Why Top Prospect Brandon McNulty Stayed with Rally Cycling for 2019
Brandon McNulty is in full learning mode. The 20-year-old American is staying with Rally Cycling in 2019 because he sees it as his best shot to prepare and learn what it takes to make it in the WorldTour, the pinnacle of professional cycling. Rally, racing at the second-tier Pro Continental level, has earned a reputation for punching above its weight in top events including the Amgen Tour of California and Grands Prix Cyclistes de Québec et de Montréal. McNulty confirmed his potential as an all-around performer with a seventh overall at this year’s Tour of California. We sat down with the Phoenix native late this season to talk about his plans and goals:
What has it been like stepping up to do WorldTour races?
It was super cool. California was my first WorldTour race so I was a bit star struck. But definitely it’s becoming a bit more normal, just the whole team we noticed how much better we’ve gotten at this level.
How do you describe the difference racing at that highest level compared to other professional or amateur races?
Speed is a big one. It’s also different. You would think at the higher level, the harder it is all day. But really it’s significantly less stressful throughout the day. Most of the day it’s pretty calm until it matters…. maybe I would just say when it’s easy it’s easier but when it’s hard it’s really hard.
When it is easier, are you able to conserve your energy or is it hard as a younger rider not to be anxious?
Definitely the first few races I did at this level it was like, ‘oh, it’s easy. I better get to the front.’ Now you kind of know, OK, I can stop and pee or I can get a bottle, or now I need to be at the front. You learn how the flow goes.
Why did you decide to stay with Rally Cycling for next season?
I have a lot of opportunities to ride as a leader but also as a teammate, depending on the race. On a WorldTour team, a race like Quebec would have been ride at the front, and get bottles. At Rally, I can get deeper into the race and actually learn how the race goes down at the end. It’s just having less pressure on me and more opportunity for me not just to have a leadership role, but to get deeper into the races.
Do you like wearing Rally’s orange kits? It’s not a common color in the peloton.
My family likes it because they can always find me.
What is the biggest challenge for you as you advance in pro cycling, the physical demands or figuring how to ride the race to be where you need to be at the crucial times?
It’s definitely both. When you’re only 19 or 20, you’re still developing your engine. I’ve noticed a significant difference since January how much deeper and further I can get into a race. Once you get that, then you have to figure out how the race goes. You can last all day but if you’re throwing out these fruitless attacks and don’t know what you’re doing, you’re going to get dropped at the end.
You started out in mountain bikes. What drew you over to road?
Where I grew up in Phoenix there were group road rides every week andI had more friends riding on the road. I started doing local races from there.
Now that you’re doing big pro races, how much do you notice the fans roadside?
Quite a bit. It’s really cool. Quebec was probably the most fans I’ve seen. It’s always nice in Europe you hear people cheering in their native language and then you hear someone cheering in English, “Go, Brandon!” It’s welcoming to hear!
Is longer term your goal to race in Europe on a WorldTour team?
Yes, for sure.
What does it take for a North American to succeed on a WorldTour team in Europe?
It’s getting used to being away (from home) more often. It’s almost the same thing as building your cycling endurance. You build your endurance to be away longer. I remember when I was 16 I’d be on a month long Euro trip and would just want to be at home. It gets easier and easier to be there.
What do you like to do when you’re not riding your bike?
Recently I just started playing guitar again. I played when I was younger.
Will you spend the winter in Phoenix? How is the riding there?
Yes. It’s super good. There are not endless roads or routes, but the roads that there are, are really nice and the weather is perfect.
All photos by Sam Wiebe