The ‘Giro Ciclistico d’Italia’ (or ‘Baby Giro’ as it’s popularly known) along with the Tour de l’Avenir and Giro Ciclistico della Valle d’Aosta, is one of the most important stage races in terms of a u23 rider wishing to ‘step up’ to a pro continental or World Tour team. 

For all of the big squads these races are the ‘shop windows,’ for future talent.

Francesco Moser, Giovanni Battaglin, Dmitri Konyshev, Marco Pantani (r.i.p.), Carlos Betancur and Pavel Sivakov are just some of the names who have won this race and moved on to greater things. 

This year’s edition went to the small phenomenon that is GB and Trinity Road Racing rider, Tom Pidcock – there’s little that laddie cannot do.

On the way to the overall he won three stages including Stage Eight which traversed the mighty 1866 metre Passo de Mortirolo.

In a sterling 12th overall in this tough race was Scotland’s own Calum Johnston riding for the Holdsworth Zappi Team.

We last spoke to Calum back in June, he’d just come down from extended ‘lockdown’ on Mount Etna to a training camp in Cesena, Emelia Romagna.

We opened by asking what happened next?

“We had an Italian National Elite race at Imola on the Formula One circuit, where the Worlds were; 12 laps of the track then three laps of a circuit which took in the famous Trei Monte climb, I made the top 20 and the team had Paul Double up in the top 10 placings.”

Calum Johnston
Calum Johnston has enjoyed getting back into racing after lockdown. Photo©supplied

Then you had a nice result in the, ‘Footsteps of the Romans’ stage race in Bulgaria?

“Yes, that was a UCI 2.2 two day race and I was 10th overall to gain my first UCI points.

“The field was strong with East European continental teams, the Caja Rural Development team and a national squad from Serbia.

“I had good legs for that one.”

Then you stayed in Bulgaria to ride the national tour?

“Yes, that was four stages and again with a strong field, NIPPO DELKO One Provence were there, that’s a pro continental squad.

“The Caja Rural guys were in that one too along with Polish continental teams like Mazowske Serce Polski and Voster ATS.   

“Paul Double was just four seconds off the podium in that one with fourth place on final GC and we had Mason Hollyman also in the top 10 on GC.

“After Stage One we had Rees Wood in the white jersey of best young rider and my job was to protect him on Stage Two but he suffered on the main climb; my job was to look after him so I lost time that day; but for that I would have been top 10, as it was I finished in 20th place overall.

“It was good to race against the higher level teams just to see how they ride; I was surprised that they’re perhaps not as good as I imagined they may be.”

Then it was the ‘Grande’, the Baby Giro?

“That was my big priority for the year, it’s the main race for getting yourself noticed.

“I rode well on Stage Four, taking 13th place and that got me up there on the GC.

“I was pretty consistent throughout and on the last day I moved up to 12th on GC.”

Top 12 in the Baby Giro was the season highlight for Calum Johnston. Photo©supplied

The Mortirolo?

“That’s the second time I’ve raced it and on that last day it was particularly brutal, we had a total of 3,500 metres of climbing within the 121 kilometres of Stage Eight.

“After seven days it was just down to who could suffer most, the Mortirolo is just unbelievably hard, you’re just riding so as not to stop, I was on 39 x 32 and down to 50 rpm.

“There’s no team work on there – every man for himself!”

And a good result too at the Trofeo Citta di San Vendemiano.

“I finished 15th and was reasonably pleased with that but it could have been better, I was in the sprint for second place; Antoni Tiberi from team Colpack Ballan was away solo by a minute for the win. 

“I had good position and good legs but I got boxed in – I still came round a few riders at the death but like I said, it could have been better.” 

Then the Piccolo Lombardia, your last race of the season.

“That was pretty disappointing, I was hoping for a top 10 finish but think I was still feeling the after effects of the Giro and finished 46th on the day.

“I trained pretty hard all through lock down and I think that those took a more relaxed approach were fresher come the end of the season.

“I was OK in San Vendemiano but it rather caught up with me in Lombardia; it was a quality field with the likes of Lotto, NTT, FDJ, CCC and Israel development squads as well as the top Italian squadra Colpack. 

“I was fine over the Ghisallo but popped on the last two climbs.”

Calum Johnston also got good results in stages at the Giro Ciclistico della Valle d’Aosta. Photo©Holdsworth/Zappi

Hi-lite of 2020?

“Top 12 in the Giro, for sure – it was confirmation that all the hard work over the last few years had paid off.” 

Lessons from season 2020?

“I try to be more relaxed now.

“I see a lot of riders stressing all the time, I try to keep calm now and not over-think things. 

“You perform better if you’re relaxed.

“I also have more self-belief now and that gives you confidence.

“I was getting up there into top 15 places in the biggest u23 races so I was going into races with more confidence.”

Calum Johnston
Calum Johnston is hoping that his ‘exciting plans for 2021’ come to fruition. Photo©supplied

What does season 2021 hold?

“I have nothing planned yet but it’s good to have some time with my family, I was away from home for nine months.

“There is the possibility of something exciting for next season but nothing is finalised yet…”

VeloVeritas wished Calum well for season 2021, whatever path he chooses to follow.