It was March 2015 when we last spoke to Scottish sprinter, Callum Skinner, his seventh in the kilometre the only bright spot in a below par Worlds for the GB Sprint Squad.
Skinner was ‘quieter’ in 2015 than he was in 2014 when he took a ‘clean sweep’ of the British sprint disciplines and the European kilometre title.
However, in the recent – and much publicised due to Cav’s efforts to qualify for the omnium – Hong Kong round of the UCI World Cup the GB team sprint boys ‘came good’ to take the win ahead of Poland.
Skinner rode the final with Messrs. Hinde and Kenny – the fast man from Glasgow very kindly took time out to speak to us soon after his return from the Orient.
The GB team sprint back ‘on cam’ in Hong Kong after a wee fallow spell – what’s changed?
“Nothing much has changed, as a team we’ve been working really hard in Manchester so it’s nice to have those hours pay off in Hong Kong.
“Results-wise we appeared to build through the season; fifth in Cali, fourth in New Zealand and first in Hong Kong.
“But it’s important not to get carried away by the Hong Kong result – Germany and New Zealand didn’t send their ‘A’ teams.
“However consistently finishing in the top five in the world or better isn’t a bad place to be in.
“We can definitely build a lot more in the lead up to the Worlds and Olympics.
“This season has shown we finally appear to be gaining a bit of momentum results wise so it’s an exciting time!”
Jason Kenny seems to have ‘found’ himself, again?
“Jason is one of the best ‘man twos’ in the world; Jason does a good job in my book.
“He’s consistent; he protects me as best he can from Phil Hindes’ rapid opening lap and always delivers me into my lap at a solid pace.”
What’s the format for the team sprint in a World Cup; two or three rides – is that the same as the Worlds, Olympics?
“I believe it’s three rides like it is a British Nationals with all three rides within 90 minutes of each other.”
What’s the Hong Kong velodrome like?
“The track itself is okay, but the team found the black line didn’t ride too well.
“By comparison Manchester in my opinion is one of the easiest tracks in the world to ride, you could ride it with your eyes shut, it’s so natural.
“In Hong Kong you just had to concentrate a little more.
“At the end of the day it’s the same for everyone.
“Facilities and location wise it’s amazing.
“One of the surprises of riding at HK was the British support.
“It felt like after the HK riders the British received the most support.
“There were Union Jacks everywhere and even the HK colonial flags.
“Not to get involved in the politics of it all it was a nice boost to the team.”
You’ve been experimenting with start orders, what’s the final ‘take’ on that?
“There is no final take.
“In Manchester we continue to share the training efforts between Mathew Crampton, Lewis Oliva and myself.
“It’s a really productive competitive environment.”
Olympic year, is there a change in the ‘vibe’ in Manchester – more tension?
“I’d say in the last year or so the atmosphere has improved.
“Justin Grace (sprint coach, ed.) has brought a more laid back atmosphere.
“There are a lot more support staff than there used to be, so that reduces competition for time and resources.
“Most of all the results appear to be in the up, so the atmosphere on the whole is good.”
Your 2015 season seemed quieter that 2014 – was that deliberate?
“Yes, this time last year I was approaching 3 kg lighter.
“The quieter season has allowed me to maintain my body weight and hopefully will leave me in a better place for Worlds.
“I hope to have busier seasons in the future but it’s a bit of a learning process so as it isn’t to my detriment later in the season.”
You had a nice sprint tournament win in Dudenhofen, Germany.
“It’s always nice to win in Germany.
“They, without a doubt have the greatest strength in depth of any nation.
“That will become evident when you see how some really big German names won’t be selected for Rio.
“I’m trying hard to make my sprinting more consistent; I tend to have a bit of a slow start and then finish strong.
“Except these days you can’t afford to start slow, depending on how tight qualification is, the first round can be as hard as the final.”
How do the Revolutions fit into things – how relevant are they?
“They were a big help to me earlier in my career.
“When I was in the ‘B Team’ revolutions presented your only opportunity to gain results and get noticed.
“Being in serious contention for the ‘man three’ spot I haven’t attended revolutions as much this year.”
What of your kilometre ambitions?
“The Kilo really appeals to me. It’s been a bit of a love hate relationship.
“When I was younger I didn’t have too many results in the Kilo, so much so I decided not to do it at the Commonwealth Games.
“Winning the European Kilo a few months after the Commonwealths was bitter sweet, I was overwhelmed to gain my first European Title, but I really regretted not having a stab at it at Commonwealths.
“Now I’m really set on competing if the schedule allows.
“I’m hoping to have a go at it at Worlds.”
When you focus so much on the team sprint don’t you miss the cut and thrust of sprinting and keirin racing?
“Yes it can be a juggling act. I’m pretty sure my 200 metre time would be faster if I wasn’t focusing on the Team Sprint.
“It’s just a question of gears, in team sprint in order to get on I’ll be in the low 100 inch range.
“For a flying 200 I’ll be in the 120” plus range.
“The cadence difference between those two gears is vast.
“I think it can be juggled – it’s just been a experience learning how to do it.
“Ultimately I will have to, due to Olympic qualification rider limits the Sprint and Keirin spots will have be made up of the Team Sprint riders.”
Who’s the main opposition for The Worlds and Rio?
“It’s so hard to say – the Germans, New Zealanders, French, Dutch, Australians – they’re all rapid and the Team Sprint can be unpredictable.”
The Worlds and Rio – when will you know for sure you’re going?
“To many people’s surprise it could be the day before the ride.
“Ultimately we have a long list of riders and as we go through the season it gets slimmed down and down.
“If there are two riders who are very close fighting for the same position it might just be the day before you find out if you are riding or the reserve…”
There’s no easy road to Rio; we wish Callum well.