It was a great World Track Championships for Scotland with Katie Archibald coming home from Hong Kong as World Omnium Champion.
But not such a great Championships for Dundee’s Mark Stewart who was competing in the team pursuit and madison.
Unfortunately GB missed out on the bronze medal in the team pursuit to Italy whilst Mark and partner Ollie Wood were DNF in the madison.
We caught up with the AN Post professional a week or so after the Worlds, back in his Italian base – but first, let’s borrow from the British Cycling website and remind ourselves about how he came to be riding the 2017 Worlds.
‘In 2014, Mark was accepted onto British Cycling’s Olympic Academy Programme and at the Cali round of the 2014/15 World Cup series Mark was part of the bronze medal-winning team pursuit squad.
In 2015, Mark won his first senior gold medal on the world stage with victory in the scratch race in the second round of the 2014/15 UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Cambridge, New Zealand.
Mark completed an excellent weekend at the Avantidrome with a bronze medal in the Madison, alongside Germain Burton.
2016 saw further bronze medals in the team pursuit at both the under-23 and senior European championships, with silver in the scratch race at the under-23 championships as well.
Stewart then won the second world cup gold medal of his career as part of the British quartet in the team pursuit at the opening round of the 2016/17 UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Glasgow.
Those performances earned Stewart a selection for his first ever world championships at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Hong Kong in April 2017, where he was part of the Great Britain Cycling Team line up that finished fourth in the team pursuit.’
A 3:56 against Switzerland in the heats – your quickest ever.
“GB rode 3:58 in qualifying with Stevie Burke, Kian Emadi, Andy Tennant and Ollie Wood to qualify fifth fastest.
“I was in for the ride against Switzerland – the eight fastest teams ride in qualifying ride first against fourth; second against third; fifth against eighth and sixth against seventh – who were eighth fastest.
“That set up for the bronze ride off against Italy, they did 3:55 in qualifying then went down to New Zealand in the heats but did a 3:54 so that was third fastest ride and pitched them against us.
“The Aussies won the final against New Zealand and we were up on the Italians ‘til three laps to go in the ride off for bronze but they finished in 3:56 to our 3:58.
“We gave everything in that ride so can’t have any regrets but it was horrible to get lose – any other time I’ve been in that position we’ve won.
“I have mixed feelings about the experience, whilst it was a horrible to lose, I learned so much.”
No ‘mega’ Cervelo T5GB bikes as ridden in the Olympics I noticed – what gear did you ride or is that a secret?
“I think they’re working on them, developing them further…
“I rode 100” – I know that the Olympic squad geared higher in Rio but then they were going six seconds faster than us!”
[VeloVeritas’ spies advise us that in Rio, Wiggins, Doull and Clancy were on 64 x 15 (115.2”) with Burke on 58 x 14 (111.9”) ed.]
Those Aussies were impressive – 3:50, just off the world record, then 3:54 then 3:51 in the final.
“Very impressive, they brought an eight man team and every one of them was on the podium.
“There can’t be that many ‘freaks of nature’ in Australia, they’ve definitely developed a system to keep bringing young riders through.”
How was the Hong Kong track?
“All the timed events were quick and the crowd was great; they certainly got into the racing, I really enjoyed the experience of racing in front of them.”
The madison – not a good day for you and Ollie?
“A bad day, yes, but I touched my bunch bike just once in the weeks leading into the Worlds – all of my riding was geared towards the team pursuit.
“I just wasn’t riding like I’m capable of – I think the fact that you’re doing such specific work for the team pursuit affects your performance for other disciplines.”
The Frenchmen, Kneisky and Thomas who won the madison were invisible in the Berlin Six Day in February.
“Perhaps that was just part of their build up, geared towards the Worlds?
“And Thomas won the omnium, too – in what was a very impressive ride.”
Will you prepare in the same way for big competitions in future?
“That’s a big question!
“I did a training camp in Mallorca then I raced on the track in Ghent, after that was the Tour of Normandie – which was very hard but I felt I handled it well – then I had a recovery period.
“Coming into the Worlds we did five specific sessions to prepare for the Worlds; in the first three I wasn’t great but found my legs for the last two with the final one being a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the Worlds.
“In those last two sessions I felt that Ollie and I were the strongest.
“But I’m learning all the time and fine tuning as I go along.”
That new ‘no timed events’ omnium format must suit you?
“I was sixth in the Europeans and it’s something I’d perhaps like to pursue – but keeping a foot in the team pursuit camp.”
“I can only sing their praises – really good, Kurt, the manager is really good and there’s no problem about me training on the track.”
What are the next big targets?
“There are the U23 European Track Championships in the summer [it’s easy to forget that Mark is still only 21 years-old, ed.] then the Senior European Track Championships in the winter.
“There are six World Cups this winter, two in Europe with one in Manchester – which I hope to ride – one in Roubaix plus two in The Americas and two in Asia.
“On the road I have a race in Belgium on May 14th and then at the end of the month we have the U23 Paris-Roubaix.
“I don’t know what to expect but I’m looking forward to it.
“At the end of the year there’s the Tour de L’Avenir, which I’d like to ride again and hopefully the Tour of Britain with AN Post.”
And finally, how’s life in La Bella Italia?
“Ollie and I are working hard to get some road form – five hour runs, that kind of thing.
“We know the roads here, there’s internet in the house now and we have a car at our disposal – so it’s nice to be back!”
With thanks to Mark for his time, and best wishes for the season.