“I knew that if I was second or third round the last corner then nobody would beat me.” And so it proved, as James McCallum added British Criterium Championship gold to Commonwealth Games points bronze, last night in Otley.
VeloVeritas spoke to James just hours after his win.
Congratulations, James, your best-ever performance?
“As far as a ride I’ll be recognised for, yes. I think I’ve had I’ve had days on the bike when I’ve ridden stronger though, but it’s been when I’ve been working for other people, like Evan (Oliphant) or Tony (Gibb).”
Did you specifically target the championship?
“Not particularly, I rode the criterium in Newcastle on Friday night where I was tenth or eleventh, then I was racing on the track at Cardiff on Saturday and Sunday.
“Tony Gibb (his Plowman Craven team mate) and I got first and second in just about everything; Tony won the British derny championship on the Sunday and I got silver.
“It was a long drive home after Cardiff then it took six hours to get to Otley yesterday; there was a smash on the motorway and we were sat stationary for hours.
“I was really surprised at my form in view of all the driving I’ve done recently – it’s very tiring.”
Tell us about the course.
“It wasn’t really a criterium course. It was over a mile around, so it was too far to take a lap-out, there were service cars instead of pits.
“It was on wide roads, there was a little ‘kick’ past the finish and also a drag – it wasn’t an easy circuit but the finish was very quick, it came after a long, sweeping downhill section.”
What about the competition?
“There were 100 guys in the field and virtually everyone, except Rob Hayles, was there, including Chris Newton, Malcolm Elliott and the Downing brothers. All the main teams were there in force – Recycling, Pinarello, SIS and Rapha.”
Who were the danger-men?
“Newton, he was very strong on Friday night, he lapped the field on his own at Newcastle. The Downings are always a threat and Adam Blythe too, but he was up against it, being on restricted, junior gears.
“Strangely, I only saw Newton once during the entire race and that was at the start, I think he might have got stuck at the back – it was such a big field that it was very difficult to move-up.
“I made a point of being at the front from the gun and lead the field through the end of the first lap.”
Talk us through the race James.
“It was a funny sort of a race, very stop, start. It would be eyeballs-out, then it would ease-up then someone else would go and it would go mad again.
“There were lots of attacks; we got away with around five or six laps to go and it must just have been the right combination of teams for us not to get chased-down. There were seven or nine of us in the break and I felt that the last three laps were the easiest of the race.
“I had felt rough at the start because I was doing a lot of work for the team. Coming into the finale, Ed Clancy (Landboukredit) went and I got-up to him, as did my team mate James Taylor, then Ben Greenwood (Bedogni Natalina Praga) attacked, he’s come back from Italy in great shape.
“He was going very strongly, but he was brought back, he went again then Matt Cronshaw (SiS) came past and I got on him.
“I thought to myself; ‘if I’m second or third round that last corner then no one will beat me’, that’s how it worked-out. It’s the first time I’ve used the 11 sprocket in a sprint, it was 70 kph-plus.
“I just popped-out of their jersey pockets and took it by about a length. My arms went-up and my mouth was wide-open; I was in shock – British champion!
“What was really nice was that so many of the other riders were genuinely please for me; the Downings were among the first to come over and congratulate me.”
Has your sponsor been in touch?
“Yes, Simon Barnes, the team owner is over the moon. I owe a lot to him, he showed faith in me and it’s great to get the team’s first really-big win of the year for him. Gordon McCaulay has been close on a lot of occasions this year, but this is the first major result.”
You won’t have had time to celebrate yet?
“No, I didn’t get to bed until 2.30 this morning and I’ve just been invited to ride the Smithfield Nocturne in London on Saturday night – so maybe Sunday night we’ll celebrate.”
What’s your programme for the rest of the year?
“More of the same, Premier Calendars, the Criterium series and the track Nationals at the end of the year. Of course, there’s the British road race championship in a fortnight and maybe the Tours of Britain and Ireland, but we don’t know yet if we have been given places in the them yet.
“I would love to ride the Tour of Britain again but this time in a pro team.”
You’ll have to win the Scottish criterium championship now, James.
“Tell me about it! It would also be nice to win on Saturday at Smithfield with my champion’s jersey on.
“I received a text message from Evan Oliphant last night congratulating me and saying that it was down to him now to make it a Scottish ‘full-house’ in the British road race champs after Jason winning the circuit TT champs and now me winning the crit.”
VeloVeritas would like to congratulate James again, thank him for taking the time to talk to us, and wish him every success for the remainder of the season.
1. James McCallum (Plowman Craven/Evans Cycles)
2. Ed Clancy (Landbowkredit)
3. Matt Cronshaw (SiS/Trek)
4. Simon Holt (Recycling.co.uk)
5. Ross Muir (Plowman Craven/Evans Cycles)
6. Tom Diggle (Recycling.co.uk)
7. James Taylor (Plowman Craven/Evans Cycles)
8. Ben Greenwood (Bedogni Natalini Praga)
9. Ian Bibby (SiS/Trek)
10. Adam Blythe (SiS/Trek)