It seems just like yesterday we were asking James McCallum if he’d ever consider turning pro – but that was back in 2006 after his second Commonwealth Games and a bronze medal in the scratch race.
The following year he did indeed turn professional for Plowman Craven and since has ridden for Endura, Rapha Condor; and for 2014 he joins new – and much talked about – NFTO.
‘Not For The Ordinary’ is an outdoor clothing company based in Hereford with ex-military man John Wood behind it.
Wood has numerous business interests, including a bike shop and his team already have their clothing and bikes – always the sign of a good set up.
We spoke to ‘Jamesy’ soon after the birth of Penelope, the new Miss McCallum was four days early but weighed in at a healthy three kilos.
Our first question had to concern her arrival.
Congratulations; are you enjoying being a dad, James?
“Yeah, and there’s a hidden advantage – we’ve been so busy with her that I keep forgetting to eat!”
How did you get the ride with NFTO?
“Dean Downing spoke to me earlier in the year about it – initially it was going to be just him and I chaperoning younger riders, which is a role I’m familiar with from Rapha.
“But the man behind things, John Wood wants to do it right and now we have Adam Blythe, both the Downing brothers, Sam Harrison, Jon Mould and James Williams.
“I have a meeting in Hereford next week to get to know everyone – it’s going to be cool having Sean Yates as DS. It’s a very strong team but names on a bit of paper are one thing, I’ll be happier when we start racing and get some results.
“I’ll be playing a selfless team roll with us having those big names but I’m sure I’ll have my opportunities, too.”
What does the programme look like?
“Whilst we’ll support UK races like the Tour Series we hope to ride events like the Tour of Taiwan, the Herald Sun Tour in Australia and races in the US.”
The Tour Series is a big deal in the UK but I believe it’s a costly enterprise?
“I think it’s a grand per round; so to ride the series you’re looking at 20 grand out of your budget with travel and accommodation.
“I’m not sure what the UK scene will be like in 2014 – Rapha will be less of a development team, Madison are there and Sigma despite IG pulling out but I’m not sure about Node 4.”
How’s the team hardware coming along?
“We already have our road bikes – Swift carbon – and clothing, John Wood doesn’t mess around, he decides what he wants and goes out and gets it.
“I may have to ride an unbranded track machine initially but track frames are currently being developed by Swift.”
When’s the first training camp?
“I was due to go to our camp in Majorca from 23/11 to 7/12 but with having the baby that’s not possible.
“Scottish Cycling has a camp from the 5th to 15th December with Andy Fenn, David Millar, Evan Oliphant as well as the MTB guys – so I’ll be attending that.”
How was 2013 for you?
“Not the best; albeit we were second in the Tour Series.
“I didn’t have much personal success but fulfilled my roll as a team player and mentored the young guys.
“It was my driest year for results in a long time but I had a lot of bad luck – crashes, illness and a bad ear infection.”
“I want to ride road and track – points, scratch and maybe team pursuit.
“That’s something we’ve been working on with Gary Coltman – me, Evan, Silas Goldsworthy, Michael Nicholson and perhaps Ben Peacock.
“To qualify you need a top five in a British championship – which Michael and I achieved with fourth in the British Madison Championship.
“There’ll also be a timed standard to achieve which will involve a short distance sprint effort and an endurance distance to be ridden back to back.
“These Games will be my fourth (at VeloVeritas we reckon this will make James our most capped Games rider?) and I they’ll be very hotly contested.
“Not only do you have the Aussies, New Zealanders and Canadians; you have four home nations to contend with; England, Isle of Man, Ireland and Wales – and are all strong.
“NFTO have me for Scotland, Sam Harrison for England and Jon Mould for Wales; we should all be there which is good publicity for the sponsor.”
2014 will be your eighth as a pro?
“Yes, PCA, Endura, Rapha-Condor and now NFTO.
“It’s early days yet but the signs are all good – there’s a great level of support and to have all the team kit and bikes for November speaks for itself.
“We have great sponsors; Castelli, Bontrager, Kask, Oakley – no half measures.”
Glasgow track, is it getting faster as the boards dry?
“If they’d switch the air conditioning off then maybe I’d be able to tell you – it feels like you’re riding into a constant headwind!
“It’s hard to say without being in competition where it’s warmer – it’s certainly a trickier track to ride than Manchester, you have to think about your line all the time. It’s made a massive difference with SC training sessions twice a week and the track league – albeit the squad members are restricted to 91.8” gears.
“I think the way the league is structured is better now with more distance races and not so much sitting about between events – it makes people learn how to go fast.
“There’s a Revolution meet coming up and that’ll be good, very competitive – they’re now UCI World Cup selection races so it’s all for real with the World Cups being the qualifiers for the Worlds.”
Life after racing?
“My contract is for one year but I’m thinking now about the side step into another area of cycling – I’ve done a lot of work with kids and I love to help people grow within the sport.
“I think I’ve made myself employable within the sport; but not as a DS, that way you spend even more time on the road.
“But for the moment I’m going to concentrate on being an athlete and squeeze the most out of it.”