He’s been a busy boy, that Mark Stewart, since last we spoke with him back in June – first there was success in the Euro U23 track champs in the scratch and team pursuit.
Both events where he’s building a solid reputation; as well as in the points race – another of the Dundee man’s strengths.
But then, and perhaps more importantly, confirmation that he’s well on the way to cracking that ‘road thing’ with placings of 22nd, 6th, 7th, 3rd and 5th on stages and 3rd on GC in the Ronde Van Oost Vlaanderen riding for the Scotland Development Squad.
And most recently he’s just finished he’s riding the Tour of Britain with Messrs. Blythe, Cullaigh, Geoghegan Hart, McLay and Woods in the Great Britain team under the stewardship of Keith Lambert – exalted company indeed.
But first let’s go back to the British U23 champs at Stockton which was what he was preparing to ride when last we spoke.
How did the British Time Trial Champs go for you, Mark?
“I had a wee bit of food poisoning the day before the time trial and my numbers were ‘off’ – I finished ninth.
“The road race wasn’t great either, I was still feeling a wee bit off with the food poisoning and I’ve not really ridden the road that much.
“I was finding it tough on the climbs but that’s probably a mental thing.”
Then the Euros on the track – did you have enough time to prepare?
“They were on the indoor track at Montichiari near Brescia, close to where we’re based.
“We had a week to cram some prep in and I was happy that we dipped under four minutes; the team was Joe Holt, Matt Bostock, Ollie Wood and me – we qualified third fastest, you have two rides at the Euros, qualifying then the ride for the medals Italy and France both rode 3:56 and went into the final.
“The pressure was on Ollie and me as the other two guys are younger lads, we both rode two laps and the other two one-and-a-half.”
What does the magic sub four minutes feel like?
“OK – I think I have a lot more to come, my winter goal is to step into a 3:55 team; Ed Clancy and Bradley have to be coming to the end of their careers so the opportunities are there for us.
“The other thing is that we rode that 3:59 on bog standard equipment with our FFWD training wheels in.
“But it’ll take a lot of time in the gym, Bradley was in the gym a lot, there’s a lot of strength involved to ride a 1:01 first kilometre.
“You can’t fail to be impressed how consistent Ed Clancy and Steve Burke have been in the discipline over the years.”
And the scratch, you got silver there to go with your team pursuit bronze?
“I went into that one feeling good and with the goal of winning it – my form was good off the team pursuit.
“Five of us got a lap; I rode from the front but the Polish guy was that bit faster than me at the end – fair play to him.”
Have you thought about riding the omnium?
“I have, I rode an omnium as part of the Fiorenzuola Summer Six Day; Kian Emadi and I rode there, we finished fourth overall.
“I messed up the elimination but was feeling good in the points race – then I had a mechanical and had to drop out and that was that.
“The kilometre and flying lap would need work – the German IAM pro Roger Kluge is the master of the bunch races in the omnium.
“There was a UCI points race as part of the Six and I won that – so that was a nice result.
“I also rode the UCI Nations Cup event the Trofeo Alma where I was working for Gabriel Cullaigh, I got round and felt good.”
Then a breakthrough in the Ronde Van Oost Vlaanderen …
“It was a five stage race with the first three stages pretty flat but the last two stages were in the Flemish Ardennes near Oudenaarde with cobbles and hills.
“Unfortunately there were none of the famous climbs whose names we know from the Classics.
“I finished 22nd on Stage One, sixth on Stage Two and seventh on Stage Three.
“On Stage Four I got away in the break – it was a good feeling to be off the front and racing, not just sitting in the bunch, and I made the podium with third spot.
“Going into the final stage the Colour Code team looked to have it won overall with Lionel Taminiaux but the Canadian guys William Elliott and Ed Walsh rode a really clever stage, finishing one-two with Elliott winning the stage and the overall.
“Taminiaux ended up second on GC and I was third, there was no way I could do much on the last stage, the other Candian guys were watching me too closely.
“The Canadians won the team prize too, so fair play to them.”
Tour of Britain next?
“Yeah, after a solid block of Keith Lambert training.
“I’m hoping to ride the Six Days during the autumn and winter – London, Gent and Berlin but I’ll have to sit down with the GB track team endurance coach, Heiko Salzwedel and plan out my winter.”
We’ll be keeping in touch with Mark as the winter season progresses and with Wiggins and Cav riding London and Gent there’s going to be no shortage of spectators and atmosphere.