A monster of the British racing scene, Ian Bibby has achieved over a decade of success on and off road – and he’s still hungry for more.
National titles and national series victories in mountain biking, cyclo-cross and criterium racing, as well as multiple UCI-level road race wins, made Bibby a name since the mid-2000s.
While tipped by many for a top-tier ride, the World Tour’s loss has been the UK’s gain.
Sixth at the Tour de Yorkshire and a pair of UCI wins in Japan and New Zealand were the highlights of 2018, in a career that has included Velothon Wales victory, second on a stage of the Tour of Britain and third at the British road race championships.
And that’s before we mention national series wins at Lincoln, Chorley, Ryedale, the Manx GP, the Tour of the Reservoir – and the odd Tour Series round.
So what now? We quiz the rider who took Madison Genesis' first ever victory, back in 2013, to find out what has changed.
This time last year, you’d already won a UCI race – this year you’ve won the first ever virtual race for pros on Zwift! How has your winter been?
Good - I’m getting back into it and feeling like a bike rider again. I’ve been in Australia the last two or three winters, so this is my first winter in the UK for a while, but it has been nice. We’ve not had much bad weather and that has made it manageable.
Last year I was fit and ready in early January and racing properly, so I was working hard toward that in December.
This winter I got married – which was hectic in its own way – but it was nice to take a bit of time off and not stress about racing.
In 2019, I’ll start racing in late March or April – compared to January in 2018. That means I can get those longer rides in over winter and not go straight into all the intense stuff. It sets me up nicely for the year.
How are you approaching that?
I start training when I’m hungry, not when I feel that I should. When it’s bad weather out you need to want to do it.
In the off season I like to get away completely and start again. I get fit quickly, I’ve never struggled with that.
I’ve done a lot of mountain biking because it’s enjoyable, it’s hard, your heart rate is through the roof.
I started doing one mountain bike ride per week and road riding as well. Then by mid- December I added structure. A lot of two hours in the morning on the road, then Zwift in the evening. On top of that I’d do some longer rides with overgeared efforts.
At the end of January I go to the first training camp and that will change things again.
How do you use those Zwift double-days?
On the double days I cut my carbs back in the morning ride to try to build the endurance. Then a lot of Zwift races, I roll round and push on a bit for say 50mins at zone three or sweet-spot and have a sprint at the end.
It’s good training but also a mental thing. Zwift racing is brilliant at this time of year and it helps build up time in zone three.
Have you reviewed your 2018 season and how do you rate it?
It’s something that I’ve done in my head – having those goals in my mind are motivation for winter. If I don’t think about the racing it’s hard to go out in the cold.
Last year there were some real good bits, but also I was not as consistent as I wanted. I was better in that regard in 2017. I had a bit of illness and some crashes at bad times. Hopefully there will be none of that this year.
What were your highlights?
Riding the Commenwealth Games – that’s something I’ve been close to going to back when I raced mountain bikes, but I got injured before it and missed out.
The Tour de Yorkshire was nice for myself. I’ve tried to ride well there for a couple years but it’s not happened. It should do because the place that suits me, but I think got carried away with training too much.
Last year, the schedule I had forced me to do less and I came home riding the best I ever have. So I hope I can have a go again this year.
You finished sixth overall on GC - is that an aim for you again in 2019?
I think I look back more at the final stage, where I was sprinting against Greg van Avermaet. That sprint was for second place on the day, but without the solo breakaway rider it could have easily been the sprint for the stage win.
So are you looking more at a stage win as your ambition for the race?
The way Yorkshire is ridden – the first two days are for the sprinters, it’s very rare the peloton don’t make the catch. The last two days are GC days.
I think of it this way - the guy who wins stages will win the overall. Just keep in there.
It only takes a bit of a mechanical off a guy leading and if you’re around the top five, or even the podium - for a team like us to get on podium would be great. It only takes something to happen and in racing anything can happen.
Other years I’d almost dropped my head with the race because I trained hard for it and missed out but now I’m hungry.
Has anything changed with your preparation and coaching to make that change?
I’ve been coaching myself the last couple years – one thing I’ve learned is that I can coach someone else but with yourself it’s hard to take away the emotion.
I’ve got some help now with it to stop me doing too much and psychologically got a bit more of a plan.
I’ve had points in my career where I know I can do it, it’s getting it right on the day. All you can do is train and look after yourself.
I’m motivated by the new team especially, because my last year with Madison Genesis in 2014, it wasn’t one of my better ones really.
I had some good results but a lot of second-places at the bigger races and then I was ill in my second year. I want to come back and show appreciation to the team and ride well and win races.
What has it been like coming back to Madison HQ – how do you feel like you’ve changed or developed since the last time you were here?
It felt like coming home! When we were getting our new kit, I settled back in quickly with Roger and Chuck and Steve and Jane. That’s a big part, it’s really nice to go back to work with people you get on with.
Of course you never stop learning and I’ve gained a bit of experience. You get obsessed with stuff sometimes. The more you want to win is great but it’s controlling it. The last time here I really wanted to be winning but I got out of control and did too much with cutting weight and doing more training.
It’s a lesson to learn, to train hard but also know when you’ve done too much. What I’ve learned the last three years is it’s hard to make that distinction.
Logically, if I was coaching someone, I would just tell them to stop, take a rest. I know I should do it as well, but then you have that emotional element of wanting to do well.
You’ve been on the UK road scene for ten years now – how did you first cross over from being a full-time mountain biker?
I was lucky really. I went to the road just as the money started coming into the UK scene.
I remember getting to the point with mountain biking, that unless you were top-10 in the world, it was hard to earn a living. Every race was like a time trial, it was always the same ten guys, there were no breaks and no different terrains.
In 2009 I went to Italy with the British Cycling Academy for some road racing and seemed to do alright. I was having a chat with Shane Sutton and he suggested I try the road.
So I got onto the Halfords team in 2010 and been at it ever since.
Bibby on his way to becoming British Cyclo-Cross Champion in 2010
Do you miss racing the mountain bike?
I miss it a bit, but I’d more like to do a full cyclo-cross season next year if it’s possible.
I wanted to do this year but it didn’t fit. I think this winter really missed it, I was watching the National Championships and wanting to get out there.
The last few years my season started on January 1st and ended on September 10th – but this year it’s a bit of a shorter season, from March to September.
So if the plan similar next year then I’d like to do full cyclo-cross season with a mid-season break.
What’s the appeal?
I just love it, it’s enjoyable. I also feel like with mountain biking, I look back and think compared to training for road, how much stronger I am now than when I was racing mountain bikes.
I’d like to do it and see how I could do. Swapping over to road, I was still young, my early 20s and I didn’t train that much compared to now.
Of course there are quite a few handy youngsters of that age racing ‘cross now – so I might be in for a tough race!
Ian Bibby racing at the 2007 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Fort William as an under-23.
Over the years, you’ve had some great results across the disciplines – what ones have been most memorable for you?
There are quite a few. Riding the mountain bike world championships at Fort William back in 2007 was a good one. Wining the senior ‘cross champs.
I remember getting up there in Tour of Britain in 2010, I got second on a stage.
And in 2011 I was top-five on GC, before a massive crash with Geraint Thomas, nearly at the end of stage six. Winning the crit championships was good as well.
Many would describe you as the best domestic rider of last decade – what are the ambitions of a rider who has almost done it all?
I think as you get older you realise there’s even more to do. When you’re younger you think it goes on forever. The next couple years I should be toward my strongest.
This year I’d like to get up there in UCI races. And the Worlds are in Yorkshire so if you win UCI races never know what can happen.
Many have said you have the potential and ability to step up to the highest level – is that something still on your radar?
If something came along you’d consider it, but it would have to be good. Right now we are so lucky.
You do great races with English lads, we all get on well, we get to do the Tour de Yorkshire and the Tour of Britain.
I know how lucky we are and I’m happy with what I’m doing, so it’s not something I’m desperate to do. I think we have it very good how we are and the teams look after us really well.