Mark McNally
Mark McNally.

In the week that the man born in the splendidly named Fazakerly in Lancashire moved from AN Post to Madison Genesis under the stewardship of former British Elite Road Race Champion, Roger Hammond we publish an interview with Tour of Britain King of the Mountains, Mark McNally.

It was an unexpected but nice result from a man who’s better known as a Flanders flat lands protagonist, we spoke to him before his signing for the British Continental squad who eschew carbon and ride ‘good old’ steel frames.

The Vuelta dominated the news in September and the Tour of Britain spotlight was more focused on what Cav didn’t do; Alex Dowsett’s brilliant ride to grab – but subsequently lose – yellow; and Wiggins’ fast – but not fast enough – time trial, so perhaps McNally’s excellent performance was over shadowed.

It’s a while since we’ve spoken to the affable Belgian-based Liverpudlian so we decided to give him a call.

McNally is a product of the British ‘cycling academy’ system and was a member of the winning team in the European junior team pursuit championship in 2007 and European U23 team pursuit championship in 2008.

‘Let go’ by the academy, McNally rode as a UK domestic professional for Halfords in 2009 before crossing the North Sea and signing up for Irish/Belgian hard man’s team AN Post, where he’s remained since.

His first year, 2010, was quiet – but 2011 saw him finding his feet in the toughest of schools and the results came, topped by his winning the hard fought Mi-Aout-Bretonne stage race against some of the best young talent in Europe.

The 2012 season saw another raft of top 10 results in Belgium including a win in the GP Beeckman in Ninove and whilst last year perhaps wasn’t his best, the second half of 2014 has seen the results start to come.

We opened by asking about his Tour of Britain mountains result – as at the other end of the phone he had his ToB crash wounds cleaned …

“Yeah, that was a nice bonus – the hills in the Tour of Britain aren’t massive mountains, they’re more suited to breakaway riders and I was in the break for the first three days.

“I was in the break on the last day too but crashed.

“There were five of us away and someone missed their spell so I looked back to see what happened to him, touched a wheel and came down.

“I’m missing a bit of skin but nothing major.”

The Tour of Britain gets a little tougher each year.

“It used to be a sprinters’ race but they’ve taken to putting a berg in the last 10 K of each stage – there were some nasty little climbs in there, this year.”

Mark McNally
Mark in the KoM Lead at this year’s Tour of Britain. Photo©ToB

Your season started early – the Marseillaise.

“That was a disappointment, actually; I was with the lead group, we were over the climb and then I punctured and there was no getting back.

“After that we rode the Etoille de Besseges and then went to Slovakia to ride the GP Izola.” (where he finished 11th. ed.)

And you were third in the Rutland in the spring, any ‘with hindsights?’

“There was a break and we had a man in it so I got a free ride across to it and then I attacked.

“Maybe if I’d waited a little longer to go – but it’s pointless worrying about stuff like that.”

How’s the AN Post programme been, this year?

“Very strong, we’ve ridden good races; we had Nico Eeckhout as a rider with the team and now he’s on management, his name along with that of Sean Kelly carries a lot of weight – they’re both legends in their own ways – and opens a lot of doors.

“Kurt Bogaerts is still our manager and he just loves it all!”

Have you been getting the kermises in?

“Yeah, I rode quite a few as preparation for the Tour of Britain – races like the one at Geraardsbergen are just flat out racing which puts you in the box but when you recover from it your level has risen.

And it’s Koolscamp this week, the Championship of Flanders.

“Yeah, I’ve never ridden it before because it usually clashes with the Tour of Britain; it used to be one for the sprinters but it’s been won from breakaways a few times in recent years – Nico won it four times.”

Are you happy overall with 2014?

“With the first part of the season; no, not really – I got a little lost, I lost confidence in myself.

“I decided to get myself a coach and have hooked up with Jon Sharples at Train Sharp.” (VV regular Douglas Dewey’s coach. ed.)

“I think that’s paying off now, I have a tendency to stressing about my racing and it’s good to have someone to consult, give me guidance and keep me calm.

“The second half of the season has been much better for me and there’s still more racing to come.”

Mark McNally
Mark feels he’s at a career crossroads. Photo©Tob

Where’s ‘home’ in Belgium?

“I have a Belgian girlfriend and we live about 30 kilometres from Antwerp; Dan McLay and some other English speakers live with Tim Harris and his wife, Joscelin about 30 K away – so I often train with them – and the AN Post team house is about 40 K away.”

What’s the plan for the winter and 2015?

“I’m not sure, I’m at a bit of crossroads; I think my Tour of Britain ride will have done me a favour but a lot will depend on how I ride from now until the end of the season and what results I get.

“I mean I’m happy in Belgium and more than happy with how Kurt and Sean have been with me on AN Post but it’s a development team and I’ve been with it for five years.

“I think that Kurt would be happy to have me again for 2015 but like I said, I’m at a crossroads.

“I don’t do this for the money, it’s not the priority.

“I want to ride races like Flanders and the Grand Tours, that’s what I want to achieve before I think about any financial aspect.

“But I have to start thinking about my future; the scene in the UK is getting better and decent money is starting to get paid – we’ll see …”

* As stated in our intro, Mark has signed with Madison Genesis for 2015.

When does the build up for 2015 start?

“I’m old school, a couple of weeks off at the end of the season then start with the steady miles early in November and build up.

“But maybe those methods will change now that I’m training with Jon Sharples?”