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.
‘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.
His first year 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 2013 perhaps wasn’t his best, the second half of 2014 saw the results start to come, peaking with winning the King of the Mountains in the Tour of Britain.
This season he’s with Madison-Genesis and as the days get shorter, his form has risen; 10th in the GP Stad Zottegem, a winner in the Erpe Mere kermis – with rapid Belgian Champion Preben Van Hecke in third spot – then third in the GP Jef Scherens behind wily Belgian Bjorn Leukemans.
We just had to ‘have a word’ a day or two after the Scherens as McNally enjoyed a well earned day off the bike before gearing up for the Tour of Britain.
Preben Van Hecke third behind you in Erpe Mere, not too shabby, Mark?
“Yeah – there was a fast sweeping corner with 200 to go and I’d figured out that you had to be first or second through there if you wanted to win.
“I was away with Preben (Topsport), Dries de Bondt (Verandas Willems) and a Wanty guy; the Wanty attacked into the last corner, I went with him, he went a bit heavy on the brakes but I managed to get round him and knew that no one would get past me.”
Then third in the Scherens to Leukemans.
“The Scherens is held in Leuven, a town I know well from training runs and coffee stops.
“The race was a war of attrition over 13 laps of 14 kilometres with a hill in there, it split with about 40 of us up front – we just kept going away – Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice) the ‘cross guy was there; late in the day Marco Marcato (Wanty) attacked, came back and Leukemans (Wanty) countered – Marcato wouldn’t work and it came down to a punch drunk sprint with guys going too early and fading.
“I got third – it was a good day out and a nice race to be in.”
Top ten in Zottegem.
“Yeah, ninth, there was a split and there were 15 of us away but with strong representation from Wanty and Topsport it was going to be hard to get a result.
“It was a good trip over for us – we rode four races and made top ten in all of them.”
You used to be based near Antwerp, didn’t you?
“Yeah, my girlfriend is Belgian and we lived about 30 K from Antwerp; we’re actually visiting her relatives today, a chilled day away from the bike.”
By the time the Scherens came round you’d be a bit of a marked man?
“I dunno about that – there are a lot of big names riding those races and anyway, I try not to think about what others think about me.”
Why is it all ‘clicking’ now?
“During the Tour Series in the UK I was struggling to find my best level but then we headed off to the Pyrenees for ten day training camp with the team; I was a bit sceptical about it – all that climbing!
“We did 10 days with 3,000 metres of climbing each day in 36 degree heat – I was really grumpy with all of that but with hindsight I should have had faith in Roger Hammond, our manager, it was obviously the right thing for us.
“And there’s also the aspect that at this stage of the season, you haven’t won anything and it comes time sit down and have a word with yourself.”
You weren’t happy with your season 2015 to date, then?
“I think I underperformed; it’s easy to underestimate the stress relocation places upon you, it’s just a ‘normal people’ thing to do but it was a big change, especially for my girlfriend who’s lived in Belgium, the culture here is so different.”
And are you guys still on steel frames?
“We all train on steel but we get the choice of steel or carbon to race on – I went for carbon because it’s what I’m used to but the steel frames are good.
“To be honest I don’t think there’s a lot to choose between them, you can throw the steel frame into a corner and it gives you good feedback – a million miles from the steel I started out on as a kid.”
AN Post to Madison-Genesis, much of a difference?
“Not really, remember that we have Roger Hammond as our manager, he’s ‘been there, done that’ and he’s the main reason many of us are on the team he just has so much experience.
“We’re all around 24/26 years-old and get on well together – it’s a great atmosphere on the team.”
Are you still coached by TrainSharp?
“Yeah, Jon Sharples still coaches me and that’s another reason I’m going well – Jon’s not just my coach; folks who know me will know that I’m a bit f a ‘stress head’ and Jon’s good at calming me down when I need it.”
“We have the Ronde van Midden Nederland (UCI 2.2) which is two stages; a TTT then a road race – then it’s the Tour of Britain.
“Everything has been geared towards us being in best shape for that, the training camp in the Pyrenees then the ‘tune up’ races over here are all building towards the T of B.
“But we did surprise ourselves with the way we’ve been going here, we thought we might be sluggish after all that climbing…
“The level at the Tour of Britain gets higher every year with a lot of riders using it as a World’s preparation race – look at Kwiatkowski.”
What’s still ‘to do’ for 2015?
“I want to have a strong T of B, like I said, this season has been a bit underdone for me – and I might come back over here after it for some more kermises.
“It’s just such a shame that Eric Rowsell crashed in Zottegem and broke his humerus; he was top 10 in the Tour of Yorkshire and was our man for the GC in the T of B so it’ll be up the rest of the team…”