Saturday, July 24, 2021
HomeInterviewsJames McCallum - Commonwealth Games Medallist

James McCallum – Commonwealth Games Medallist


Here at VeloVeritas we think that Scotland’s great performances at the Commonwealth Games Velodrome didn’t get the attention they merited. In order to set things right we decided to catch up with as many of our medallists as we could and learn a bit more about them and their medal-winning rides. James McCallum came back with a bronze medal from the 20 Kilometer Scratch, making a mockery of those who felt he wasn’t worthy of selection.

James is 27 (26 when he won his medal), lives in Edinburgh, but was born in Uddingston. He works as a nurse on constant night shift and before his Games Bronze, his main achievements were winning every Scottish track championship except the sprint. Bronze in the British team pursuit championship and Silver (only one point off the gold) in the British Omnium championship.

First I asked if he enjoyed his training?

“Yeah, but it depends on what type of work I’m doing. I think that people have the wrong impression about track training. In the winter I train just like a road rider with loads of miles. Last winter was good. I did a lot of training with Evan Oliphant; he’s a good guy to go out with — very laid back and he doesn’t have an ego. I train in blocks of around three to four weeks, as the season approaches. The blocks of training become more specific to the track. I do as much track work as I can at Meadowbank and Evan and I were even traveling down to Manchester to ride the league down there.”

What about the big-day?

“It was quite a simple race, once you figured-out the combines. Evan and I had agreed that we would help each other; Evan went straight from the gun, but Ben Kersten ( Australia, one of the prerace favourites who had already won the kilometer title) was in the move and it wasn’t allowed to go. Initially I didn’t realise I was in a move; we were half a lap up before I knew it and then we were a lap up.

“I was a bit panicky to start with because I was thinking that there would be counter-moves and other guys would take laps. Then Evan and I figured-out that England, Isle of Man and Wales were all working for Cav (eventual winner Mark Cavendish, Isle of Man). Evan was brilliant, closing gaps and slowing people down where he had to.

“With 30 laps to go I started to feel confident and from there on I was thinking about positioning myself. It was a very physical race at the end and in the finale it was lined-out and there was a lot of head-butting going-on. All of a sudden Kirsten, whose wheel I was on, eased-up just a little. I got round him and I could see I was in the bronze position, I just thought that I hadn’t come this far to not get the medal.

“On the last lap I was moving around a bit to dissuade any one from trying to come around me. After I crossed the line I couldn’t believe it, I grabbed a saltire and wrapped myself in it. My family and my girl were all there; it was probably the proudest moment of my life.”

Has life changed since the medal?

“It was hectic when I got back, dinners, presenting prizes, TV appearances, but no big sponsor materialised, although I have received help from a lot of people since. The Bicycleworks, Felt frames, Adidas, Eye wear, ISO energy food and have all given me help and I would like to thank them. My employers, Advantage Health Care have provided financial support and so has the Braveheart Fund, equipment is great but you need cash to pay the bills and I’m very grateful to both organisations.”

James McCallum
James at the Scottish Criterium Championships.

When you race now, do you feel you have something to live up to?

“Of course, as a Commonwealth Games medallist you feel you have to win.”

Has it been hard keeping motivation after the Games?

“My morale was sky-high when I came back but it’s maybe waning a wee bit now; it’s been pretty much full-on since last October. I feel I could do with a holiday but I’ve got a lot of important races coming-up.”

What about goals?

“Immediate goals are the British Omnium champs; I’ve been second and had two fourth places, so it’s about time I won it. Then it’s the Scottish track champs and then the Glasgow Grand Prix on the eve of the Tour of Britain.”

What about a pro career?

“If it came along, sure. I play the team role very well, I think. Evan said that I had been a huge help to him in the races we rode together in Australia over the winter.”

What about the ‘letter affair’?

“I haven’t seen it [a letter written by a fellow Scot], but the gist of it was that I shouldn’t be going to the Games because my qualifying times had been ‘doctored’ by team officials. I spoke to the man that signed it and told him that all I wanted was an apology; he gave me one, so that’s it as far as I’m concerned.”

It’s hard to argue with medals… All the best in the Omnium, James.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Brian Temple – Scotland’s First Commonwealth Games Cycling Medallist

Brian is the man who won Scotland’s first cycling medal back in 1970 when the Commonwealth Games came to Edinburgh for the first time. Australia and England were the top cycling nations in the competition with riders like Englishman Ian Hallam (who won the pursuit) and Australian John Nicholson (who won the sprint) and were expected to dominate the 10 mile; but a break comprising Vernon Stauble (Trinidad), Jocelyn Lovell (Canada) and Temple sneaked away from the Big Guns and stayed away.

Commonwealth Games 2014 – Track, Day Three

Australia had another great day at the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome, collecting another five medals to add to the previous two days haul of ten, putting them top of the cycling table with six more than any other country. For the second day in a row, the Men's Para Tandem provided one of the most memorable moments. This time it was the Sprint competition and again it was the Scottish pair of Neil Fachie and Craig MacLean, winning the final two-matches-to-one and celebrating with their families whilst the crowd joined in singing to them, who brought the proceedings to a halt.

Rik Evans – Part Two; “It was a win that lost me my job”

Rik Evans continues telling his story, from giving away a Worlds title to Commonwealth Gold medal, top club 34 Nomads and his slide out of cycling but into depression. Evans has now settled in Australia and cycling has come back into his life.

James McCallum – “I hadn’t realised how cool this sport is”

We make no apology for featuring Endura Racing again - they're out there, getting on with the business of pro bike racing. The Tour of the Med, Haut Var, Murcia and now - Singapore. We caught up with former British criterium champion and reigning British omnium champion, James McCallum to get the low down on one of the richest crits around - (he was on the way to the supermarket when we spoke to him, but don't tell anyone, those glam pros aren't supposed do the 'trolley thing.')

Chris Hoy – Super Champion

Concluding our series of interviews with Scottish medalists at the British Track Championships we have pleasure in bringing you the words of World Kilometre Champion, Chris Hoy.

James McCallum – Racing Is My Job Now!

Ex-British Criterium Champion and Commonwealth Games track medalist James McCallum has recently returned from a few months racing and resting in the antipodes, and is looking forward to getting stuck into the new season with his re-vamped Endura Racing team. We met James for a good old chinwag this week over lunch: he turned up at the restaurant looking hungry, and with a huge Endura team bag over his shoulder...

At Random

Le Tour de France 2012 Prologue: Liège ITT, 6.1km.

It's here. Le Tour de France 2012 Prologue. The endless analysis is finally over, there's rubber on tarmac, folks hanging over barriers and commentators getting their facts wrong, already.

Le Tour de France 2009 – Stage 10: Limoges > Issoudun, 194.5km

I didn’t think that Cav could win the Primavera now, after today's display in Limoges, I think that he can do pretty much anything he puts his mind to within the scope of his physical characteristics. He can win the green jersey on the Champs Elysees in Le Tour de France, Paris - Tours and the Worlds too-when the parcours suits him.

Billy Bilsland – Peugeot’s Scotsman

Billy Bilsland – ‘legend.’ An over-used word but entirely appropriate when speaking of this man; here’s one from our vaults we thought you might like to read.

Giro d’Italia 2013 – Stage 16: Valloire – Ivrea 238km. We’re Here to See Intxausti Win

Wednesday morning, 09:55 the 'Milano by-pass' average speed around 10 mph. You only think you've seen traffic jams 'til you come to Northern Italy. And it's not helped by the fact that everyone thinks that it's their private fiefdom; the standard of driving is dire. We arrived late on the Monday rest day and after much messing around at the airport deciphered that our hire car was through an agency, so we had to tour the car hire offices 'til we got the right one.

La Vuelta a España 2014 – Stage 1; Jerez de la Frontera (TTT), 12.6 km. The ‘Telephone Team’ Take It

Movistar win Stage One in Jerez de la Frontera – no surprises, then. Perhaps we could have expected more from reigning World TTT Champions, QuickStep but with Tony Martin just back after a break and a technical parcours where it would have been easy to pile up, the Belgian team took no chances and finished fifth.

Gareth Montgomerie – Best Scot at Girvan

In our Girvan interviews with Evan Oliphant, Gary Hand and James McCallum, we mistakenly referred to Callum Wilkinson as 'best Scot at Girvan,'-we got that one wrong! We thought we'd best set things to rights with the man who actually was, 'best Scot at Girvan'-26 year-old Gareth Montgomerie of the Sigmasport-Specialized-Sportful Cycling Team.