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Mark Stewart – This Young Scot is British Points Race Champion 2014

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At the next Commonwealth Games there’ll be no David Millar or ‘Jamesie’ McCallum and even the perennial Evan Oliphant might not make it to Gold Coast City, Australia in 2018.

But Dundee’s Mark Stewart should be there; at just 19 he took sixth place in the 20 K Scratch Race in Glasgow behind New Zealand’s World’s Omnium medallist, Shane Archbold with the distance being covered in 22:43 @ 52.819 kph – that’s quick.

And even more recently he landed the British Points Race in front of riders of the quality of Raleigh’s Mark Christian and NFTO’s Jon Mould.

Mark chatted to VeloVeritas after his latest success and on the day British Cycling announced his recruitment onto the national U23 Olympic Academy …

Mark Stewart
Mark has become a formidable track rider. Photo©Martin Williamson

Congratulations on your British points race win, Mark – what was the game plan?

“I was definitely riding to win, there was no one like Chris Newton riding who was going to control it; my strategy was to go for points from the start.

“I won the first sprint and kept that momentum going; the way the race developed you could see that no one was going to take a lap – it was all going to be about the sprints.

“I knew Christian and Mould were the guys to watch – they’re high calibre riders who compete at the highest level in World Cups.

“I knew I had to sprint with them and score if I was to win.”

And you rode 4:26 in the pursuit 5th/6th match – but it doesn’t show on the official result?

“That’s because I caught my opponent – but I rode in to finish on 4:26, I was a bit disappointed that the official result didn’t show my time.

“I qualified in 4:29 which put me outside the medal rides but then I did the 4:26 in the fifth place ride off – that time was worth a medal but nobody saw it because of the ‘catch.’”

And a nice ride for sixth in the Games scratch race.

“I went in to the Games with ambition and whilst it was nice to be up there in the scratch, I was disappointed only to do 4:32 in the pursuit qualifying; I think I was capable of 4:28.

“In the scratch maybe I should have geared a bit higher, I was on 94.5 whilst the likes of Tom Scully were on 97/98 – but I’m in no rush to go on to massive gears …”

Mark Stewart
Mark in action at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Photo©Martin Williamson

Is the British points your best result to date?

“Yes, definitely, I’ve won a half dozen Scottish junior champs but the win in the British tops that.”

How did you get into cycling?

“I come from a sporty family, my dad’s done a full Ironman Triathlon and I started competing when I was seven.

“I rode at Meadowbank and progressed; then I did the road – I’m not best at that yet but I will get good at it.”

I read you did a triathlon at seven years-old?

“Yeah, but it was just a short thing, one lap of the Commonwealth Games Pool in Edinburgh and bit of running and cycling in the park near the pool.”

Do you have a coach?

“Mark McKay of Scottish Cycling looks after me.

“I love to train, especially ‘double days’ where I’m doing two sessions – and I love doing five/six hour runs on the road.

“I often do two or three hours on the road in the morning then train on the track in the afternoon – that’s a good day’s work.

“I live in Glasgow now, I’ve left Abertay University and moved near to the Chris Hoy Velodrome but I’ll be moving to Manchester soon.”

Caird Park track in Dundee to the Chris Hoy Velodrome – a bit of a leap …

“They’re two different worlds, the Glasgow track is so fast and the facilities are so good.

“But Caird Park does an awesome job in starting riders off in track cycling and getting them into competition.”

Mark Stewart
Mark got some attention from New Zealander Tom Skully in the Games Points Race. Photo©Martin Williamson

I heard a bit of gossip that you’d been approached by pro teams?

“Yes, but not professional teams just a couple of the bigger amateur teams – it’s not a factor for me at the moment though.”

What’s the biggest goal for you?

“The Olympics in Tokyo in 2020, I’ll still only be 24 and until then I’m going to focus on the track but there’ll be stage racing in my programme as part of my build up.

“You need that road core to be able to ride four minutes very fast on the track.

“I’ll concentrate on the bunched races and want to get involved in the team pursuit – and I’d love to try the omnium but would need to develop more power for the kilometre and flying lap elements.

“When I was 10 my dad said to me that I have to set goals, first to be the best in the Dundee area; then the best in Scotland; then in Britain, Europe and ultimately the world stage.

“After the Olympics I’d like to ride more road but ‘til then it’s the track which I’ll concentrate on.”

And if you could win just one race?

“That’s a tough one; the Worlds Points or Olympic Omnium.

“I love the points race and I wouldn’t mind ending up having a career like Chris Newton did …”

Mark Stewart
Thanks to Mark for his time with this interview. Photo©Martin Williamson

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.

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