Sunday, July 25, 2021
HomeInterviewsDan McLay - "I need to focus on having a career"

Dan McLay – “I need to focus on having a career”

-

Dwars door Vlaanderen saw the re-birth of Nick Nuyens (Belgium & Saxo Bank) as winner; for those who know their Spring Classics it branded him as a potential Ronde winner – and so it proved. But it was also further confirmation that the first big win for Geraint Thomas (Sky & GB) is not far away as the Welshman took second behind the wily Belgian in Dwars Door. However, on the same day on similar roads, the Under 23 version of the race, the ‘GP Waregem’ saw another young Briton take an important step up the ladder with an excellent win over the cream of Flanders’ young cycling talent. Since that win, Dan McLay has gone from strength to strength with a second place in Meer-Hoogstraten and back to back wins in Zele and Niel.

McLay was a British champion before his 14th birthday – winning the Omnium in 2006.

The following year he was winning under 16 races in Belgium and Holland; picking up more medals on the track and was winning cyclo-crosses to boot.

In 2008 the trend continued; road wins, track wins, including the British junior scratch champs – and a medal in the British junior cyclo-cross champs.

The following year followed a similar pattern with perhaps the hi-lite being bronze in the European madison championship with Sam Harrison.

But it was last year that the really serious results came – world junior madison champion with Simon Yates and second in the junior Paris-Roubaix.

For 2011 McLay has struck out along the same path as countryman Adam Blythe, joining Lotto feeder team, Davo.

Dan McLay
Dan is interviewed after his win in Zele.

You were born in New Zealand but race for GB, Dan?

“My dad is a Kiwi and my mum is English; when I was one year-old we moved to England and I’ve lived there since, so it’s normal for me.”

You won a lot on the track as a schoolboy and junior – why go to the road?

“As a schoolboy, if you can win in one discipline you can win in any; I just raced everything and I won on the road, track and cyclo-cross – but with most on the road.

“In terms of ‘why road ?’ ahead of the others, I think there is just more to it and it’s the real heart of the sport.”

And you rode the ‘cross Worlds – unusual for a track man!

“Yeah, I guess so.

“I never really saw myself as a track man though, more of a road sprinter, but you can do well in both.

“I’ve done ‘cross since I was very young, though – and I love the technical side of it. It helps with your bike handling and the efforts are pretty similar to something like the points or madison on the track.”

You were second in the junior Paris-Roubaix in 2010 – tell us about that, please.

“Well, it was a tough day out!

“I put a lot of pressure on myself to win, so deep down I was disappointed with the result. In the race I did a lot of things right – my positioning, displaying patience…

“But I made one big mistake – I missed my musette and didn’t drop back to the car for a bottle. I thought; “it’s cold and not really much left to go” so I didn’t go back.

“With hindsight, cramp, caused by dehydration cost me a shot at the win – I was pretty gutted.

“For now, second isn’t bad, but next time round it’ll be different.”

And national junior gold in the road race and silver in the time trial.

“I’m pretty proud of being national rr champion, I think I was written off before the race because there were a few lumps in the parcours.

“When it came down to the last climb with 15 K to go there was a break of about eight away with two minutes; so I knew we had to go. I rode at 95% up the climb and over the top there were about six of us in front of the bunch – two of them were team mates – we had 1:30 to close.

“I just made sure we rode full gas to catch them before the finish and in the sprint it wasn’t an option to lose.

“The TT wasn’t so good for me; whilst I’m not really a guy for a proper TT I can do a good short TT in the Nations Cup and races like that.

“So really I should have been good enough to win, but on that day I wasn’t good enough and there’s nothing you can do about that.”

Dan McLay
An odd prize, but memorable!

World junior madison champion 2010 – what’s your favourite discipline?

“The road races, really; I like a good bunch sprint, the cross winds, cobbles, descents – even the climbs, despite not being so good up them.

“There’s more drama and unpredictability on the road. But on the track the madison is my favourite, for sure.”

Did you ride many UIV’s (under 23 six day races) off the back of the Worlds?

“I rode Ghent and Berlin; I didn’t really want to ride more that two as it would have cost me time for road miles and rest.

“As it worked out, Ghent stopped me having to ride in the snow for a few days and Berlin gave me a little speed before moving to Belgium – it was perfect.”

Dan McLay
Getting the prize home was tricky!

Were you on the Academy with Max Sciandri In Italy?

“Italy is a nice place, but no, I’ve never been on it.

“I was on Olympic Development but I chose to go with Davo after that.”

Why Belgium and not Italy or France?

“Generally the races and terrain will suit me better and there are lots of races to ride – which is good for me or any sprinter type.

“The Academy aren’t going to Italy this year and for me Belgium is the place with the most opportunity to start a career.”

How did you get the ride with Davo?

“I sent an email to the staff at the team and the DS, Kurt van de Wouwer (ex-pro, 11th in the 1999 Tour) got back to me and we sorted it out from there.”

They must be pretty happy with how you’re going?

“Yeah they’re pretty happy but there are other good guys in the team getting results – like Tosh Vandersande (World Junior Points Champion on the track in 2008) he won two stages in the Triptyque des Monts et Chateau and the U23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege.”

Dan McLay
Dan is enjoying his life in Belgium.

Do you get help with funding from BC?

“I didn’t apply for the Academy programme, so no.

“I get support from the Dave Rayner Fund, UK Sport/ASDA athletes programme and some from the team.

“It all adds up and as long as I get round to getting some prize money I should be OK.”

Where are you based in Belgium; and have you started to learn Flemish?

“I’m staying with Joscelin Ryan and Tim Harris (ex-British pro champion) in their house a little north from Aarschcot.

“I’ve had a bit of a go at the Dutch tapes and books but I’m struggling, I can understand a little of what’s going on but that’s about it so far.”

How’s 2011 been so far, results wise.

“Up until Waregem it was moderate, I’d shown in the mix but hadn’t taken a win. I had a third, a sixth, a seventh, a puncture and DNF in a 1.2.

“Since Waregem I’ve been coming in to good form with wins at Zele and Niel.”

Dan McLay
Taking charge in Zele.

The amateur fields are enormous in Belgium just now – we saw one of 300 plus.

“I’ve not seen any bigger than 200 or so yet; but really it doesn’t have much impact unless you have to ride through from the back for some reason because there’s always fighting to be in the first 20-50 guys.

“So whether it’s 100 or 200, it’s the same.”

“I have little problem when it comes to riding in the bunch normally – I don’t know what it is but normally can find my way through. It gets a little harder the closer you get to the finish in terms of position and there’s a little luck involved from time to time; but it still comes down to skill, instinct and experience.”

Dan McLay
Dan enjoys his victory at Niel.

Have you settled into a good routine – training/resting/racing?

“Yeah, pretty good really. I don’t obey strict ‘out before 10:00’ policies or anything, but I get the training done and I’m resting the best I have ever done – its paying off.

“I train with whoever is around, there are a few English guys around here.

“We do group rides on Tuesdays and Thursdays; I don’t really do any specialist training but I’ll do sprints and maybe some big gear climbing during those rides.”

Do you think you’ll go back to race on the track?

“It’s possible and I’m not going to count it out but for now I need to focus on the road and having a career.

“I’d be interested in riding a six day or two in the winter, though.”

Dan McLay
Knowing how to switch is be a useful skill.

Coaching?

“I’ve been coached by a few different people and had input from loads more.

“First of all my dad told me to do the least work possible to win a race – and after I started to listen to him, that took me a long way!

“My first coach was Jenny Gretton and with her input I improved a lot.

“I’ve also learned a lot from Phil West at British Cycling. And I pick up snippets from Tim and Jos, who I stay with.

“Training wise though, now I look after myself – with a bit of advice from the people around me; I like it that way.”

What are the goals for the next few weeks?

“I have the Tour of Brittany and Olympia Tour of Holland coming up, I want to use those to get me in to the best condition for the U23 Paris-Roubaix; that’s a big objective.

“Those two races are perfect, the French race is over hard rolling roads and then the Dutch one has long, fast stages.

“I’m conscious at the minute that I don’t want to train too hard, I want to ride into my best form through those two races rather than peak too early.”

And the ultimate goal?

“To win a classic – Milan – Sanremo, Flanders or Roubaix.”

Thanks to Dan for the interview and wishing him all the best for the season ahead, and thanks to Joscelin Ryan for some of the images.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

James Spragg – Getting Back to the Racing

It seems as if English pro James Spragg’s luck has finally turned. After a crash blighted 2011 and the all too typical broken pledges regarding a contract for 2012, Spragg has finally put pen to paper for Algerian/Belgian Continental team, Geofco Ville D’Alger.

Michael Nicholson – “I’m pretty low maintenance”

Scotland’s Michael Nicholson was in fine form for the four stage Tour of the North, held over the Easter weekend in Ireland. He took eighth in the stage one prologue, seventh on stage two, won stage three and was 11th on stage four to give him a final second on GC behind Velo Veritas regular, James Moss (Node4-Giordana).

Bob Jungels Solos Victorious in Kuurne Brussels Kuurne 2019

Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne UCI 1.1 HC is the bridesmaid to Het Nieuwsblad’s UCI WT bride but it’s a race with a long history dating back to 1946 and has some interesting winners including Roger De Vlaeminck, Patrick Sercu, Johan Museeuw, George Hincapie, Cav – and a certain Patrick Lefevere in 1978.

Mark McNally – Everything geared to the Tour of Britain

The summer is coming to an end so it must be time for Madison-Genesis rider Mark McNally to come to form... 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.

Getting Ready for a Kermis Race – the 30 Essential Steps

We interviewed Joe Parkin recently as part of our "Racing in Belgium" series. Joe has written a great book about his experiences entitled "A Dog in a Hat", and is busy writing his second.

Dan Patten Blog – Back to the Front

So last time I was posting here on the Dan Patten Blog about the great weather we were experiencing in Belgium at that time. Unfortunately the sun has gone and the rain has returned. Clearly 20 degrees+ in March was a treat. I'm hoping a treat that returns soon.

At Random

In Memoriam, Palle Lykke

Friday 19th April was a sad day if you're a Six Day fan; Denmark's best-ever Six Day rider, Palle Lykke died in Belgium at 76 years-of-age. Born in Denmark in 1936 Lykke won 21 Six Days between 1958 and 1967 - Aarhus, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Berlin, Bremen, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dortmund, Frankfurt, London, Montreal, Munster and Zürich all fell to the handsome man from Ringe.

Revolution Racing – Season Finale the “Stepping Stone” for Sir Chris Hoy

The National Cycling Centre in Manchester was completely sold out as Olympic hero Sir Chris Hoy ramped up his preparation for the UCI Track World Cup at the new London Olympic velodrome with an appearance at the Revolution Racing Finale.

Scottish National 25 mile Time Trial Championship 2012

On a grey, damp but mild and fast Sunday morning on the roads around Blairdrummond near Stirling, Dooleys' Ian Grant added the '25' title to the '50' with a fine 52:26; besting Sandy Wallace's Silas Goldsworthy - whose fight back over the closing miles hauled back a 17 second deficit on Grant down to six at the line. Last year's '50' champion Alan Thomson, took another medal for Sandy Wallace with bronze in 53:09. The event was not without controversy, however.

Scottish Vets Road Race Championship 2008

John Kermode did what VeloVeritas expected him to, at sunny but windy Alford on Sunday afternoon and successfully defended his Scottish Vets Road Race Championship; as the football commentators say; 'it was déja vu all over again' as he beat the same man he did 12 months ago in the same race, on the same course-Dooley's Graeme McGarrity.

Shay Elliott – Irish Legend and ‘All Time Great’; a Story of Firsts and Mystery

Dublin's Shay Elliott was a man of firsts: the first (and only) English speaker to win Het Volk in 1959; the first English speaker to win a stage in the Vuelta and to wear the amarillo jersey of race leadership in 1962; the first English speaker to win a Giro stage in 1960, and the first English speaker to hold the yellow jersey of race leadership in the Le Tour in 1963, but his pro career ended ignominiously and his premature death at just 36 years of age is still the subject of speculation in Irish cycling circles....

Faces of the Gent Six Day 2012

Dave and I saw our first Six Day in 1973, the Skol sponsored London Six Day - Sercu, Pijnen, Duyndam, Van Lancker . . . This is Callum's first trip to the Kuipke but Stuart's umpteenth. The Adoma has been our base for years - it's a great jump off for Het Nieuwsblad, Gent-Wevelgem and the Koksijde 'cross.