The Interview took place at Manchester Velodrome during the National Track Championships where Craig MacLean was contesting the Sprint title. He took home Gold for both the Individual and the Team Sprint.
During a big track competition the centre of the velodrome is filled with cycling stars sitting on their rollers, psyching themselves up for the big event. And they’ve all got their head-phones in, but just what music does a champion listen to when they’re getting ‘in the zone’?
Continuing in our series of interviews, we spoke to Scottish sprinter Craig MacLean to find out just what he listens to on his i-pod, what his plans are for the coming year and most importantly we wanted to know whether or not Craig indulges in the occasional night on the tiles…
Well done in the Sprint, how do you feel at the moment?
It was alright. It was pretty much what expected. I’m just trying to get back into training really, so I’m not in the best of form. But you know, the season hasn’t really started for us yet, it doesn’t really start till November so I am quite happy with the way things have gone really.How do you feel coming into a competition like the Nationals from an international level, do you still get nervous?
You get a little bit nervous. Obviously there is not quite so much at stake but we’ve got some of the fastest guys in the world in the British team and they are all riding here so it’s still going to be a difficult competition.Do you have any pedalling drills or technique tips?
Spend time on the rollers just working on smooth pedalling and not being too up and down with your pedalling and just being efficient I guess. Other than that we don’t do a whole lot of specific drills for pedalling. We don’t tend to think of it too much but I mean that’s just because were a bit older and we don’t have to think about it anymore, but yeah I think it is important for the youngsters to be able to pedal, absolutely.
How long have you been track cycling for?
I have been on the British team for 11 years now.
It was just kind of… it wasn’t the last thing I tried, but I was doing all forms of cycling when I first started – I just did it for a bit of keep fit, something else to do, a bit of fun. So I did some mountain biking, did some time trials, some road races, did a little bit of grass track…I was studying at home then so I used to go down to the track there. I was never going anywhere in the road races because I was always bigger built than most of the guys that were winning. Mountain biking I could do ok but again there were hills and that was a problem so it was just a case of naturally gravitating towards the track once I realised I was rubbish at everything else! (laughter)
How do you find the seasons, with those in the Southern Hemisphere, they can use a competition like the Nationals to build for bigger events, is it a disadvantage that a quality event like the Nationals is held during your rest phase?
Last year it was good. I had a very clear summer with no racing at all, basically, from the World Championships in April right through to the Nationals which I think were in October last year so I did a massive block of training. This year it was a bit disrupted. I spent a couple of months in Japan, racing out there so it’s very difficult to try and balance off-season training with the racing and stuff out there. So my preparation for this season now has been a bit delayed so hence my form’s not quite as good as it was at this point last year but it’s good, I’m quite optimistic.
And do you get a full rest?
I’ve not. I mean I would have liked to. I got back from Japan at the end of July so it would have been nice to have two weeks then. I couldn’t rest after the Worlds because I was preparing for Japan so it’s been difficult trying to keep on top of a little bit of training and trying and manage some quality rest as well so but I think I will be alright.Do you normally aim to have one peak in the year or a couple?
Normally sort of one and half. So the World Champs obviously, Olympics, Commonwealth games are this time of year, but you always have a small peak at some other point in the year just to try out, make sure your training is going in the right direction, that sort of thing.
So do you guys go out for a few drinks, have a bit of time off and completely let your hair down or is it really, really strict for you guys and do you constantly worry about your rest?
Are you recording? (laughter)
Basically, do you get pissed?
I’ve been known to occasionally yeah, I mean if you do it once in a blue moon it’s not that damaging and you know mentally it’s good to do. Have a few beers, you know, if you’re too strict with your diet and don’t allow yourself things then you just go crazy because it’s a pretty stressful feeling and beating all the time, you need a bit of a break from it.
Oh its pretty mixed really, Foo Fighters are always there, there’s a bit of Metallica, Led Zeppelin a lot of rock stuff.
Do have any top 5 tips, to add?
Don’t get pissed. (Laughter)
At world level, especially you know it’s crucial for me, tactically I’m not particularly astute, so I rely on my speed quite heavily. I didn’t qualify particularly well today so I think I might have Jason Kenny next, so I’ll probably struggle.
It’s a good opportunity for you to work on your tactics maybe?
Yes definitely, I normally take a lot of confidence from the time trial, knowing I am a lot faster than the other guys but when you’re evenly matched then it’s not as easy.
But in training do you throw yourself into that sort of situation, use your strength against a known team member’s strength and prepare as if you’re in a certain situation?
No we never do match sprint stuff in training it’s always just really structured. You train for a specific part of your standing lap and then the standing laps within the specialty for the team sprint. So I train predominantly for that and then ride, sprint is off the back of the training from that.
And is there a lot of work on the bike but out of the seat as well?
I certainly do quite a lot of that because, as I say it’s a standing lap and your, for ¾ of the lap your out of the saddle so it’s pretty important really.
So, as the time approaches for us to indulge in some mince pies and have a bit of a rest we wish good luck to Craig for the coming season. Look out for more ‘star interviews’ to follow this month.