MARK McNally will be sporting some new kit in more ways than one next season after his new Belgium team announced a deal with KALAS Sportswear.
The two-year deal sees Europe’s leading manufacturer and distributor of sports apparel supplying Wanty-Groupe Gobert with all their technical cycling kit and casual clothing from January 2016.
McNally, 26, who speaks a bit of Flemish courtesy of his girlfriend, Pia De Quint, a rider for UCI women’s team Lares-Waowdeals, is looking forward to moving up a level next season with his new team, which is a Pro Conti UCI squad..
He said: “I am very excited, naturally. This is a step up. It was a long time coming and it’s a dream come true. This is my first pro contract and riding with a pro-continental team enables me to ride WorldTour-level races.
“Belgian cycling suits me well. Fast races without long climbs, where I hope to show my versatility – working for a sprinter, being in a breakaway or ride for a result myself. I like the life in Belgium, much more relaxed than the UK.
“I already showed that I am competitive in the Belgian races that Madison-Genesis did this August – one win, one podium and one top 10. Some riders on the Wanty-Groupe Gobert team I know already. Roy Jans and I were on An Post-Chain Reaction together. I expect that I’ll adjust well and that we’ll have a great season together.”
Mark has crammed in a lot of racing into his career so far despite his relatively young age. In 2008, he was U-23s Men’s Team Pursuit European Track Championships and the same year also won silver in the points race at British National Track Championships.
Then in 2011, he won the overall at Mi-Août Bretonne and finished second at Zellik–Galmaarden before clocking up impressive results at Omloop van het Houtland (3rd); Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Beloften (6th) and Internationale Wielertrofee Jong Maar Moedig (7th).
McNally’s pedigree also reaped rewards with good results in 3rd Zellik–Galmaarden (3rd, 2012); GP van de stad Geel (5th, 2013); Rutland–Melton International CiCLE Classic (3rd, 2014) and Grote Prijs Jef Scherens (3rd, 2015).
Undoubtedly, one of his most stellar performances came back in 2014, when he spent a week on the podium in the King of The Mountains jersey while riding for An Post.
After pulling on the coveted jersey on Stage One of the Tour of Britain – in his home-town of Liverpool, no less – Mark managed to defend attacks from some of the best climbers in the world to retain the jersey when the week-long stage race finished in London.
He was then lured back to the racing scene in the UK with an offer from Madison Genesis in 2015, where the team’s racing in pre-Tour of Britain events abroad gave him the opportunity to get some results and has now led to a chance at riding the classics with Wanty-Groupe Gobert.
Hilaire Van Der Schueren , from Wanty-Groupe Gobert, said: “The connection between Wanty-Groupe Gobert and Mark McNally went via Roger Hammond, team manager of Madison-Genesis.
“I know Roger very well. I have been his sports director for almost his entire career. He suggested Mark and I followed his racing in Belgium and the Tour of Britain. He knows the Flemish races well. He won the Erpe-Mere kermesse, was third in GP Jef Scherens and 10th in a hard-fought edition of GP Zottegem.”
This is the first time that the former GB Academy rider, who was based in Italy at 19, has ridden at ProConti level and is certainly a long way from his days at the Halfords team before making Belgium his home with An Post.
McNally added: “They don’t have super star riders, but they have good riders and their results in the big races comes from hard graft. Hopefully, I will be able to add my own hard graft and aggressiveness to it. The team did Flanders and Roubaix this year and, hopefully, will do the same next year.
“They are races that I have dreamt of doing since I was a kid. So I am really happy to have a chance and opportunity to be part of a team that is riding at that highest level.
“There may be a little adjusting to do because the seasons earlier, so I’ll start training a bit earlier. I do love racing in Belgium. It’s a nice culture and there is a lot of good bike racing so it will be good.
“Racing In Britain reminded me of how much I missed the European racing. I did love being at home and racing here, but the big races, atmosphere and style of the racing – I miss that buzz you get racing in events with the big teams in them. You get that opportunity in the UCI races here, but I think it reminded me of what I perhaps took for granted before.”