He’s been quiet, that Commonwealth Games Points Race Champion, Mark Stewart lad.
But he’s back with a bang – a World Cup Points win in Minsk and a World Cup Omnium silver in Glasgow.
Best ‘have a word.’
Congratulations on Minsk and Glasgow, Mark. Is it correct you didn’t know you were riding Glasgow until the night before?
“Yeah, my coach rang me at 9:00 pm the night before to ask if I wanted to ride, Ethan Hayter was supposed to ride but had called off, sick.
“We’re on a dual programme where the guys who rode the Euros were to ride Glasgow but I was on the other programme, riding in Minsk.
“Of course I said, ‘yes’ – my legs were good and whilst it wasn’t ideal getting to Glasgow at 01:30 am, I enjoyed the competition.”
The winner, France’s Benjamin Thomas is in great shape right now; hard to beat in an omnium.
“Yes, he has good core from all that road riding with Groupama FDJ; the team is obviously behind his track riding and they’ll be working closely with the French Federation to keep him in the best possible shape.”
The new omnium format with no timed races is obviously to your liking?
“Yes, it does and I like the omnium – but you have to be super-fit for it.
“You need speed, not so much strength, look at Roger Kluge, (Germany’s World Madison Champion) he was well down in the omnium but put him in a madison and in the last 10 minutes he’s killing everyone, 50 kilometres is a long way.”
Of the four omnium disciplines, which is your least favourite?
“The tempo race is a funny one but I’ve won it on both occasions I’ve ridden it at World Cups.
“There’s a right way to ride a points, scratch and elimination race but the tempo is a bit weird.”
Any secrets to recovery between the four disciplines?
“The timings for the Olympic Omnium are out now so that’s being followed in the World Cups and World Champs – all four events must be completed within a three hour window.
“I rode the scratch then 21 minutes later we were up for the tempo then we had 40 minutes each between the elimination and points
“In between events you spin on the rollers have a gel – it’s hard to eat between the races – quite brutal, really.”
Are you ‘on’ for one of the new ‘Bat Bikes’?
“We’ve not heard too much about them but I believe there’s a couple with my name on – they look very interesting but the front end treatment isn’t so different from New Zealand’s Avanti bikes.”
Last time we spoke you were about to embark on a big block of core work with a lot weight room work – how has that been?
“I’m in the best condition I’ve been in since the Commonwealth Games.
“You have to build strength for team pursuiting so I haven’t really been working on endurance.”
You rode the team pursuit in Minsk?
“Yeah but my Worlds focus is madison and omnium.
“The Minsk team pursuit was with Ollie Wood, Charlie Tanfield and Ed Clancy – that’s a high standard to match.
“The thing about team pursuit training is that it’s all about strength – less than four minutes of effort but absolutely full on.
“The training for it isn’t really the best for the madison – like I say 50 kilometres is a long way…”
In that Minsk Points final you beat some handy boys – Seb Mora, Andreas Graf, Kenny De Ketele…
“I was pleased with that win, yes – all those guys are potential World Championship medallists.
“It was good to be back showing myself on the world stage.”
Three World Cups before the year end: Hong Kong 29/11; New Zealand 06/12; Australia 13/12 – which do you ride?
“In Hong Kong I ride the madison with Fred Wright (who recently signed with Bahrain Merida, ed.) and the omnium – that’s always been the plan.
“The GB omnium spot for the Worlds and Tokyo is really competitive; Ollie Woods, Matt Walls, Ethan Hayter have all been on the podium in World Cups – that’s the standard that’s required.
“I’m not riding New Zealand or Australia but might be riding the UCi competition at Gretchen, Switzerland at the end of December.
“The thing with competition though is that you can lose fitness with the taper and recovery, sometimes it’s better to train and work on what you need to improve.”
What’s the plot between the end of the World Cups and the World Championships in Berlin at the end of February?
“For most nations that’s a very important period to make final preparations for the team pursuit – there will be a lot of training camps going on.”
There are so many nations going quick in the team pursuit, aren’t there?
“It’s just not Aussie/GB anymore.”
“If you look at the team pursuit landscape post 2018 GB are only fifth fastest.
“You have, Australia, Denmark, Italy, France, New Zealand all recording sub 3:50 to 3:51 times; it’s very competitive.”
When are the GB Worlds selections made?
“Really late, the coaches have that luxury because of the strength in depth on the squad.
“Personally I’m not sure it’s a good thing that guys are competing against each other going into a major competition – I think it’s better if you know what you’re doing.”
“There are The Worlds to think about first!”
Very true – we wish Mark, ‘all the best’ for Hong Kong – we hope that rumours the event may be cancelled because of the recent civil unrest in the Region are unfounded – and as always will keep a weather eye on the results.