myself many times over with not making the right decisions in life. I have made many mistakes in which I have had to learn some very hard lessons and suffered large losses from those choices. This Is a good choice and I will suffer but in the correct way. I will learn more about myself and when finished will continue my path of growth and this too will make me a better person.
Tell us about your sponsor, Equal Earth. How did you connected with them and how is the connection going to play out?
I met Andrew Duggan, CEO of Equal Earth, earlier this year In an airport in Texas. We were both on our way to Panama City. Andrew was racing a 70.3 Ironman race and I was working for Ken Glah with Endurance Sports Travel. He must have thought I was the smartest man he had ever met as through our introduction and conversation with a mutual friend, I realized we were going to Panama City! Not Panama City Beach, Florida. A small difference!
We hit It off straight away and I was able to learn a great deal from him in a very small time. He is a good friend and a very kind and generous man. We have worked together at more races since and become better friends throughout. Andrew is a fan of sport and personal achievement. He was a great fan of my RAW 2014 bid and he asked the question: "Would you ever do RAAM?" After a min of thought, I replied, "Yes," and my partnership with Equal Earth was born. As a premier clean energy solutions provider, they are looking to improve lives and the world we live in. As an athlete we are working to do the same and together we will be supporting each other to make both successful.
It cannot all be about cycling, can it? What are your other interests?
Cycling is a large part of my life, it always has been and will always be. But RAAM 2015 is much, much more. I will be stretching my comfort zone, growing as a person, learning more about myself, and this process will make me a better person. They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, well I should be stronger after this!
The last few years of my life have been the very best in terms of me finding and being the person I would like to be. This is just a bit more pedaling along the right roads.