James McCallum
James loves racing ‘cross, and training off-road too.

It was 2007 when James McCallum took out his first pro licence for Plowman Craven, on the back of a 2006 Commonwealth Games bronze medal in the scratch.

He wasted little time in showing that he was well worth the ‘professional’ stamp on that licence with a win in the British Criterium Championship, besting double Olympic team pursuit champion Ed Clancy in the process.

Just to prove that was no fluke, days later he won the prestigious and hard fought Smithfield Nocturne Criterium.

Many say he was worth the criterium title the following year – he was fastest man in a break which was clear coming in to the finale – but some dubious ‘team orders’ brought him back.

The PCA team mate, who was supposed to win, didn’t – and Dean Downing took the title.

The two years at PCA were followed by two years with Endura and now James is about to enter his third season with Rapha-Condor.

Previous team third sponsor Sharp now sponsor the Garmin team and the third name on the men in black’s jersey for 2013 is JLT, a risk & insurance specialist and an employee benefits consultant.

We caught up with James after a busy weekend which combined the British Madison Championships, a Revolution meeting and a cyclo-cross.

James McCallum
James competes in various forms of the sport of the winter.

A busy weekend, James.

“Yeah, I rode the madison with Michael Nicholson on Saturday afternoon, we ended up fourth. Mould and Atkins won it with Evan Oliphant and Russell Hampton just behind us in fifth.

“I rode the Revolution in the evening, but was a bit tired – and then we drove home after.

“I dropped Evan off at 02:30am on the Sunday morning and rode the ‘Dig in at the Dock’ ‘cross later in the day.

“I was third behind Rob Wardell and Gareth Montgomerie.”

James McCallum and Rab Wardell-IanElliot
Winner of the ‘Dig In at the Dock’ ‘cross, Rab Wardell being congratulated by James. Photo©Iain Elliot

Rapha-Condor was different in 2012 – a ‘youth’ policy?

“It was, we ended up with about half the wins we had the previous season – but Dean Downing had health problems although Kristian House had a good year.

“Ed Clancy and Andy Tennant were both on the Olympic programme, so we didn’t see much of them.

“It was tougher because we couldn’t cover every move in race like we did the year before – we had to much more selective in what we did in races.

“But it wasn’t all about results – it was about developing young riders, too.”

Is it a similar youthful direction for 2013?

“Yes, I’m the oldest guy in the team!”

James McCallum
James and his Rapha youthful teammates.

The Rutland – third, a nice result.

“I’m hoping to target it again, this year.

“The Davie Bell was had off road stretches; and I used to enjoy the Tour of the Dengie Marshes which had off road sections.

“Races like that are fun – there’s that romantic notion of Paris-Roubaix about them.

“But the result came a year to early for me – those UCi points would have been nice for the Commonwealth Games qualifying, which count from this year.

“There’s a lot of luck and fate in that kind of race – not to mention the weather – I punctured twice, once in the last four kilometres.

I was happy with the result – I was nominated road captain that day, so it was good to deliver a result.”

James McCallum
The Rutland 2012 Podium, with James (L) with winner Alex Blain and Jamie Sparling. Photo©Larry Hickmott/VeloUK.net.

You must have thought about the Tro Bro Leon?

“I wanted to do that when I was with Endura but didn’t get the chance.

“It’s down to the team getting a ride – but with the UK programme being so light there are more and more British teams looking for rides in European races.”

And you’re Scottish Road Race Champion, at last.

“That was cool!

“Evan has won it numerous times but this year there seems to be more fuss about it – Rapha are making me a champion’s jersey to wear.

“I like that course and Colin Bark does a great job on the organisation.

“It’s a fast course and it’s only on the last two laps where Evan and I could make the difference – where you go into that fourth hour of racing.

I’m proud to have finally won it, though.”

James McCallum
James atop the podium at the Scottish RR Champs, with Evan Oliphant and Alistair Rutherford.

What’s your take on the current Scottish scene?

“Well, they’re getting full fields – a few years ago there were just 40 riders showing up.

“I think the idea is beginning to catch on that it’s the riders who make the race, not the course.

“Look at the Netherlands, its pan flat but the racing is hard – we should be careful not to drift back to overly hilly courses.

“The standard has been raised too by the likes of Herbalife, Motor Point and Raleigh coming up to ride races like the Sam Robinson and Arthur Campbell.”

The UK calendar is ‘light’ though, isn’t it?

“British Cycling is in a tough position; they’re looking for a high standard of promotion for races, with TV coverage.

“But that takes a lot of money – I’d prefer six or eight races of a high standard rather than ten or fifteen to a lower standard of promotion.

“There’s more interest in cycling so you need those higher standards – that’s happening on the criterium scene but unfortunately it’s a lot slower to come to road racing.”

James McCallum
Always ready with a view or great quote, James is always in demand by the press at races. Photo©TrackCyclingNews.

How much difference does the Glasgow velodrome make to you?

“Huge!

“For the last eight weeks or so, Evan and I have been training there twice or three times each week.

“It helps to close the gap to the guys who have access to Manchester.

“Saturday was Michael Nicholson’s first madison; but having Glasgow meant that we were able to do work together on changing and positioning before we rode the championship.

“On a Tuesday, for example, I’ll do road work in the morning and then come through to Glasgow – it’s nice to be able to train in the warm and dry.”

James McCallum
James is a medal winner on the track at the Commonwealth Games. Photo©TrackCyclingNews.

There’s really no ‘off’ season, now, is there?

“No, there are Revolutions and in two weeks there’s an indoor criterium in London.

“It suits me though; if you take down time then it’s such a struggle to get back to your level.

“That’s why I ride cyclo-cross and the Revolutions and train at Glasgow track.

“You’re doing the work but staying fresh in the head.”

The Commonwealth Games must be near the front of your mind?

“Definitely!

“These will be my last Games – and maybe my last year competing as a pro?

“I’m still not quite sure what I’ll do after I finish racing; but with all the experience I have it would be silly not to be involved in cycling.

“As for what I’d like to ride at the Games – the road race and points and scratch on the track.

“We may have an extra string to our bow on the track; Ross Edgar is talking about coming across to endurance side – and he’ll have a big finish.

“It’ll be a strong squad – Hoy, Millar, Fenn . . .”

Do you know the selection criteria, yet?

“Yes, they were released at the end of 2012 – they’re on the Scottish Cycling website and they’re pretty tough.

“There are standards to achieve for timed efforts; but a top five in a British Championships is one of the standards – and we achieved that in that madison.

“UCI points for the road are also one of the criteria.

“Having the track in Glasgow makes a huge difference to reaching the required standard.”

Lance?

“Short and sweet from me; there’s been a huge amount of information but it really needs a confession – the full truth.

“And love him or hate him – he took cycling to the masses and made the likes of Trek what they are today.

“But Cycling is the scapegoat for all drug problems in sport and that’s not right.”

What’s on the ‘to do’ list for 2013?

“In 2012 I was very consistent and got the media coverage but didn’t get the podium places – this year I want my feet back on podium!”