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David McNamee: stepping up
Posted by: John Levison
Posted on: Friday 27th September 2013


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An interview with GB's number three ranked ITU athlete

Scotland's David McNamee is a member of the Sketchers ActivInstinct Performance Team and has been racing this season on the ITU World Triathlon Series, ending the 2013 season ranked 16th in the world. That left him as the third British athlete in the overall rankings - an impressive effort considering that the top Brits were the Brownlee brothers.

David and the team recently had some great news with the addition of Austrian brand Airstreeem bikes as a sponsor for the remainder of 2013 and 2014 season. David will be putting his new and, as yet, little ridden new Airstreeem TT bike to use this weekend when he tries out the half-iron distance at The Gauntlet, part of the Markel Hever Castle Triathlon.

I spoke to David about Airstreeem, his 2013 season, ITU racing, thoughts on longer distances, Commonwealth Games and much more from the Cycle Show where David was helping Airstreeem with their UK launch.


Getting to the bikes straight away, I asked David about his thoughts on the new sponsorship news for the team.

"It's obviously really exciting news to have a bike sponsor for the team. I've only switched over recently to the Airstreeem bikes and I have to say they really are very impressive. I'll be riding their TT bike this weekend at Hever, but also the Race Air (Triple E) road bike model. They have also provided us with some very good wheels, so all is looking good and I'm looking forward to putting some miles in on them."

With three top-10 finishes in the 2013 WTS (San Diego (10th), Yokohama (9th) and Stockholm (10th)), and a season ending ranking ranking of 16th, was he content with his year?

"Pretty much so - I guess if you'd asked me my target at the start of the year I'd have aimed for a top-10 finish overall, and before London that was still possible with a better result than I was able to produce that day, but all-in-all, and finishing as third Brit, I think it was a good achievement."

Janos Schmidt / ITUDavid is one of a large group of elite triathletes based in Leeds - something that seems to be paying dividends. I asked him about the set up there, the training and the coaching environment.

"Yes, I've been based in Leeds for two years now - it really is great for cycling! It also has a great vibe about it, being around people doing well - and it does seem that 'success breeds success' in that regard.

"Training is a mixture really of different groups and individual, independent training. It is a set up that really suits me. In terms of swimming, we pretty much all swim together daily and Jack Maitland overseas and sets the whole swim program and also helps with race scheduling. Run wise, I do two sessions a week with Malcolm Brown and he has complete control and decision about those sessions - as well as an overall awareness of what I'm doing more generally - but ultimately, it falls to me to pull everything together and do the right sessions around that basic structure.

"That is something I like, and as a very independent person it suits me and works well. The overall program as such is fluid there is no 'one size fits all' approach, and there is access to various experts / input when needed. It is a very positive approach which seems to work very well."

Looking at the ITU season, particularly 2013, there is now quite a mix of races with some flat/city races (e.g. London, Hamburg), some hilly/challenging courses (Madrid, Stockholm) and different distances / styles including the much talked about Kitzb├╝hel race. Is that something he welcomes?

"As we now have eight or nine races, I think if they were all of the same style and we were asking the athletes to race pretty much the same thing every two weeks or so, it would get very 'routine'. The mixture of styles also allows more opportunities for athletes to use and display their strengths. If you take Stockholm for example, Alistair managed to get that break by showing his bike strength to create a gap in the late stages on a tough, technical course.

©Delly Carr / ITU

"What we're also seeing now is that the good swimmers are wanting to make use of that advantage - London / Stockholm / Hamburg saw breakaways from the swim which held for the whole of the bike, athletes are now much more prepared and able to swim hard and then do damage on the bike. The cycling standards and strength are definitely stronger than last year."

Having taken a Silver medal at the World Under-23 Champs in Beijing, 2011 and now reached 16th in the 2013 rankings, is David happy with the progress he has been making year-on-year?

"As an athlete I don't think you are every really happy, you always want more - but generally, yes, I am. Looking back there really isn't much I would have changed in terms of training over the past two years and I think I've got as much out of myself as I can. Racing is getting so close and standards so high now that even getting 10/15 seconds faster might be ten places higher on the finish line."

©Delly Carr / ITU

Does racing The Gaunlet (half iron) this weekend represent a change in direction, or some end of season 'fun' - is ITU racing still going to remain the priority for 2014?

"The focus is still predominantly ITU, but I think it has been shown by - by Javier Gomez, some of the Russian guys, Gavin Noble just as examples - that it is possible to mix both. The 2014 ITU schedule finishes in late August, so there are still a good six weeks or more of the season left after the Edmonton Grand Final, so it offers a chance to do something different next year. Whether that will lead to doing more in 2015, we'll see, but I think I might be well suited to the 70.3 distance as I think I'm more of a 'strong' than 'fast' athlete. That said, after Hever this weekend I might change my mind totally if I hate it!

"You have to be so fit in ITU racing these days, I feel it is where the best athletes compete, so in terms of training for ITU versus 'Middle' I don't think I would change too much, because we already do huge 'volume' anyway."

Does that volume apply to running too - what would you do in terms of 'long run' in preparation for ITU racing at various times of the year?

"Well, I would regularly do long runs of up to two hours during the early part of the season which distance wise would be around 30km. I'm not sure if that is the case for everyone, but probably not unusual. We'd run every day, sometimes twice a day, so there would be periods when running 10 times / week is normal, so plenty of volume in there on the run."

Janos Schmidt / ITUThe London Grand Final result (25th) might not have been the result David wanted, but how did the race go from his perspective?

"I didn't really feel great from the off. I had a relatively poor swim and so this meant that I was in the chase pack (on the bike) from the start. I worked hard on the bike to try and close / catch the front group but unfortunately a) we didn't, and b) when we got to the run, I didn't really have my 'run legs' with me! That said, it was a great experience and the crowds, truly, were absolutely fantastic. I t really was great to have a passionate home support to race in front of."

There are three guys, Alistair, Javier and Jonathan who are clearly a class above everyone currently, and when they race, one of them is (very) likely to win. How are they viewed by the other athletes in the field - do people think they can be beaten?

"Yes, I think there is a belief that they can. For example Mario Mola had progressed and impressed - he might not always have the best swim, but I think he has shown that if he does or is in the mix he can definitely compete on terms with the top three. The sport is constantly developing, improving and evolving and there are new faces all the time. Mola now is probably at or above a level of Javier or the Brownlees of three years ago, they have just been able to keep pushing the boundaries. With Richard Murray, Joao Silva, Pierre Le Corre and the like coming through there is depth there - and one day they will be beaten!"

As a Scot, does Glasgow 2014 and the Commonwealth Games feature on David' schedule for next year?

"Absolutely, it means a lot to take part for Scotland in the Commonwealth Games. It seems to have come around really quickly; I remember the announcement of Glasgow around the time I started in triathlon and that being a goal, and soon it will be here. We (Scotland) had qualifying criteria based upon 2013 World Series results and I met those, so hopefully I should be in the team."

Your potential team-mates could include the likes of Marc Austin and Grant Sheldon (Silver and Bronze at the World Champs this year), how impressed is David with their progress which has gone, to some extent, relatively unheralded?

"They have both done exceptionally well. With so many athletes doing well in the UK - not just the Brownlee's, but Non (Stanford) and Jodie Stimpson and the like - in one way I think it actually benefits them. Of course, the (relative) lack of exposure might impact sponsorship / media in the short term, but the reverse is that it also reduces pressure and expectation, keeps sponsor commitments to a minimum and allows them to focus on the task at hand. It is a tough ask going from Junior to Senior in the ITU arena - double the distance, and it takes time, e.g. Mario Mola won the World Juniors in 2009 and it's taken him three years to his current level - but they have done a great job so far."


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