Rising star: former British points race champion Joe Nally
It’s fair to say that in recent years Scotland hasn’t produced as many road stars as – say – fellow Celtic nation Wales, but there’s a new crop coming up.
Commonwealth Games track medallist Mark Stewart is a name to watch, as are young Alfie George and Stuart Balfour. And then there’s Joe Nally, winner of the 2017 senior points national title at the tender age of 17.
Rouleur: How did you get started then?
Joe Nally: My parents were pretty sporty and outdoors types, so when I was young we would go hillwalking, climbing and cycling, all that sort of stuff. Cycling was the thing that stuck, that I really liked and it went from there really. I ended up joining a Go-Ride club when I was eight and kept going. I did a bit of everything: rode cyclo-cross and the Youth Tour of Scotland and track too.
Read: Rising star – junior Gent-Wevelgem winner Pfeiffer Georgi
You ended up riding for Hardie Bikes of course.
Craig Hardie backed me from really early on – and he still does, it’s just a family-run bike shop in Cairneyhill. He was a massive help and always looked out for me in all sorts of ways, whether it was equipment or training advice, riding with the chain-gang in summer or winter rides. He wouldn’t give me specific training plans, that was more Ben Greenwood from BC, who was working with younger riders in north England and Scotland at the time.
And that’s how you ended up in Manchester on the junior Academy?
Yeah, well, slowly you reach a door and push it open; well, give it a good kick actually (laughs) and then you get through that door and you see another one and just keep pushing.
It was quite hard in the sense that there was camp-based training and track sessions twice a month down in Derby or Newport and obviously I couldn’t drive, so my mum was driving me up and down the country and that’s before you even talk about going to races. And of course I was still at school studying for my Higher exams.
At what point did you get serious about racing then?
Well, at the start I was just enjoying riding and racing, then by 15 or 16 you start to think about cycling as a career. It was something I wanted to do, but it seemed so far-fetched at the time.
It sounds like you need a lot of commitment, in a lot of areas.
The further I go on, the more I realise that the mental side is really important in cycling. It’s not just someone having the physical talent, you’ve got to be able to deal with the mental stress.
Read: On the cusp – the formative years of Sky’s Eddie Dunbar
I’m with a good group at the moment, we’ve been together for a while and been on various programmes together and we are all committed to being here on the squad too. It’s not just about making ‘the numbers’ in tests or whatever, there’s more to it than that. You might have ‘the numbers’ but nothing else.
The transition from junior to senior, to under-23 is famously hard, how have you found it?
It’s hard alright and it’s easy to let things get on top of you.
You’ve been working a lot with Keith Lambert, who is famously old-school. The sort of guy who is capable of giving you a proper rollicking. How has that worked?
Ah, Keith. (laughs). I don’t know what to say about him, he’s…I know the word legend is used a lot, but I don’t know anyone who suits that as well as Keith. He ticks all the boxes. He’s been more than a coach or a manager, he’s a lot of things rolled into one. I don’t know anyone else like him.
Was there a particular thing he said that stuck in your mind?
Pretty much everything he’s ever told me (laughs). He knows so much, he’s been around so long, but he’s on it, so we’ve always got everything we need and you know what you’ve got to do.
Read: Twenty-two and on the WorldTour scrapheap – James Shaw’s tough break
When we were doing kermesses in Belgium last year, we’d ride two hours to the start, race the kermesse then drive back. Well, Keith would ride with us to the start – and we weren’t just mincing around, we’d be riding at a decent pace – but he’d be at the front, putting us in the gutter in the crosswinds. Unbelievable. I think he’s 72 or something, but don’t quote me! [laughs].
You ended the season at the Tour of Britain, in part of a young team.
I wasn’t sure I was going to get a ride, I had had a pretty bad season, nothing had really clicked all year. From June onwards I was going to races and either getting completely smashed or not getting round at all. In the end we sat down and re-assessed.
I did two weeks training in August that would decide whether I went to the Tour of Britain or end my season. So I got my head down, I trained for a couple of weeks and got better and rode the race, which was amazing. For the first time I got through a race that was more than five days without falling apart, which is progress I suppose [laughs].
You’ve won on track and road. What’s your ideal future?
From when I started riding I always loved the romance and the history of stage racing and that’s still what I prefer. Having said that, I really love racing on the track and there’s no better feeling than racing on track when you’ve got good form. In the future my main goal is to race at World Tour on the road really. But for the moment I’m more than happy to race track now and see where it takes me.