For the past six years Trek’s Matt Shriver has called the plains of northern Belgium his home. That’s a long way to come for a kid who spent his college years in Durango, Colorado. But living in Flanders is a change he has embraced as technical director to the Trek-Segafredo team—especially as he’s a former U.S. national masters cyclocross champion. Shriver is the point man between the UCI WorldTour team’s riders and staff and the various equipment sponsors. He’s the man in the middle, a role that he admits is not always easy, but always satisfying.
Words and Images: James Startt
Peloton: Matt, explain your role as technical director of Trek-Segafredo?
Matt Shriver: Well, it is a bit different when you own a team or simply sponsor the team. When we are sponsoring teams, I have more of a liaison position. But now with Trek-Segafredo, we actually own the team, so I spend less time managing the needs of sponsors. Instead, I work directly with our technical partners developing new products for the riders or integrating their products into the team. I’m also providing rider feedback to our technical sponsors. Right now, for example, we’re working a lot on the development of the disc brakes and I provide a lot of feedback from the team on to Trek or Shimano, explaining how and when the disc brakes could be useful for them in a race situation. We’ve spent a lot of time working on weight issues, safety issues and wheel-change issues.
Peloton: Now that the test period for using disc brakes in races has been restarted by the UCI, do you think the future for professional racing is going to be with disc brakes?
Shriver: I do. It’s interesting, because this is the first time where the consumer has the product first. But, yeah, racing will go to disc brakes. The braking is just a lot safer. We just have to get over those hurdles that I mentioned.
Peloton: So essentially you are the middleman between the riders and staff and the technical sponsors?
Shriver: Yes, based on the rider feedback, and then go to the sponsors. I think a good example of that would be the Trek Domane. My first day working here in Europe was with Fabian Cancellara in the Arenberg forest. We had just started the development of the first Domane, six years ago. We had just started with [the team’s title sponsor] Leopard and it was the first time we had a rider with a specific need—in Fabian’s case: “I need to go faster on the cobbles and I need a bike that can make me faster on the cobbles!”
We didn’t really have a bike at the time. We had a Madone set up for a little more tire clearance but we didn’t have a bike that time that had a lower bottom bracket and a more relaxed geometry. But the Domane was the first bike based on the athlete’s need that was also great for the consumer.
Peloton: Well, this year you are going to be working closely with another rider, Alberto Contador. He too pays a lot of attention to detail when it comes to his bikes and materials. But in a very different way since he is firstly a climber….
Shriver: Yeah, Alberto just brings a lot of experience from throughout his career. Trek has worked with him before, although it was before my time [with the Discovery Channel team]. Already at the end of last year we met for a fit camp, which went well. We think we can get him back to where he was a couple of years ago in time trialing. He is already competitive, but if he wants to win the Tour de France we have to make sure that we have the fastest package, with our entire speed concept, our wheels, our helmet, everything.
We already made a lot of gains with Fabian, but now we’re focused on taking that knowledge and applying it not to a time-trial specialist, but to a guy that really has to ride a fast time trial after say 20 days of racing in the Tour. We know he can perform in the climbs and we are very confident about the climbing bike we have for him. Even if the UCI drops the weight limit, we can make a lighter bike for Alberto in the mountains. We’re ready for that. And now we are focusing on the time trial. We have a very experienced analysis team and we’re working on that.
Peloton: What’s the hardest thing about your job?
Shriver: I’d say being in the middle and trying to keep everyone happy! I’m working with everybody on the team, and then our suppliers like Trek and Bontrager—that’s at least 20 people too. We’re all on the same team, but it is sometimes hard to keep that in mind. It is a really stressful job.
Peloton: What did you do before you came to Trek? How do you prepare for this job?
Shriver: Well, I was director of a collegiate cycling team in Durango, Colorado. It was a really good college team and I really learned a lot that helped me at this job. We didn’t have a huge budget, but it really helped me because I had to constantly come up with solutions.
Peloton: And what is the best thing about your present job?
Shriver: Oh, I would say being in Belgium, being in the holy land of cycling. Getting to experience things like the Ghent Six Day or the Tour of Flanders is just incredible. The cycling culture is so deep here. They just drink it up.
Peloton: The Belgians are also known for drinking up something else—their world-renowned beers. What is your favorite Belgian beer after six years?
Shriver: Oh, I would say the Tripel Karmeliet! There are a lot of great beers here, of course, and I’ve tasted many, but I’d say the Karmeliet is my favorite.