He's been a wee bit quiet for a while - but that doesn't mean he's not been busy. Despite everything else he's been up to, Macca is currently preparing an all-out assault on the UK Road Nationals this weekend. We wish him well, but until then, it's great to hear once more from the man we like to call Liverpool's Lionheart...
Well, it’s been a while – a very long while, actually. “Where have you been?” I hear you say. The truth is I’ve been where I’ve always been – grafting away on the Belgian team trying to balance being a professional rider, a husband (that’s actually something new) and a soon-to-be father (that’s even newer!).
Macca sprinting for the line. Shame sixteen riders were up the road in a break
As ever in sport we have good times and bad times. I can’t put my finger on it exactly but this year something hasn’t really clicked yet. In my eyes I have worked harder than ever. At the end of last year I went back to the drawing board and identified places where I think I could have made improvements in my performances. This drawing board session ended up with:
- a bike fit
- working with a dietician
- and a Mental Coach (a sports-related psychologist not a mad man who gives me crazy training sessions: that job still belongs to Jon Sharples and his team at TrainSharpe)
My Classics season wasn’t as fantastic as I would have liked it to be, even though I think my level was actually better than last year. But as so often in sport you can do things exactly the same or even that little tiny bit better and things just don’t go your way. To quote my father who is a true fountain of wisdom ‘Telavive’ (he means c’est la vie but his French isn’t what it used to be and I respect him too much to correct him!).
There have been a lot of changes in my personal life of late. As I mentioned before, I got married to a wonderful Belgian woman who props me up every time I get a bit wobbly, and we’re expecting our first child (the cat isn’t happy that she will no longer be the cutest member of the family).
Pia McNally and bump decorating the new house
To add to this, recently my father-in-law died after a short and hard battle with cancer. Things like this really make you take a step back and realise all the things you stress about are so utterly unimportant. All that matters is your health, your loved ones and friends. The rest is just what society would like us to believe is important. My father-in-law used to say to my wife and her four sisters (testament to the greatness of the man that he could handle five times the amount of sassy, strong-minded womanhood I can) ‘als ge iets doet, dan doet ge’t goed’ which roughly translated means ‘If you do something, do it well’. For him I’m going to keep riding every day with that sentiment in my heart.
The happy couple, with Pia's late father
As if that wasn’t enough big changes in a short space of time, we also recently bought our first house. My own father and my big brother, ‘Our Kev’, came to give us a hand moving. The move was not easy, but went pretty smoothly thanks to some hard work from friends and family who came to help. Anyway, being true to their Scouse roots (that means they come from Liverpool for those of you who live underneath a rock or outside of the UK) they put the football on the TV once we’d finished all the heavy lifting. They were criticising the players for not converting every opportunity they had into a goal, as in: ‘they are paid so much they should never miss’. This statement has really stayed with me. I know how hard I work. How I obsess and constantly review what I do, always questioning whether I am doing everything I can to be the best I can be.
Before an elite sportsperson becomes an elite sportsperson they are just a normal person with a passion or a hobby. They probably had an accident in their pants at the primary school performance of ‘A Teddy Bears Picnic’. They probably fell flat on their face when they removed their stabilisers from their first bike, because their dad took the stabilisers off their older brother’s bike and anything their older brother could do, so could they. And they probably failed 100 times for every success they have had in their career.
What I’m trying to say is the sporting heroes, no matter how important they are, no matter how highly paid they are, they are just human, and they make mistakes just like everyone else. And they are not only human. They are humans who are under huge pressure to perform. And every movement they make is scrutinized by the media and by the public. So next time you find yourself shouting at your TV because someone missed a ‘sitter’, a set piece or a penalty, ask yourself how would you cope if you’d tried your best, done everything you could to give your best performance and failed at the last hurdle.
Tot the volgende keer Conquistatjes!