Mark Stewart
Mark Stewart.

Scotland’s British Points Champion and World Cup Team Pursuit medallist, Mark Stewart was in action in the recent Tour de Yorkshire, building endurance for his next track campaign which centres round the European U23 Track Championships in July.

We thought we’d best have a word with the man …

How did you find the level of competition in Yorkshire, Mark?

“It was a tough three days but I went in expecting a kicking – I had a crash in France on the lead up to Yorkshire and had to have a week off the bike as a result because I was on antibiotics.

“That was in the Picardie Nations Cup – that’s the season-long UCi competition for U23 riders – we were just coming on to the finishing circuit when it happened.

“It was frustrating because I was still well there and feeling OK with the last phase of the race about to start – it was my first Nations Cup so it was a tough baptism at that level.”

A tough long weekend in Yorkshire too, then?

“It’s the repetition of hills, you get dropped then fight back over the top but there’s no time to recover before the next hill and it’s the same thing all over – when that’s going on for three days it takes it out of you.”

How was the team accepted by the World Tour guys?

“Yeah, they were OK with us; I mean we’ve been doing a lot of road racing so our bunch skills are good.

“It was a great experience with the TV coverage and the likes of Sky, BMC and Jumbo-Lotto all there – and to have Tommy Voeckler riding past you in the bunch.

“It was the typical pro pattern, hectic to start with, then the break goes and it settles down but I was fading a bit in the last hour each day with not being used to the distance.

“I had the early speed OK and was able to get in one of the early breaks, it was the toughness of the terrain and the length of the stages which was difficult.”

Have the big crowds and TV inspired you to think more about a road career?

“Definitely; you see guys like Tom Scully (New Zealander Scully was second in the World Championship points race and won gold in the discipline in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, ed.) in the peloton and the Aussie team pursuit guys ride the Nations Cups – you can be good in both.”

Mark Stewart
Mark enjoyed the three days in Yorkshire. Photo©supplied

How has recovery been?

“My legs were screaming the next day; we did two days easy; but rode the local ‘10’ on the Tuesday night – I think my condition will definitely have benefited from the experience.”

Do you think your programme leading in to Yorkshire was adequate?

“Yeah, we raced in Belgium the France – that Picardie race was tough, hard to do well in, you have 200 guys all wanting a result, trying to prove themselves, trying to get noticed by a pro team; 100 K in it was still hectic.”

I guess that it doesn’t help that coming from the track you’re not skeletal like the road guys?

“No, we have a bit more muscle on the track – I mean we watch what we eat but you do notice it in a race like Yorkshire where one climb comes after another.”

Not so much of a problem in Belgium, though?

“The parcours there are so flat; it can be kind of annoying because late in the race there are still 100 guys left – but it teaches you how to race tactically, how to save energy, when to ride and when not to.”

Mark Stewart
Mark racing for GB’s U23 squad “100% Me” in a Belgian kermis. Photo©Jozef Cooreman

What’s next on the agenda?

“We have the Tour of Berlin; five stages in four days with a split stage where you have a 110 K road stage in the morning then a 20 K time trial in the afternoon.

“Then we have races in Belgium, France and Czech Republic – that’s the U23 Peace race so I don’t expect that to be easy.”

When do you return to the track?

“The European U23 Track Championships are in July so we’re back on the track in June – the Euros are the big target for the year.”

How long does it take you to get your track legs back?

“Just one or two sessions; we ride our low-pro TT bikes a fair bit and the position on that is very similar to my track bike; the team pursuit now is about big gears so the cadences aren’t too much of an issue.”

Mark Stewart
The road racing Mark’s (r) doing with the GB team will add a depth of strength and resistance to his speed. Photo©supplied

Tell us about selection, is it based on your performances over a period or are there specific selection rides?

“There are ten guys but only the strongest four ride – we all understand that and it means that at every session we give 100% but it’s definitely based on how you’ve been performing over the course of the training sessions so as a picture is painted – not just on one day or session.

“Anyone can have a bad day …”

What are the big objectives for 2015?

“On the road I want to get to a higher level whilst on the track it’s about winning a medal in the European U23 Team Pursuit Championships – and I see no reason why we can’t …”

VeloVeritas will keep our eyes open for those Euro Champs results and in the meantime would wish Mark, ‘all the best’ for Berlin.