Feature: Mark Christian (Eolo Kometa Cycling Team)

Former King of the Mountains in the Tour of Switzerland (2018), the Isle of Man’s Mark Christian is training hard on the Rock for the 2021 season

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Feature: Mark Christian (Eolo Kometa Cycling Team)

Former King of the Mountains in the Tour of Switzerland (2018), the Isle of Man’s Mark Christian, is training hard on the Rock for the 2021 season. Like his British teammate John Archibald, Mark was unable to go to Spain for his team’s training camp and also missed a one day race in Valencia.

Whilst a few British pros have been able to get to Spain by driving down (a two day trip), such trips are not without their dangers such as being stopped at the border and turned around so most of the British pros including Mark are staying home and preparing for their racing at home.

Mark explained how the off season for pro riders has been getting shorter and shorter with riders not getting a lot of time to ease back and take chunks of time off. For him though, it’s been a while since he’s been able to race and so meeting the Eolo Kometa Cycling Team in December was time for his return to the big time to get real.

“We did some big hours in the first camp with some intensity as well” says Mark. “We did plenty of climbing too and it was a good block of work” Mark added. “It was important to meet everyone for the first time because when you are in that team environment, it makes a lot of difference compared to video chats and so on”.

“Right from the get go, it was a very professional camp. You could see everyone involved in the team has got experience like Sean (Yates), the management (Ivan Basso and Alberto Contador), the mechanics and swannys, so we’ve gone straight into it with everyone knowing what the drill is. That was good and it was great to see the whole team, see who is who and they have a very professional way about them.”

“With Basso and Contador having been in the sport recently, they know how a team has to operate at that level.”

“At the time you meet everyone when it is all quite new and you are meeting everyone for the first time, it all gets quite real and I’m looking forward to getting the kit as it looks really nice.”

Whilst Mark was unable to go to his team’s training camp, the training he is doing is a direct replacement of what his training would have been in Spain. Doing that on the Rock (Isle of Man) says Mark is that bit harder because you’re not getting that time sitting in the wheels of a group in between efforts because you’re on own all the time and in the wind.”

Mark explained he quite likes focusing on the efforts he has to do. “You have a plan set by the coaches so you know what you need to achieve for the day. Sometimes in a group, they can egg you on a bit but on my own, I have a good focus on what I need to do and that helps. Sometimes in a training camp, you’ll ride in the group and then split off to do the efforts on your own anyway so it’s more a mental thing doing efforts solo”.

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Training on a bike though is more than just having to ride hard. There’s the weather to contend with as well. “We did have a patch of a week or two with icy conditions and whilst normally you could wait for it to thaw out during the day, it wasn’t doing that during the day so I didn’t even bother to go out. I was on the turbo for a good week at least and committed to that because I didn’t think it was worth the risk”.

“Luckily it improved after that. I think we have been better than the UK weather wise. They had a right dump of snow and we seemed to avoid that. A lot of the time, it can stay milder during this time of the year compared to the UK. Not sure why. Perhaps it’s to do with being in the middle of the sea and getting warmer air? I remember when I was based in Manchester, once you had a cold spell, it sets in where as here it comes and goes a bit more. The last week has been okay and I’m hoping it stays like that”.

Riding in icy weather carries with it the risk of falling and for a professional like Mark, that needs to be taken into account. “Sometimes you will look outside and the road is okay at your house but 10 or 15 minutes down the road, it can change and it only takes one bit of ice to bring you down. For the sake of one ride, you can end up having to take a couple of weeks off if you break something and it’s not worth it so you have to weigh it all up and be patient.”

Asked if his training is all on road or a mix of on and off road, Mark replied, “I have a gravel bike but I prefer to stick to the road. Before Christmas, I was mixing it up with some mountain bike rides and off roading on the gravel bike as well but since I got into the serious training, I tend to stick to the road bike”.

As we have all seen of late, the racing calendar for the first few months has seen a lot of events cancelled and Mark is hoping things settle down and there is racing further into the season. “The whole Covid thing is seems to be pretty rough in the UK and Europe and these hotspots are effecting races like Valencia in Spain, even Mallorca so fingers crossed we can look ahead a few months and the calendar will look a bit clearer but it’s a shame to see some of the early season races cancelled because we had high hopes of racing them.”

What Mark is looking forward to are the events with a tough parcour. “I prefer the hillier stuff so I think there will be plenty of opportunity to get stuck into those races. The races I did best in were the hiller races so I’d like to repeat that and step up this time”.

Last time we spoke to Mark on the Isle of Man, life was pretty normal with the pandemic under control. Not now though. “Life has been a bit strange lately” says Mark. “We had lockdown at the start of last year but when it settled down, we were back to normal day-to-day life. But then some cases of the virus popped up and there was a freak one.”

“When you come back to the Isle of Man, you have to isolate for two weeks, like I had to do after the last Xmas training camp. Someone did the two weeks isolation and then somehow went out into the public in the third week after not having been tested and they spread the virus about a bit. The government got straight on it with a circuit breaker lockdown which is more doable over here but there were still some cases coming up though. When they go down to zero, the restrictions will get eased again I hope”.

Fingers crossed life gets easier for Mark to get back to racing for his new team and he gets the opportunities to show what can do in the races just like has in the past.

You can read the previous feature on Mark here on VeloUK ….

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