As James McCallum (Rapha Condor Sharp) prepared for the recent Tour of Normandy (won by Europcar’s Jerome Cousin) he took time to talk to VeloVeritas about his hopes for the 2012 season – his sixth as a professional.

McCallum first caught the eye in 2001 when he won the Scottish kilometre championship and over the years he’s built a solid block of track palmares, including omnium silver in 2004 when he finished behind Ben Elliott in the British championship on Meadowbank velodrome and Commonwealth Games scratch bronze in 2006 behind a certain Mark Cavendish.

But latterly he’s flourished as a criterium and road rider, with his finest hour coming in 2007 when he won the British criterium championship and just days later blasted a top quality field to take the Smithfield Nocturne in London.

And despite having the field all over him like a rash in Scottish road races, he’s proved very hard to beat on home roads.

James looking uncharacteristically serious. Image©Dean Downing.

Your 2011 highlight please, James?

“James McCallum: Our Rapha Condor Sharp team won the Tour Series criteriums and we had good results in the National Criterium Series.

“And it was good for me in the sense that nothing negative happened to me!”

How did you spend the winter?

“I did quite a lot of running; I was out three or four time each week.

“I also did some cyclo-cross races – it’s very different mentally to what I’m used to.

“But it’s a good work out at lower speed on the ‘cross bike.”

James made good use of his 'cross bike in the winter.

Did the team have training camps over the winter?

“Two – we were in Lanzarote for 10 days.

“It was more of a meet and great for the new, young recruits to the team.

“But we did drills to start instilling the team mentality.

“That’s what the team is about – the group, and John Herety is a master at team building.

“Then we had another camp, a couple of weeks ago.

“The full team was there and it was more race specific, to prepare for the Tours of Taiwan and Normandy.

“Team spirit is John Herety’s big thing.”

What about the revamp in the squad – the emphasis is on youth?

“The team this year is about development – Dean Downing, Kristian House and I all have a mentoring role to perform.

“John has worked with the National team to provide a bridge for young riders between the UK and Europe.

“The team has been very successful at ‘growing’ riders – look at Jonathan Tiernan Locke and Zak Dempster, there’s little doubt they’d be in Pro Tour teams if the money situation wasn’t so tight, all round.”

James and the some of the team enjoying the sunshine at the training camp. Image©Peter Fowler.

What are the team goals for 2012?

“To keep the team as successful as it was in 2011; which will be hard because we’ve lost a couple of good guys.

“Dean Downing and I have the responsibility in the televised crits, but I want to do more stage racing.

“I rode the RAS last year; I got four or five top ten placings and came out of it in great condition.”

How’s the programme looking?

“Short term, after Normandy we have the Tour of the Dengie Marshes, the Tour Doon Hame and the Rutland.”

Will we see much of you in Scotland?

“Apart from Doon Hame, I’d like ride and win the Davie Bell, again – I like racing at home.

“Whilst it’s hard racing in Scotland, it’s good training because I get so closely marked!”

James near the front up Tweed Brae during the Peebles Criterium. Image©Chris Bryant.

Is there much room for track in the programme?

“I’ll be riding the British track championships as an experiment – thinking about preparation for the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

“The Glasgow track opens in October and I’m very excited about the prospect of riding there.

“Track work where you’re riding at 35 mph has to be good for you!”

You’re sixth season as a pro, what’s changed on the scene?

“There are a lot more teams; and they now ride as organised squads making the Premiers faster and more strategic.

“And there’s a more even spread of talent across the teams now, with riders like Ben Greenwood having their own teams.

“When I started it was really just Plowman Craven and Rapha.”

Do you have a coach?

“No, but I’ve had a relationship with Graham Herd for three or four years where we float ideas past each other but not specific coaching, as such.”

And you’re coaching, now?

“I have 14 riders who I coach; and last year I started helping the riders on John Anderson’s Bicycleworks team.

“It’s not that I’m signed up to anything; I just like to help the young riders and teach them about racing.”

Cornering at warp-speed. Image©Gordon Goldie.

Who’s going to surprise us from Rapha in 2012?

“Richard Handley, the ex-Raleigh rider is going well – don’t forget that he almost won a Tour of Britain stage.

“Oliver Rossi is a big strong lad; he had wins in Belgium, last year and was the national junior time trial champion.

“He’s very quick in the sprint – he’s been coming round Deano and me in training.

“And we have the Aussie riders, Ben Grenda – who’s been Aussie under 23 criterium champion – and Richard Lang who’s been Aussie omnium champion and won a UCI race last season; the Trofeo Banca Popolare Piva in Italy.”

Has Jonathan Tiernan Locke’s amazing season start surprised you?

“No, he’s always been good – I remember when I was in the Plowman Craven team with him he was going very well in the early season races in Mallorca.

“John Herety has to be given credit for doing a lot to build Jonathan’s confidence.

“One of his big faults was that he seemed to always be in the wrong part of the bunch – not now, though!

“I just hope that the right things happen in his career from here on.”

James sorts out a puncture on a training run. Image©Renner.

And if you could change one thing about the UK race scene?

“I’d like to see more Premiers in Scotland.

“But the Tour Doon Hame has been cut to two days – financially, times are hard and I guess that we have to be happy we still have one Premier Calendar race in Scotland.”