Talk Time: An Post Pro Mark McNally

During his first visit home since January, VeloUK catches up with An Post professional, Mark McNally.

With the An Post Irish RAS starting this weekend, it has been a busy time for Sean Kelly’s An Post team as they prepare for their ‘home’ race in Ireland. Part of the line-up for the An Post team for the RAS is Liverpool’s Mark McNally and he‘s been very busy  since his time at home a few weeks ago.

Mark rode the Circuit Wallonie last weekend and prior to that, three professional Kermesses in Helechtren, Verreborek, and Puivelede. He now faces the eight day RAS, known as a tough race which will no doubt prepare him for more stage races to follow in France in June.

Mark with his training bike from Dolan Bikes, sponsors of Sean Kelly’s AN Post team.

The highlight of the season so far for Mark was his second place in the 170 kilometre Zellick-Galmaarden race in Belgium, a UCI 1.2 ranked event.

Recalling that race when VeloUK and Mark met at the Eureka Cyclists Café recently, he says “me and the lad from Wallonia (Gaetan Bille) were away for the last 60 k so it was good like.” The race, Mark explained, is an amateur one but has a list for household names as former winners. Eric De Clercq, Frank Høj, Nico Eeckhout, Ludo Dierckxsens, Tom Boonen, Johan Vansummeren  and Jurgen Van Den Broeck; all successful pros.

“There is bit more to come with the form” Mark says “but I’m going well at the moment and it was good to finish the early season classics off on a high.”

Riding for the UCI registered Continental  team has given Mark the opportunity of riding some big races with household names for those that follow the sport. Races such as Tour of Oman, Kuurne – Brussel – Kuurne, Nokere Koerse and Grand Prix Pino Cerami. The Belgian races with a long history in the sport.

Stage 3 of the Tour of Britain, and Mark gets himself into a move which had the likes of Russell Downing, Simon Richardson and Griepel in it.

Asked for a highlight, Mark smiled and remembered a moment in another  semi classic, the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen – Harelbeke when a certain Fabian Cancellera came past him on one of the descents after he’d had a bike change and he says it just didn’t seem normal! “Everyone was flat stick in a line and he came cruising past me… that was a learning curve!”

His team have one of Belgium’s favourite sons, Niko Eeckhout, riding for them and when he’s in the team’s line up for races, Mark explained that its him they work for. “We have a lot of strong guys in the team so there’s also times when we can do our own thing. We never really have a definite leader apart from Nico and during races,  I’ll ask Andy (Fenn) to lead me out or I’ll lead him out so. It’s good like.”

The team is a mixture of Belgian riders along with those from Ireland, Lithuania and two from Britain; Mark and Andrew Fenn. Mark is pleased that one Brit, Matt Brammeier has been replaced with another  and says there is a great atmosphere in the squad and they all get along really well.

Mark and the others realise that a team like An Post is a great shop window for moving up the ranks into a bigger team. Matt Brammeier was one who showed that it could be done when last year he rode for An Post and this year, is with ProTour HTC Highroad.

The An Post riders all laughs in the Tour of Britain last year. Mark is just behind next to Kit Gilham (Sigma) on the right.

It’s Mark’s second year with An Post and he says there is definitely a lot of Brits in the pro peloton now, citing one example where in a race, the field was lined out and he counted around 10 Brits in the line.

Based in Belgium, Mark gets to race and train over climbs that have become household names, like the Bosberg and shares a house with Pete Dibben. Recalling his short time with the GB Academy, he says that he learnt plenty but that Italy wasn’t the right place for him at that time of his career

The things he learnt however now help him now in his role in the An Post team. Like getting the lads organised in a race when echelons are forming, they need to start riding on the front or positioning themselves for approaching climbs. Simple things he says they don’t even think about any more because they are second nature.

But then Mark has been in the sport for a long time and has had plenty of advice over the years from local legends such as ‘Duff‘.

“The legendary Duff knows all the roads” Mark explained after a group ride that morning, his first since January when he was back in Liverpool. “It’s been a bit varied today with dirt roads and cobbled climbs but then it is always mad when you come out with them. When I was 12, he left in the middle of Wales on my own and he still says it makes me the man I am today!

“All the fellas here have given me a push up a hill when I was little, so it is nice to come back and see them because I owe them a lot.” Follow Mark, his AN Post team on the event’s website

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