UAE’s ‘Young Gun’ Brandon McNulty Gets PEZ’d!

Rider Interview: When PEZman in Spain, Alastair Hamilton was invited to the UAE Team Emirates training camp last month he had to decide who to interview. Tadej Pogačar and Fernando Gaviria where obvious choices, but the name Brandon McNulty stuck out as a man to watch for the future. Worlds medalist and winner of an exceptionally hard 2019 Giro di Sicilia – A star in the making.

PEZ: A three year contract must make you feel comfortable, help your confidence?
Brandon McNulty:
Yeah, definitely to have a close, nearby future secure, but also I think it shows me the commitment from the team as well, they’re obviously in it for the long run.

PEZ: The team must have been watching you for awhile.
Yes, I’ve been in contact with Matxin (Joxean Fernandez – Team Manager) since I was, I think, 17 at the Richmond Worlds, I’m 21 now, and then Mauro (Gianetti – Team Principal and CEO) has been in contact. Yeah, both have been in contact with me, and my manager since 2018, around then I think. They showed a lot of interest last year, and then I thought it was better for me to stay one more year in the lower levels, but yeah its been awhile.

PEZ: Where will you be living in Europe?
In Europe I’ll be living in Gerona.

PEZ: Monaco seems to be getting more popular again, along with Andorra.
Yeah, but for us Americans, we don’t get the benefits of Andorra and Monaco with the tax. So there’s no point in spending 20,000 a month.

PEZ: Has it been a big change to come to UAE Team Emirates compared to the Rally Cycling team? Obviously it’s more international, but do you feel a different atmosphere?
Yeah, definitely. There’s obviously aspects that are different. I didn’t really know what I was expecting coming into a WorldTour team, but once I got here and I was with the team, it was like, I didn’t feel really different, it was just like I’m here, this is where I’m at, which I think is telling that I was ready. I mean, it’s a big operation, but it’s cool to see so many smart individuals around all of us.

PEZ: You didn’t ride as a stagieire, but then Rally had such a good calendar.
Yeah, their level was perfect for me, I think. Because it was kind of like in between amateur/continental and then doing some WorldTour stuff, so it was a good a good step.

Worlds U23 TT in Harrogate

PEZ: You performed well in a lot of good races over the last two years, including third in the Under 23 World’s TT in 2019 and second in 2017, were you disappointed?
No, obviously it’s nice to win. Mikkel (Bjerg, also with UAE) has always had class and then, Ian Garrison (now with Deceuninck – Quick-Step), we’re so close and we’re good friends outside of cycling. It’s good, I’m fans of both of those guys. So it was cool to be on the podium with all three and now we’re all pro. Mikkel is here and Ian is over at Quick-Step which is cool as we have been racing together for years.

PEZ: The Giro di Sicila was good, can you tell us more about that?
Yeah, that was definitely the big point of the year, it was nice to finally get the win. I feel like I’ve been in the top 10 many times and coming up into top five. The weather was horrible. There was pouring rain, hail, fog. I know it was bad because Svein Tuft was at the race and he’s one of the hardest guys I know and he was like “this is the worst race I’ve ever done!” So I knew it was tough.

PEZ: How did you feel about your win?
Yeah, the win was great. I mean, just getting a win in Europe. I think, also the conditions made it that much more fun, because it was so nasty.

PEZ: Obviously it was important, but do you think it was
a pivotal point in your career?

Somewhere, I think at that point I had in my mind I decided this year would be a step up no matter what. I think I kind of solidified that, I’m at the level that I can win at, so I think I’m ready for the next step kind of thing.

Solo in Sicily

PEZ: Oman last year and California the year before, they were all big races, I guess the UAE team would have noticed them also. So, what are you looking forward to the most in 2020?
I think getting to ride more bigger races.

Dubai Tour 2018

PEZ: Do you know your calendar?
Yeah, after Argentina at San Juan (5th and 3rd on stages, 4th overall, 2nd young rider and 5th KOM), I think Andalucia (Ruta del Sol) and then I forget what. There’s something in-between, but then the first big race will be Paris-Nice, that will be the WorldTour start, I guess. And then still kind of undecided from there and I think, as of now, I’ll start the Vuelta at the end of the year. That’s kind of the target.

PEZ: Is there a possibility that you would ride the Olympics?
I don’t really know where they’re at with the selection, maybe if I come out and start winning every TT and stuff, maybe there would be changes. I think there are two places and then both have to ride both races.

PEZ: Do you see yourself as a TT star or more of a GC/overall guy?
Yeah, I think I’d like to focus more on the overall, but I obviously like time trials. I’d like to improve there as well, but yeah, you also have to be able to climb.

PEZ: There is a lot of young guys coming through, yourself included, so many young guys that are stunningly good all of a sudden. Can you see why? Where is it coming from?
I think the answer we are all looking for is that the sport is changing. People aren’t doing things that were there in the past, I hope that’s the case. I think also maybe just guys are developing faster, maybe. It’s hard to say for sure, but it’s exciting.

2019 Junior Worlds road race

PEZ: Do you think it could be that now you have the opportunity to be really good quickly, whereas before the young guys had to take their time and be more respectful. Now you have riders like Remco and Van der Poel. What do you think of them?
They are incredible athletes. Remco is so young, I think Van der Poel you were always able to see he has always been really good, but Remco is… It’s kind of unbelievable. He’s so young, but it’s good to see.

PEZ: Maybe they won’t last as long?
Yeah, who knows?

PEZ: What would be the most ideal race for you?
Now or in the future? Now; I would say the Grand Tours are still a bit long, so something like a week long with a TT, but I think my goal is to develop into the three week stage races.

PEZ: A lot of the short stage races have dropped the team time trial and gone for the individual time trial, for the people who are looking to the Olympics. That should suit you?
Yeah, I think the first few stages for me have time trials, so I’ll be fun for me because on rally we didn’t have a whole lot of races with TTs. And then the ones that there were, like California, I gotta flat, so it was a kind of a wasted opportunity. I think it’ll be fun to really focus on that again.

# Thanks to Luke MaGuire for arranging the interview and good luck to Brandon. You can find more information on UAE Team Emirates HERE. #

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