Tuesday, July 27, 2021
HomeInterviewsCallum Skinner - Olympic Champion!

Callum Skinner – Olympic Champion!


Katie ArchibaldWe’ve interviewed him as a World Cup winner, British and European Champion – and now we’re very pleased to be able to interview him as Olympic Team Sprint Champion – not to mention Individual Sprint silver medallist.

Mr. Callum Skinner …

Congratulations sir! That 42.562 – a perfect start to the team sprint campaign, Callum – did you expect qualifying to go so well for the team sprint?

“Philip did, I didn’t expect to go so well.

“Our first ride was a bit of a stab in the dark.

“We had gone well in Newport however there are so many variables that influence our time.

“On competition day it’s better to see how you measure up against your rivals opposed to targeting a time.”

That start you made must have been a huge boost for the whole cycling team?

“Our first ride going so well was so important. Personally, I got on, plus I knew I had more in the tank.

“We genuinely believed we could win it from that point on.”

Callum Skinner
Callum Skinner. Photo©Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

How long were you in Rio before the Games – you obviously acclimatized well?

“Just over a week, we had three training sessions.

“They didn’t go particularly well; maybe it was fourth time lucky.”

What was the track like – new tracks can be a bit ‘sticky’ because the resin in the timber hasn’t dried out.

“I’ve not encountered that before. The track was very dusty.

“I think the nations who arrived earlier had more of an issue with that.

“The more people who ride a new track the less dusty it becomes.”

Callum Skinner
Callum has lots to celebrate from Rio. Photo©Getty Images

The ‘round one’ ride against Venezuela – you have to be fully ‘on’ to get the time, don’t you?

“Yes you always have to be fully on; otherwise your time will be substandard as your energy expenditure is so high with a large gap. For our ride against Venezuela we played it safe.

“All we had to do was win the heat and post at least the second fastest time overall to proceed to the gold silver ride.

“We knew we had the legs to do it and with disqualifications common in team sprint a conservative ride was what was required.”

The final, 42.440 – is that fastest you’ve ever ridden; I heard you were going quick in training?

“I believe it’s the fastest we’ve ever gone as a trio. If it’s in training it doesn’t really count to my mind.

“It wasn’t just winning that made our rides so special to us. It was the manor by which we achieved it.

“In the first round we set the Olympic Record, in the second round the Kiwis beat our record.

“In the final we got it back again and that time will stand until at least the next Olympics.”

As anchor man in the team sprint are you aware at all of what’s happening across the track?

“No not ever.

“When I was a junior I received a very memorable telling off from Jan [Van Eijden] one of our sprint coaches.

“We were at the Junior Europeans and in our team sprint ride I was man three and they could see in the video I looked over to the other side of the track during my ride. I understand now why they were so annoyed – it makes no difference where the other team is, I needed to give it 100% regardless.

“Also turning your head can sacrifice your technique and aero drag.

“So ever since then I haven’t dared look to the other side of the track.”

The new bikes, how do they compare to the UKSI machines?

“The stem flows nicely to the top tube; this makes the bike more aero but also the top tube a lot higher.

“This takes some getting used to as early on it can catch your knees.

“Otherwise they ride more or less the same.

“The biggest difference with this bike was an aero benefit whilst maintaining the stiffness of the UKSI machines.”

Callum Skinner
Callum’s not allowed to talk about the gears he used but if you zoom in you can maybe count the teeth… Photo©Getty Images

Are the new skinsuits as slippery as we hear?

“Possibly, we really are kept in the dark with how much of a difference certain bits of kit make. There’s also the trouble of what do you compare it to, there are so many skinsuits out there.

“We know our standard ‘World Cup’ and ‘World Champs’ skinsuits are significantly slower. I noticed a lot of commonalities with our skinsuits compared to the other nations, the stitching on the arms for example.

“Other nations even made gains we failed to achieve, for example with pin-less numbers. Our skinsuits are a pain to get into especially when you are sweaty also the neck is very tight.

“However we believe it’s worth it. Unfortunately we don’t get to keep them, they are back in Tony’s Room-X as it’s now called.”

Can we ask about gears in the team sprint or is that on the secret list?

“It’s a secret; Phil has admitted he has geared up since the Worlds.

“I was between 100” and 106” as were most of my other competitors.”

Did the time hang heavy between the team and individual sprints?

“Not really, we finished the Team Sprint quite late.

“Partially our own fault as we volunteered to do a dope test in order to ratify our Olympic Record.

“So it was a late evening with an early start.”

Did you expect to go quite so quick in qualifying for the individual sprint – was that 9.703 a personal best?

“I expected to go a little quicker in hindsight.

“I think there was a high 9.6 in there. I had the legs but my technique wasn’t great.

“Yes it was a personal best on my time from worlds.”

Are sprint qualifying and match race gears open for discussion?

“I think qualification was around 124” – I raced through the day on various gears from 104” to 112”.”

Were you surprised by how ‘ordinary’ the French seemed – Bauge was a shadow of himself.

“I’m sure there have been plenty competitions in the past where we have looked ordinary at World Cups and Worlds. It’s just the ebb and flow of competition form.

“We do as much as we can to peak for the Olympics, we don’t apply that high level of attention to detail to any other competitions. We always hold something back in reserve.

“It’s all about the long term picture and the four year cycle.”

Callum Skinner
Callum and Jason room together and are good friends, but raced to win. Photo©Getty Images

Tell us your feelings about your keirin campaign.


“I feel I really found some good form on the day of the Quarters and Semis in the sprint.

“On the day of the final against Jason I lost that momentum.

“On the Keirin day my legs felt even worse.

“Team Sprint had been our primary focus. I gave it absolutely everything I had on Team Sprint night. Anything else from there on was a bonus.

“I’m disappointed with my tactics and my form in the Keirin but that’s something to work on for next time. It’s tricky as the opportunities to ride Keirin at an international level are rare. There is only one spot at World Cups and Worlds as GB doesn’t have a trade team. In the Olympics we have two spots.

“For the next cycle I’d like to see us have a trade team in World Cups for the benefit of the rider who is second in line for that selection.”

Is the post-competition party able to be enquired about?

“Yes, anyone who follows me on Snapchat probably would have had a little window into those parties. I’m writing this on day six of a continuous night out schedule.

“I’ll be glad to get some sleep on this flight.

“Most days follow the same procedure; drinks at the local hotel or a corporate house (Omega, Oakley, GB) from 9pm until 1am. Then head to either another corporate house with more of a club atmosphere (Dutch, French, sometimes British and the best being Red Bull!) or if that’s not working out, a local Brazilian Club, all are open until about 5-6am.

“Then we walk/stumble back to the food hall have some breakfast then sleep.

“Then repeat until closing ceremony!

“Some of the parties have been incredible. I’ll just leave you with the bare bones for now.”

What now – holidays?

“I’ve got a week in around the UK with sponsorship and media commitments.

“Then I’m off on holiday for two weeks – I’m road tripping around the continent with my girlfriend.”

We’re not sure if that trip is to recover from the racing or the partying – but an Olympic gold and silver is certainly worth celebrating.

With congratulations and thanks again to Callum.

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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