Monday, July 15, 2024

Mark Stewart – Hitting the Headlines Again with Gold at the Track World Cup


HomeInterviewsMark Stewart - Hitting the Headlines Again with Gold at the Track...

He’s been making the headlines again, that Mark Stewart laddie.

We last spoke to him after his wins in the British scratch and team pursuit championships – not forgetting his silver in the points race.

This time it was success in the second round of the UCI World Cup in New Zealand where he won the scratch race.

Mark Stewart
Mark Stewart. Photo©Ed Hood

But first we thought we’d get his view on the London ‘Six’ where he won the first night’s “1878 Cup.”

“London was awesome, I loved the lifestyle, relax during the day then race in evening.

“It was fast racing but a great experience to be part of it all.”

After London it was the U23 Six Day in Gent for Mark and partner, Germain Burton with the duo winning five chases out of six – crashes compromising their last night.

“That’s a good memory too, we cleaned up but on that last night fatigue was maybe setting in and we had those spills.

“When I came down my bike apparently landed in an old lady’s lap up in the stand.

“The commissaire gave me a warning for running back across the track to get my bike back!”

Mark Stewart
Mark and Germain Burton exchange during the London Six. Photo©Ed Hood

And did their rides in London and Gent net them any other Six Day rides?

“We have Berlin at the end of January but it’s difficult for the likes of Rotterdam and Copenhagen because of training camp commitments with the national team.”

London, Gent, New Zealand, that’s a lot of travelling…

“Yeah, it’s a lot of time on my feet, I’ve shared a room every night with Germain for the last month; we’ve never been off the road but this is what it’s all about – living the life.

“My motto is to eat and sleep when I can but British Cycling look after us well.

“I was a wee bit tired when I got to New Zealand but it didn’t affect me too much.”

Mark Stewart
Mark loves the life of a full-time cyclist. Photo©Ed Hood

And what about the New Zealand boards, did they roll nicely?

“Awesome, world class, it’s a new track, still fresh and fast – the Aussies were flying on it.”

Mark rode the team pursuit qualifying on Friday as a ‘warm’ up for his scratch race on Saturday but it didn’t go quite as anticipated…

“It was going to plan until two laps to go when Germain lost the wheel.

“Olly Woods did his spell and swung up to the top of the banking just as Chris Latham and I went for home but of course, when he came down Germain’s wheel wasn’t there so he was off.

“We finished with a 4:04 but that time was on Olly – but for the mistake we’d have ridden a 4:01 at worst which would have put us into fourth spot.

“We qualified seventh but finished fifth and what was encouraging was that Joe Holt came in for Chris Latham in the second and third rides and fitted right in.

“We weren’t sure how he would go but he rode well.

“On the Saturday I had the two team pursuit rides before the scratch race but I knew I had good legs and my morale was good.”

Mark Stewart
Mark is piling in the experience – and the palmarès. Photo©Ed Hood

What was the game plan for the scratch race?

“Just to enjoy it – there was no plan other than to ride aggressively.

“I made a few mistakes but it all worked out in the end.

“It was one of those races where there would be a little move then we’d all be up on the fence – a nervous, twitchy affair.

“I hate being on the fence, I’d sooner be racing.

“With 15 laps to go the Colombian went and got three quarters of a lap virtually right away. I went after him with 10 to go and with five to go I saw that he’d made it up to the back of the bunch, I thought “oh no !” but I clawed my way on with four to go so the two of us were a lap up.

“After that I only had eyes for him and I came round him with two to go – it was messy and a real slog but I held on to it to win.”

Three team pursuit rides and a scratch win but there was still work to do…

“Yes, the madison was on Sunday and we went in to win it.

“Germain crashed at half distance but got back on right away.

“The Aussies took a lap early but faded away and didn’t finish – we heard that Bobridge had problems with his back.

“Kneisky and Thomas won it for France – but Kneisky’s world champion, isn’t he?

“And the Swiss guys were second, Dillier (BMC professional, Silvan Dillier was part of the world champion TTT squad, ed.) is very strong.

“But we rode well and we feel as if our spiral is continuing upwards.”

Mark Stewart
The Berlin Six is Mark’s next engagement on the pro boards. Photo©Ed Hood

How’s recovery been from all those fast laps?

“Pretty good – my heart rate was 34 the day after we came back.

“I got back into the home routine pretty quickly and even had time to pass my driving test!

“I have to admit that I popped a caffeine gel before I sat the test, though!”

And are elite athletes allowed home for Christmas?

“Yeah, we’re home then, I’ll see the family and get the miles in on home roads; although I have to say that I like road training around Manchester.

“The roads are good and you can get up into the Peak District.

“I’m looking forward to giving the road a good go in 2016 – but first, there’s that Berlin Six Day…”

Mark Stewart
We reckon we’ll be seeing Mark with the flowers more in 2016. Photo©Ed Hood