By Shane Stokes
Following a quiet couple of seasons with the AG2R-Prévoyance team, former world junior champion Mark Scanlon is training hard before moving to race on the US circuit in 2007. The 26 year-old competed in the Tour de France in 2004 and has been racing professional on the continent for four years. However, having taken the decision to turn his back on European racing, it appears he has rediscovered his motivation and has been working hard.
"I have four weeks of training done now and have covered 2,400 miles [3862 kilometres], about 600 more than in the same period last year," he said this week. "It is just a matter of keeping that going until I get away again in January. I’m feeling motivated - the change of scene is one factor, and so too the fact that I know I can win races next year. That is a bit of a boost all right."
In October, Scanlon first revealed that he was planning on racing in the US. Now he explained why he reached that decision. "Firstly, I have been in Europe since I was 17 or 18 and it has come to the point now where I am not getting motivated for the big races the way I should be. At the same time too, you wonder if you should be making big sacrifices to finish 16th or 17th in a race, if guys are doping. It is not very motivating.
"I also feel I have been over-raced in Europe, basically. A change is as good as a break, that is the way I am looking at it," he added.
The 26 year-old Sligoman recently signed a contract with an American squad, but the identity of it is still to be confirmed. "The team doesn’t want me to give any details before the launch. But I think it will work out well. I am going to be based in Los Angeles and the racing programme will be lighter than Europe, meaning that I will be able to prepare much better. I did 120 days racing a year during my first two seasons as a pro; next year should be 60 to 70 days racing, so I will have lot more time to train and prepare properly."
Providing it fits in with his schedule, Scanlon would also like to explore the possibility of doing some track racing. He rode well in the recent trials organised by Cycling Ireland in Belgium, which the federation hopes will lead to some of its big road riders qualifying for velodrome events in the next Olympics.
"It was my first time on a wooden track so it was pretty interesting," Scanlon stated. "Having the right technique is important and it takes a while to learn that, but I would definitely like to do more of it. Especially if the funding was there. There is a track in Los Angeles so it will make it easier to do (in between road races)."
As the countdown continues to the start of the new season, Scanlon said he will keep working hard. "I am going over to the US next week for eight days training. Then I will keep it as quiet as possible [socially - ed.] over Christmas and keep training away. I will get as many miles in as I can, building form."