Scotland’s Joe Nally was British Points Race Champion back in 2017 at just 17 years-of-age, the youngest rider ever to win it.
That same year he was in the GB team which took silver in the European Junior team Pursuit Championships in Portugal in a team which included Fred Wright, who’s now with the Bahrain team and Jake Stewart who’s now with Groupama FDJ.
Since then the Fifer’s focus has been on the road, riding at the highest u23 levels in Europe.
However, as he told us back in April; ‘There’s never a good time to catch glandular fever but that’s what happened to me during lockdown.’
The man was rarin’ to go for season 2021 though; but just to make it a real, ‘lucky white heather’ year for the man from Charlestown, to add to glandular fever and Covid, his team, Vitus Pro Cycling powered by Brother UK, folded.
Vitus were happy to remain as bike provider but team principal Cherie Pridham, took the decision to step back from domestic racing after 11 years running Continental teams. Pridham told ‘Cycling Weekly’ magazine that the decision was ‘one of the most difficult she’s ever made,’ but added that the scarcity of sponsors and uncertainty caused by Covid-19 have resulted in the closure.
However, Joe is a resilient lad and has gone out and got himself a ride with French Division Two équipe, Team Elite Restauration 89 based in Toucy for season 2021.
Not a bad move in our opinion; the French scene may not be as strong as it once was but it’ll certainly provide more and better racing than Joe would have access to in the UK where the road scene looks anything but healthy.
Nally is no stranger to France having finished 11th in the 2016 Junior Paris-Roubaix then 12th the following season in the same event.
In the latter he was in the GB team which finished second to BEAT cycling in the opening TTT but ahead of teams like Vital Concept and Arkéa-Samsic.
‘Best have a word’ with the man, we thought to ourselves.
You’ve engineered a good recovery from Vitus folding, Joe – we were just thinking, you seem to have been on the scene for ever but your still only 21 years-old?
“This will be my fifth year as an u23 rider and I see it as a very important one for me, maybe a bit of a ‘make or break?’
Are you over the glandular fever now?
“Yes, I’m healthy but lack fitness, it’s taken so much longer than I thought it would to get back into condition.
“I started doing base miles in June and July but think I rushed it and things collapsed.”
When did you find out that Vitus was folding?
“I heard in October, around Halloween time, it came as a bit of shock, whilst we didn’t expect the sponsorship situation for 2021 to be brilliant we didn’t actually expect the team to fold.
“I was happy to be riding with them for season 2021 but it’s not to be.”
How did you get the French ride?
“I gathered up every bit of team contact information I could find from folks I know, in the UK and in France and put myself out there.
“My fellow Scot, Alex Dent will also be with the team which is based in Toucy that’s around 90 minutes by car, south of Paris.
“I did speak to a couple of British teams, they were receptive but couldn’t make me any promises.”
What’s the deal like with the team?
“It’s good, there’s a team house where Alex and I will stay – and a believe an Irish rider will be joining us?
“We get our bikes supplied and taken to our races by the team.”
When do you make the move?
“I’ll drive down at the start of February via the Eurotunnel but I’ll have obviously to take into account any travel restrictions and regulations in place as a result of Covid.
“That said, I was training in Tenerife and travel there and back was straightforward, you had to wear a mask and sanitise but the airports at both ends were deserted, it was pretty much stress free.”
Do you have any idea about your programme yet?
“We’ll be riding a solid programme including UCI single day and stage races.
“And also the French Cup races which are very important to the French teams and hotly contested; I’ve heard that they’re very aggressive, hard races.”
[VeloVeritas remembers speaking to David Millar about the professional French Cups and him telling us that often team loyalties went out of the window as French riders would ride selfishly to obtain points in what is a prestigious competition to home riders, ed.]
How are the linguistic skills doing?
“Not too bad, I did advanced higher French at school albeit I’ve not used it since I left school but I reckon I did the ‘hard yards’ at school and I’ve no doubt it’ll all come back to me once I’m in that environment.”
What are your ambitions for 2021?
“It hasn’t been a great 2020 so I want to be in good shape for the start of 2021; I’m coached by Scottish Cycling and am working with them towards having a good year.”
The Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022 are on the horizon now.
“Yes, Scotland has the potential to field a very strong team pursuit line up with quality names like John Archibald, Mark Stewart, Alfie George, Kyle Gordon; then there are young riders like Daniel Kain coming through so I think I might be difficult to get a slot in the team pursuit squad.
“I think my chances of selection would be better for the bunched events on the track and in the road race.”
VeloVeritas wishes Joe well in La Belle France; he’s another young man we’ll be keeping our eye out for during season 2021.