Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Mark Stewart – Team Pursuiting to a World Cup Bronze!


HomeInterviewsMark Stewart - Team Pursuiting to a World Cup Bronze!

Picking up the baton of Scottish international success from Katie Archibald in the pursuits and Callum Skinner in the kilometre, British Points Race Champion, Mark Stewart came away from the recent UCI World Cup in Cali with a bronze medal in the team pursuit.

Riding with Germain Burton, Chris Latham and Matt Gibson the GB Academy team rode a 4:03 in the second round to set a new record for an Academy squad.

Mark Stewart
Mark (2nd left) and the guys rode to third in the Team Pursuit with a series fastest of 4′ 03″. Photo©Mark Stewart

But first let’s look at the new UCI team pursuit rules which mean there are three rides in a competition now, not just two:

Team Pursuit World Cup Rules

  • The eight teams recording the best times in the qualifying shall be matched in the first round in the order as follows:
    • The team having obtained the 6th fastest time against the one having obtained the 7th fastest time.
    • The team having obtained the 5th fastest time against the one having obtained the 8th fastest time.
    • The team having obtained the 2nd fastest time against the one having obtained the 3rd fastest time.
    • The team having obtained the fastest time against the one having obtained the 4th fastest time.
  • All the teams from the first round shall dispute the finals.
  • The rides shall be ridden in the inverse order to that stated below.
  • The winners of the last two heats in the first competition round shall ride the final for first and second places.
  • The remaining six teams shall be ranked according to their times from the first round and shall dispute the finals as follows:
    • The two fastest teams shall ride the final for 3rd and 4th places.
    • The next two fastest teams shall ride the final for 5th and 6th places.
    • The final two teams shall ride the final for 7th and 8th places.

Simples!  (If you’re a Krypton Factory finalist.)

Anyway …

The GB team qualified in 4:06; then rode 4:03 in the second round before beating the Danes with 4:05 in the ride for third and fourth place with the mighty Aussie Team Pursuit Factory churning out another gold medal squad to beat Russia in the final.

Mark Stewart
Mark Stewart.

Here’s what Mark had to say to us a day or two after he’d returned from Cali.

Nice job in Cali, Mark – three rides now?

“Yes, they changed the rules last year, it’s a bit complicated but the bottom line is that you ride three times in a tournament instead of just two.”

I was looking at your splits; the first K is where you lose out to the Aussies.

“We go off at a pace and ride to schedule – it depends how we feel but we ride at a pace we can maintain for four K.

“The Aussies go off hard and ride to get to three K fast then they die and hang on!”

Which wheel are you?

“I’m man four, Chris Latham starts for us; his effort is fast but controlled.

“You can’t go off too fast or you’ll pay for it later.”

How’s the Cali track?

“It’s a fast track but it’s outdoors; whilst there’s a canopy over the riding surface the sides are open and it’s breezy.

“On the one hand you have the advantage of the reduced air pressure at altitude but then on the other hand you can be riding into a headwind.”

Mark Stewart
‘Man Four’ at the top of the track, Mark and team take their marks. Photo©Mark  Stewart

No ‘superbikes’ for you – Pinarellos, when do you get your hands on the matt black tools?

“It’s anyone’s guess; when you’ve proved yourself and have a chance of the Olympics.

“The Pinarellos are nice bikes though but not as special as the Worlds team bikes.”

What’s the gear and rubber?

“We were on 104″ – the biggest gear I’ve ever raced on before was 97” but it felt perfect on the day at 120/125 revs.

“I was on 175 mm cranks with a rear disc and five spoke front, that was due to the windy conditions – with Vittoria tyres.”

How does your system cope with travel to South America?

“It’s an 11 hour flight and they’re five hours ‘behind’ us. On the way out it was OK, British Cycling have it all worked out as far as getting over the jet lag.

“But when my I got back I slept for 16 hours, straight.

“My roommate, said to me; ‘you’re awake then !’ It was dark so I thought it was still morning but I’d slept all day and it was the dark of the evening.

“You might think it’s only four kilometres but it does take a lot out of you – especially now that there are three rides and you’re riding kilometres under one minute.”

How are you settling in to Manchester?

“It’s all right but not as good as Glasgow; just about anywhere in Scotland you’re in the countryside within 10/15 minutes riding time – in Manchester it takes 40 minutes.

“If you go for a one hour spin then the whole run is in the traffic.”

Mark Stewart
Mark leads Chris Latham, Matt Gibson and Germain Burton to an Academy Team record. Photo©Mark Stewart

What’s the training like?

“Chris Newton is our coach and as a former World Champion he’s a man who knows what he’s talking about.

“But I was surprised; in Glasgow I’d train for three hours on the track and ride myself into the ground.

“But here it’s more about less effort but of very high quality – some of the sessions aren’t as tough as I’d expected.

“But of course there are times when you’re just dead after the day’s training.

“We do a lot of flying kilometres and one madison session each week.

“The focus is on the Olympic events – team pursuit, points, omnium …”

Do you train with the “A” squad, Ed Clancy and the rest?

“We see them every day, we’re all at the track at the same time but we tend to talk about anything but cycling!

“But with guys like Ed Clancy and Steven Burke you have riders who’ve been riding team pursuit at the highest level for 10 years and they’re happy to advise you.

“The opportunity is there to move up and train with them …”

What about the Worlds and Olympics?

“We had a meeting with Chris Newton and Heiko Salzwedel and they told us that if we prove ourselves and work hard the door’s not shut.

“It’s difficult but possible …”

What’s the programme now?

“We have the Challenge Mallorca but I’m not sure how many of the races we’re riding.

“There’ll be a focus on the road before we go back to the track for the U23 European Track Championships in the summer.

“We have nine riders and whilst some of their futures are on the road I love the track and see myself riding it for the foreseeable future.”