Mark McNally interview: Briton determined to keep pushing for WorldTour place
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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mark McNally interview: Briton determined to keep pushing for WorldTour place

by Shane Stokes at 7:09 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
Back with An Post Sean Kelly squad for 2012

Mark McNallyMark McNally’s chances of getting a place in the top level of world cycling were dashed when the Europcar squad was unsuccessful in trying to get a UCI ProTeam licence but, rather than lamenting what might have been, the 22 year old is ready to push hard again in 2012.

He’ll remain with the An Post Grant Thornton Sean Kelly team and will try to pick up enough strong results to secure a big contract for the following season.

“The goal is to make a step up from this year,” he told VeloNation. “I think if I can do that, I will be in a better position again to move to a bigger squad.

“The team is supportive…what it is trying to do is to develop riders for the biggest teams. If you look at the likes of Andy Fenn, Matt Brammeier and Steven van Vooren, who have all gone on to bigger contracts, it is a good system to come through. We have one of the best race programmes for a Continental team in the world, and the structure we have is also very good.”

McNally had been told that if Europcar got a ProTeam licence that he would have had a place with the squad. When it was unsuccessful in doing so, he knew he’d have another year at Continental level, but insists that he never counted a move as being something that was certain to take place.

“I was talking to them before…at first they said no, but then they said ‘if we get a ProTour licence, we can offer you something’. It is one of those things – they could say one thing, but whether they would have honoured that offer wasn’t sure.

“The good thing was that Kurt [Bogaerts, An Post Grant Thornton Sean Kelly team manager] was very supportive overall. He wanted me to progress. I was in Belgium the day the licences were announced, doing some testing with Kurt. Either way I knew that he was going to support me, whether I moved on or whether I stayed with the team. It was good to have that from someone like him.”

Making good progression:

The former British junior road race champion had a solid season in 2011, taking a number of good results. After building form in the Tours of Oman and Qatar plus races like the Driedaagse van West Vlaanderen and E3 Prijs, he was second in the Zellik – Galmaarden, seventh in the Internationale Wielertrofee Jong Maar Moedig and sixth in the under 23 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Mark McNallyIn August he then went to France for the Mi Aout en Bretagne and had a very strong showing there. Second and sixth on stages two and three put him in the leader’s jersey and he held on to win the overall. Then, after riding the Tour of Britain, he finished up third in the 1.1 Omloop van het Houtland in Belgium. He regards the latter result as a personal highlight.

“That was a good result for me. I was in a seven or eight man breakaway at the finish and it was just a sprint in the end and I was third,” he said. “The Mi Aout en Bretagne win was nice, but the Omloop was a standout result for me. It was a real pro race….the likes of Quick Step and BMC and a few other big teams were there.”

McNally is just 22 years of age and because of that, he knows that time is on his side. Moving to a top ranked team for 2012 would have been a nice step, of course, but he’s philosophical about it. He knows that if his career continues along the same momentum, he should be able to step up in time. Because of that, he’s very level-headed about the Europcar situation.

“Okay, in one way it is disappointing, but if I look back at my season and see all the results I got, all the rides I have done, it puts a different perspective on things,” he explained. “You have to look at the year that it’s been [in pro cycling] and the number of guys who are finding it tough.. Dan Lloyd is a prime example, a great bike rider who is retiring as he can’t get a contract.

“If you look at it in that respect, it puts things into context. I had a good set of results and maybe in another year [without the financial crisis] it would have happened, but it’s just the luck of the draw, really. This might be a blessing in a disguise, another year might work out better for me.”

Getting ready for 2012:

Mark McNallyMcNally spent time in Girona several weeks ago, training with Irish road race Matt Brammeier and several others. He was then part of the pre-Christmas team training camp in Calpe, meeting up with the rest of the An Post Grant Thornton M. Donnelly team.

One of those who was there was the Manxman Jonny Bellis, who is moving across after several years with the Saxo Bank SunGard team. World under 23 road race bronze medallist in 2007, he suffered bad head injuries in a scooter accident two years later and has been fighting to get back to top form since.

His contract with the Saxo Bank team wasn’t extended, but the An Post team stepped in and gave him a place for 2012. That means he will be riding alongside McNally, who has faith that he will be able to rebuild his condition.

“I have raced with Jonny since I was about 12 years old, so I know him well,” he said. “I haven’t seen him for a few years, but I went to the team house last week and he was there. It was good to catch up.

“I knew what he was like before the accident. I’m pretty sure that he can get back to where once was. He’s definitely got the motivation there, and with the help of Kurt and Sean, he has the tools there to make it back. One thing that could definitely help is the race programme as it will have a big mix of races.

“Being in a ProTour team is not the right place for him at the moment, so I think he’s happy to come to the team and have the opportunity here.”

Bellis has been working hard to get ready for the new season. So too McNally, who said that he is doing things differently this time round in order to try to have the best year possible. He could have played things safe and just replicated his training from last winter, but he wants to push the envelope a little and accelerate his progression.

“In the last few years I have been pretty hit and miss, just doing things old school with loads and loads of miles and not really thinking about anything specific,” he explained. “But because I had good year last year, I want to try to make a difference…do a lot of gym work, and in my rides not only do miles but try to do a bit more efforts and such on those training spins.”

The reason for the change is simple. “I just want to have more of a professional approach towards my training, and do as well as I can.”


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