Feature – Mark McNally Returning Home


In 2015, the King of the Mountains from the Tour of Britain, Mark McNally (Madison Genesis) is returning home from Belgium along with girlfriend Pia De Quint

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Feature – Mark McNally Returning Home

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Returning ‘home’ to the UK after five years in Belgium, Mark McNally (Madison Genesis) from Liverpool decided he needed a change and that’s what he’ll have in 2015 racing for Madison Genesis. The King of the Mountains in the Tour of Britain 2014 and also third in the CiCLE Classic in the same season, has raced for the same team in Belgium, An Post Sean Kelly, for five years.


Not since 2009 has Mark raced a full season in Britain when he was part of the Halfords squad which won the inaugural Tour Series. During that season, Mark had a few victories in the North West whilst racing for his team as well as a lot of top 10s in the country’s top races.

Still a teenager, Mark raced the Tour of Britain, RAS and the Tour of Ireland and in British Prems, was 9th at Ryedale, 6th in the Lincoln GP and Tour of Pendle as well as 3rd in the Beaumont GP. He was also in the top ten in many a crit too. So even at that stage of his career before pro victories came his way in Europe, Mark was doing alright like.

Mark, 25, is now looking to get the hands in the air more and since halfway through the 2014 season, he has been working with Trainsharp and it is something that is certainly working for him. So this week, Mark and his partner Pia came to the Trainsharp headquarters to be tested.

“It’s the first time I have come to visit Jon and after he’s helped me out a lot this year, I just wanted to come here and see where the form is at and meet everyone.” Prior to working with Jon, Mark didn’t have any structure to the coaching and was helped out by the very experienced professional Niko Eeckhout.

Now, he wanted to embrace training with power, something he has dabbled with a bit but never used ‘professionally’. “I’ve used power cranks off and on but this is the first time I have used them properly. Before, it was more because everyone else was using them but this is the first time I have used them with some understanding of them.”


Asked to explain how having Mark in the pain cave helps in his coaching, Jon Sharples at Trainsharp told VeloUK “we like to test our riders regularly. In an ideal scenario, we would have Mark at HQ four to six times a year but this isn’t always feasible. So we track his progress from SRM data from racing and self-tests. However, it was great to get Mark in at this stage of the season to profile him and get some baseline values going into 2015”.

“The testing we did on Mark was the complete physiological profile that we offer to all of our clients that allows us to determine his threshold powers through blood lactate assessment. We then assess his maximal aerobic power using a traditional ramp test. To finish off, we completed two 10 second maximal efforts to profile his upper limit. Less exhaustingly, we measured his body fat percentage and lung function before it was all over!”

“With this set of results, we are able to build a good picture of his current level and accurately plan his training around this. That’s the key really – we want to build on Mark’s level, regardless of where the powers are, and the profiling allows us to ensure that he will be working the correct energy systems when he goes out on his bike and trains”.

Unsurprisingly, Mark did admit to being a bit ‘puffed’ afterwards but added that at his age and level of racing, he needs to be doing this to improve and is crossing his fingers being only 25, that there is more in the tank to improve on. Having seen close up his Tour of Britain performance in a race where the level goes up every year, Mark certainly does appear to have already improved during 2014.


With Wiggins right behind him, Mark is ‘in the moment’ and racing for KoM points in front a big crowd

But improvements are not always physical ones as he explains when chatting about his 2014 highlights. One of those was racing in Liverpool in front of family and friends where he got to stand on the podium in the King of the Mountain’s jersey, something he was never to let go of in the race.

“It was a special experience for sure. I haven’t done a big race in my home town and I went into to it wanting to do something just to show the people who have supported me all these years and it was a very nice experience!”

The fight for the jersey was a difficult one and for three days in a row, Mark had to make sure he was in the day’s move. Ask anyone who has tried to make that move, and you will learn that is hard enough to do once never mind three times. It wasn’t without its lighter moments though as he and friend Ian Bibby were competing for King of the Mountain points on the second day.

“We had a laugh after the first sprint because it was the first time I’d beaten him up a hill like” says Mark!

“For certain, things fell into place for me. My head was good, and I knew that when it was like that, I can go well. I know from previous experience, my mind-set is my biggest enemy. But when I know I am going good, and I have that momentum, then I am a half decent bike rider.”

Half decent indeed! But despite his year in 2009 on the British roads with Halfords, Mark is more known as an AN Post rider but says he was looking forward to a change. “It was a very happy five years at Post and the staff and management there. I have nothing but admiration for them”.


A good luck kiss from Pia to Mark on stage 2 of the Tour of Britain.

“Even Kurt said to me, ‘you can stay but I think a change will be good for you’ and I agreed. I am looking forward to working with Roger (Hammond). He’s a rider I grew up watching on TV and then towards the end of his career, I raced with him. Now he’s the manager so next season is very exciting”.

Asked how it came about he came to be wearing the colours of Madison Genesis, Mark explained “I was putting the feelers out during the season to see what was out there and contacted a few teams. Then one day we did a kermesse somewhere and Tom Stewart (Madison Genesis) was riding and he was asking about my team and I explained I didn’t have it sorted yet. He said to give Roger a buzz and it went from there”.

Knowing the British season from his 2009 year racing here, I asked what Mark’s goals were and he replied “the race programme isn’t finalised yet but you look at the race programme and there are all these races like the Yorkshire three day, the Velothon single day one in Wales, the Tour of Britain and RideLondon”.

“I’d like to target them and the other UCI races and to start winning more. I know I can win races, but some time my attitude is a little bit too nice”. Mark admits it was great getting to be on the podium in the Tour of Britain and hear people cheering him up the climbs but added, it was strange too as it wasn’t something he was used to. He’s hoping for more!

Mark will be heading back to Britain with Pia in January in time to get settled in Liverpool before his training camps and the racing starts. One of the ‘new’ things he will get the chance to experience is training with riders he has grown up with, like Ian Bibby and Jonny McEvoy, both NFTO in 2015.

“I was training with Jonny after the season finished and it was like being 12 years old again, training with your mate, having a laugh as well as getting your work done. It is a luxury that a lot of people don’t have” he says.


Left: Mark is part of the Halfords Tour Series winning team along with Ian Wilkinson, Ian Bibby, Ed Clancy and Rob Hayles.

Mark is not the only one looking forward to the chain gang that will be seen on the roads around Liverpool during 2015 as Ian Bibby too added he felt it was going to help him get back to form again. After the winter training comes the racing and Mark is crossing his fingers he gets to start with a race like the Tour of Normandy in France.

He is though fully aware that the racing in Britain will be tough. “I’m looking forward to the Premiers too as the level has gone up a lot in the last few years” Having seen Mark never race better, he seems to be well equipped for those challenges ahead however.

Another rider facing challenges will be Mark’s other half, the very attractive Pia De Quint from Belgium. The last time I saw Pia was cheering on Mark in the Tour of Britain. But Pia in 2015 will be racing here in Britain for the Velosure Starley Primal Women’s Team, probably a lot of the time far away from where Mark is.

Pia too was in the pain cave at Trainsharp and the founder of the company, Jon Sharples explained how working with Pia was a unique situation for his company.

“She is coming over to the UK off the back of a solid season of racing in Belgium. In some ways, the racing over here is similar, but in others, poles apart. Pia will be targeting the Women’s Tour Series whilst also hoping to get some good international races in the bag with Starley Primal”.

“To hold a licence in Europe, you are required to undergo a medical assessment and Pia had just completed this a few weeks before. As such, we focused on what we believe will be essential for her going forwards: Training with power is useless without the correct parameters put in place through testing, so Pia completed our Athlete potential test to determine her maximal aerobic power, which we use to accurately place her training zones”.


“It’s all about power in races like the Tour Series and this is what we measured – Pia’s in a great position being able to put out close to 1,000 watts in a sprint”!

That will be good news for Pia, perhaps not so good for her rivals, and she admits she is very much looking forward to racing here and excited for the season to get started”.

“This is my second year I have raced. I started in 2012 with a television programme and they said ‘you should race, you are good’ so I started training. I was then doing kermesses in Belgium after finding a good team.”

“I know there will be a lot of crits in Britain and that is what I am used to so I think it will work out well for me” As Jon has explained, Pia’s sprint is one of her strengths and I too am hoping to see her out on the chain gangs in Liverpool sprinting for signs and sharpening that sprint!

For Pia, this will be a very different year, away from home and concentrating full time on her racing in a country where women’s racing is very much in the news and public eye.

It is sure to be an interesting year for both Pia and Mark with a busy programme of races for both riders. We wish them well and look forward to seeing them up this way in January not far from the not so ivory towers of VeloUK on the Wirral!


Thanks to them both and Trainsharp for their help in putting together this article.

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