photography by Camerawerks

Brandon McNulty

Written by Jackie Dishner Category: Spotlight Issue: October 2018
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Catch up with cycling phenom Brandon McNulty before he starts training for the 2019 spring-summer tours.

Pedal Prodigy

For cycling phenom Brandon McNulty, winning the Tour de France by age 25 is no pipe dream. The 6-foot, 150-pound Phoenix native, age 20, turned pro two years ago after a gold medal time trial performance in Qatar – cementing his status as one of the world’s top raw talents. Known for his open road prowess, McNulty joined U.S.-based Rally Cycling after being courted by several pro outfits. Currently ranked 213th in the world, McNulty soft-pedaled a few questions before leaving town to train for the 2019 spring-summer tours.

How did you get started in cycling?
My dad raced before I was born. I started riding because I wanted to go with him. I was on the dirt at 6 or 7 and made the switch to a road bike when I was 12. Before that, I was road racing on a mountain bike. We’d put slick tires on it, but I kept bugging my dad for a road bike.

Did he buy you one?
He did. I started racing faster then… I just had the speed, and every month I got faster and faster… It was always fun for me to beat up on the grown men.

Do you ever ride now just for fun?
All of it’s fun for me. So, yes and no… In the off-season, I’ll go off on mountain bike trails. A favorite of mine is Trail 100 [in North Phoenix]. That’s the one my dad took me to when I was a kid.

Speed is your specialty. Tell us mere mortals how to improve ours.
There’s no secret. Ride more often. I ride every day, with Mondays off – three- to six-hour-rides. My coach sends me a monthly schedule of what I’m supposed to do.

How fast do you ride?
On the flats, I can ride 50 miles an hour. Going downhill, I can go 60 miles. If we’re climbing, I can ride anywhere from 15 to 20 miles an hour. If the hill’s really steep, I might go as slow as 10 miles per hour… My goal is always to increase power. With more power, you get more speed.

You have plans to compete in the Tour de France, even to win it by age 25. How will you get there?
You have to develop the engine first. You have to have the endurance to go deep in a race like the Tour de France. It’s 21 days of grueling rides. The longest race I’ve ridden [as of this interview in May] was five days. I crashed halfway through. That was a pretty brutal day. I broke my pelvis, but didn’t know it... I was out for a month. I had to shift focus once I got back out there. It took a lot of riding to get back to where I’d been.

You finished the next race?
It was the Redlands Classic [in Redlands, California]. Five days, [a] five-stage race, each stage ranging from 50 to 110 miles.
I finished second.

What race are you training for now?
The [Union Cycliste Internationale] UCI World Championships is in September. It’s a little more pressure. Once a week I replicate a time trial, focusing on long and steady, and then intense intervals.

What else is involved in training?
Over the off-season, I go to the gym three times a week. I’ll work on leg strength exercises. Because cycling is a one-dimensional exercise, you only use specific muscles. So I work on muscle balance to strengthen the glutes, abductors and core. I’ll do a lot of squats, isolated leg squats and all the ab exercises you can think of to help prevent injury… Falls are pretty common – I’ve had concussions and quite a few road rashes. You don’t go into a ride expecting one, but you always prepare for it.

Let’s talk important stuff: food. How do you fuel your rides?
I eat lots of carbs. I might have oatmeal or rice, peanut butter and fruit. I look for lean foods before a race. But after a race, since we use up so many calories, that’s when I might have a bowl of ice cream.