Interview Mark Christian (Team Raleigh)


Talking to Isle of Man rider Mark Christian (Team Raleigh) who was 9th on the final stage of Haut Var last weekend.

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Interview Mark Christian (Team Raleigh)

The 23 year old Isle of Man rider has been around a while now having ridden for GB and AN Post to name two teams but his performance last weekend finishing ninth on a tough stage of Haut Var showed he certainly has the ability to ride at the top level in the sport of pro cycling.


Mark (right) and the team’s climber Matthieu Boulo at the team launch last week

Mark has a palmeres with plenty of quality to it. A Commonwealth Games medal for the Isle of Man in Delhi (Points Race) is just one highlight on the track. Others include a British Madison title with Simon Yates and European titles as a Junior.

In 2011, Mark was third in the prologue for the Tour of Normandy and fifth on a stage of the Tour de l’Avenier. While 2012 was a quiet season with An Post, after he recovered from injury in 2013, Mark was third and fifth in two Prems as well as 5th in a race in Belgium.

Prior to that crash in Normandy in 2013, Mark had started his Raleigh career racing at Haut Var and last weekend he returned to the same race to let his legs show what a great bike rider he is and that his results in 2013 in Haut Var were not a reflection of what he can achieve.

Mark says having done the race before did help him. “We recced the course after the Tour of the Med as it’s not far from the team camp and that brought it all back to me. For sure it helps to be familiar with the roads in a race.”

On that recce on the climbs, Mark showed he was climbing well too. One of the team’s climbers is a little French rider called Matthieu Boulo who has been doing cyclo-cross in the winter and is one of the smallest ‘cross riders I’ve seen!

But during the recce for Haut Var, when the road went up and there was a ‘test effort’ by the team, Mark was able to go with Matthieu and that helped establish who the key riders were for the race.


Speaking about the ninth place on stage 2 of Haut Var and a top 20 overall, Mark says “I would say that result at the weekend is one of my best performances I’ve had, mainly because of the level of the race and the level of the other teams”.

“It was definitely a big step forward for me to find I was strong enough to follow the big names on the final climb and right up until the finish. Being able to look around at the company I was in by the top of the final climb with the likes of Evans, Sanchez and Chavanel was nice”.

“The strategy for the team was for me and Matthieu (Boulo) to be protected and for us both to look after ourselves as best as possible for the back end of the stage, knowing that it was the kind of stage where the peloton was going to be whittled down bit by bit.”

“Wilko (Ian Wilkinson) did a great job to look after us and position us for the key climbs and mid way through on the final climb of the stage too, which was a big help as it can just ease the stress of fighting in the wheels.”

“The final loop was just about staying as far to the front as possible over the final climb where it split into small groups of a hand full of riders each, before coming together again to a group of around 30 or 40 guys for the finish.”

It was here that the French-Anglo combination of Boulo and Christian combined to help Mark finish 9th. Mark now has some time at home before more European races for the Raleigh team where he’s looking to get some results as he moves ever upwards in the new colours which have been very well received by the public and fans.


 Mark (second from left) and the team relax before the team launch with a Winter Olympics game on the pallet trolley … 

Breaking Away
Haut Var was the second of the stage races for the Raleigh riders with the first being the Tour of the Med. In that, again on the final stage, Mark showed he had what it takes by getting in a break and then spending four hours out front in the Raleigh colours before being reeled in.

“That was a good way to finish that race” he explained at the team’s Training camp. “It was good for me and the team to get the jersey up the road and come out of the race and feel like you have been part of it and to be aggressive.”


It was a far cry from the first stage where the team in its first race of 2014 had to face 230 kilometres, 30k longer than the British champs mid season for example, in a race where many of the riders already had their race legs.

“I think the only way you can get that race fitness is by racing” Mark explained. “Going into that race when so many already had raced, I knew we’d be behind a bit and we were going in at the deep end.”

“As far as training had gone going into Med, that had gone well so the fitness was there and I just needed the race sharpness. It came quite quickly and I think I made progress as the racing went on. It’s not just the legs but the whole feeling of being back in the bunch and that mind-set for racing.”

“It was just the length of the stage as the racing wasn’t that stressful. The race was actually quite relaxed and a good way to start the season and get four days of good racing in the legs.”

Asked whether the racing in the stages (Med) got more ‘racey’ as the event went on, Mark replied “the break on the first day did just roll off the front quite easily. I think the teams knowing the length of the stage were quite happy to let it go and keep the race under control. On the last stage though, it was the last opportunity for riders to show themselves and it was a good day for a breakaway.”

“So it was quite an aggressive start to the final stage although it didn’t take long for the move to go. It was a tough start to the stage, real draggy, before some descents leading to another climb but we already had a gap by then.”

“As always, the hardest part was getting in ‘the’ break and going flat stick for twenty minutes and then once it was established, we could relax a bit.”

Mark explained that it was up to anyone of the riders in Team Raleigh to get into the move but as any rider who has tried to be the chosen one, it isn’t always easy as the start of a race can be a real frenzy of attacks and counter attacks. Mark added that in the four up break, everyone seemed to know what they were doing and they were all singing from the same hymn sheet as far as the pace went.

“No-one was trying to give it too much on the climbs or go ballistic once it was established. The gap did go up quite quickly once the peloton had sat up and after that it’s about judging the effort. What we did well was as the gap started to come down in the last 40 or 50k, we’d all held back a bit knowing what was coming and we then all ramped it up a bit without even talking to each other.”

What spiced it up for Mark though was having a rear wheel puncture. “It was 60k to go I think but I was lucky to have the team car behind me and it was a quick change. There was no panic and I was straight back up to the break.”

Wearing the red, yellow and black of the original TI Raleigh team after a year in black and white, Mark says the team has definitely made more of an impact with this year’s colours.

“The reactions to them have been good. Like the older guys who remember the original team and even the younger guys who like the retro look are showing an interest and I think we stand out more this year which helps. We’re certainly getting a bit of attention.”


Welsh Grand Prix 2013 and Mark cramps as Steve Lampier attacks on the final lap of the finishing circuit.

2013 – Getting back from injury
Going back over last year, Mark explained he was hoping to come out of the Tour of Normandy in 2013 and then build on that form ready for the season ahead. “By the time I started racing again though after the crash, I may as well not have done Normandy as I had lost so much during the time off.”

“If I can get a clear run at the season this year with the Med, Haut Var and then Tour of Normandy, hopefully I can build on that and be going well in April and May and get some results.”


Lots of Change at Raleigh
“There have been a lot of changes to the team for this year but everyone knows what it’s like to come into a new team and we all get on really well. It’s only been a week or two but we’re quickly getting to know each other.”

Asked what his goals are in 2014, Mark says its mainly the road races he feels he’s suited to and so the Prems and the continental races are events he’s hoping to take any chances that come his way.

“I find crits okay but I don’t think that is my main role for the team. I think they have five riders in mind for them but as the team is rotated, I may well come in.”

As a rider with great results on the track, Mark certainly has the background to handle the speed of the crits but for now, the Tour of Normandy beckons in late March and who knows, perhaps he’ll be the first Raleigh rider in the Red, Yellow and Black to get their hands in the air in 2014 in European competition and show the old Raleigh is back …


British Madison champion with another young rider going places, Simon Yates

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