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James McCallum – “Commy Games? I Just Want to Forget About Them”

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VeloVeritas waited until we were sure that James McCallum was displaying no symptoms of dengue fever before we caught up with him at Starbucks for a chat about his third Commonwealth Games.

James McCallum
Delhi wasn’t quite ready for the start of the Games.

A good Games for Scotland, James?

“From the perspective of the road race, yes.

“It’s the first time in the three Games that I’ve been to that we’ve ridden as a team; we all did exactly what David Millar wanted — it made a big difference having him there.

“On the track I think that the results didn’t reflect the form that we had, but Cameron Meyer was at a different level; Luke Durbridge says that Cameron looks like a skinny kid — but when he gets on the bike he just does what he wants.

“By the way, they banned Cameron’s handlebars before the start of one of the races and you could see that he was just so mad — I think that was one of the reasons he gave us all such a hard time!”

Are you happy with your own Games?

“Nah!

“I just want to forget about them; the atmosphere there sucked the life out of me — there was so much security and everything was so restrictive.

“There were soldiers everywhere, you had to train on a set section of road, ask for permission to go anywhere — it was all so soulless.”

James McCallum
James tries to make light of a soldier with a machine on the team bus.

Do you think you got your preparation right?

“I prepared in Alkmaar in Holland, I was never out of the top ten in crits and had top five finishes.

“I did a lot of motor-paced work on the track and came back in the form of my life; although I did pop my back doing standing starts — that was painful!

“But when I hit that bubble of paranoia in Delhi it brought me down.”

How about facilities there?

“The food was good, as good as Melbourne but the only times I felt any excitement was on race days — it was just so sterile.

“I found the security aspect very oppressive.”

What about the road race — no spectators?

“There were spectators but they were in cages!

“The first lap of the road race was the first time any of us got to ride the circuit, they were still laying tarmac in the early morning on the day of the race.

“There were pockets of people but you’re used to there being no spectators if you come from Scotland!

“On the day of the race we all got on with the job — although I had a really bad stomach and had to see the doctor the night before and on the morning of the race.

“Basically I just worked for Millar ‘till I keeled over – it was my job to stay with him if he punctured but we all did everything he asked of us.

“He blended right in with the team, I was proud of the way he rode and I learned a lot from him.”

How was the track?

“It was a track for the pursuit and team pursuit, the straights were long and nobody could quite work out how to get round the outside — that was very hard.

“It was best to go from the front and suffer because it was practically impossible to get over the top of anyone.”

James McCallum
Warming up on the track. Photo©Eileen Roe.

No England ‘A’ and no Sir Chris.

“But despite that, and despite the fact that it was really an Aussie development squad, the racing at the top level was very fast — the Aussies did 3-55 for the team pursuit.

“The absence of the ‘Sir Chris Factor’ did make a difference — at previous Games he was the one who set the standard and we all tried very hard to live up to that.

“That didn’t happen this time, we missed him — but then Millar had the same effect on us at the road race.”

Ross Edgar perhaps disappointed?

“He had a huge amount of bad luck, as did Kevin Stewart in the keirin — an Indian guy’s chain came off when Kevin was moving to go round him, he did well not to come down.

“Ross obviously had the form, he beat Jason Kenny to win the British keirin but there was a lot of technique involved in mastering that track — the front was hard but it was safe, it was so difficult to get round anyone.”

Some of the official decisions were a tad dubious.

“A lot of people were saying that; cycling has always been a contact sport and paradoxically there’s less chance of crashing if you have contact because when you’re leaning on someone you know how far you can go.

“It’s getting to a stage where in the sprint event they’ll be going off in lanes — Perkins summed up the mood of the sprint competitors when he made that two finger gesture to the officials after he won the keirin minor final – they’d declassed him in the previous round.”

Your man or woman of the Games?

“Cameron Meyer — three gold medals including the team pursuit.

“He hadn’t done any training with the squad but settled right in to a team that did 3-55.

“The Kiwis blew apart trying to match them in the final; I’ve never seen that happen so spectacularly before at that level.

“We wondered why he was spending so much time off the front in the Tour of Britain; that was obviously part of his preparation for the Games.”

James McCallum
Workers didn’t have a lot of modern tooling.

What now if you’re a Scottish track rider?

“Go down the British Cycling/Revolutions path or get over to Belgium.

“I’m lucky; I’m getting a second chance as a full time pro.

“But there is a gap, yes — maybe the Endura development squad will help to fill that?”

You’re with Rapha next year?

“Yes, they actually wanted me for the end of this year to ride the Revolutions for them but I’m contracted to Endura ‘til the end of the year.

“Rapha want a better presence at the Revolution and on the track, they also want a presence in Scotland.”

What will your programme be?

“John Herety [Rapha team boss] says; ‘why would we have you do things you’re not good at?’.

“So it’ll largely be the track and crits — we have a training camp in January and then the Tour of Taiwan in March and we’ll take it from there.”

Glasgow 2014?

“I doubt it, but having said that, when I saw that saltire running up after David Millar won the time trial, I was thinking; ‘aye, Glasgow, why not?’

“I couldn’t imagine life without cycling — it would be cold turkey!”

Thanks to James for his time and wishing him all the best for his forthcoming marriage. Let’s hope he gets back from that stag weekend in Amsterdam in one piece — VeloVeritas have been invited to the Scottish leg of his stag do and will carry a full report and pictures.

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.

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