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Callum Thornley – “The road is where my ambitions lay”

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When Scottish Cycling Endurance Coach and seven times Scottish Road Race Champion, Evan Oliphant gets in touch to tell us there’s a junior rider named Callum Thornley that we should be speaking to, we snap to attention.

He’s been knocking out a string of fast 10 mile time trials.

Indeed he has, with 19:46, a 19:49 and a 20:05: if you’re as old as me then you’ll remember us all saying ‘wow!’ when big Londoner, David Akam first took the RTTC ’10’ record below the 20 minute barrier back in 1980 – and now we have a Scottish 17 year-old riding two 30 mph 10 mile tests within a week.

The world turns…

Yes, well worth further investigation of this Callum Thornley chap, we thought to ourselves.

Callum Thornley
Callum Thornley is just 17 and riding 30mph ‘Tens’. Photo©supplied

Congratulations, Callum – the basics first, please?

“I’m 17 years-old, from Peebles, I was at school but have just finished my last Higher, which was maths and now I’m free to concentrate on my cycling.

“I’ve been cycling since I was eight or nine years-old originally with the Peebles Cycling Club but with Spokes since January.”

Will your 19:49 at Eglinton stand as Scottish record given it was a CTT event?

“I don’t think so, the previous fastest was Oscar Onley’s 20:12 which was set in an SC event.

“It’s annoying but hopefully I’ll be able to find an SC ‘10’ later in the season where I can set another fast time; but the performance was good for my head, official  record or not.”

What gears did you set these times on?

“I’m using a senior cassette, ‘11 up’ with a 52 ring but spending most of the time in the 13 and 14 sprockets.

“I’ve been trying to keep my cadence up – that’s what I’ve been doing in training.

“In junior road races you’re restricted to 52×14; coming from an MTB background you spend a lot of time grinding it out on a low cadence so higher cadence is still a bit foreign to me.”

Callum Thornley
Callum Thornley. Photo©RS

Tell us about your bike.

“It’s a Giant Trinity which I got through Spokes.

“I ride a second-hand wheelset with a Zipp 808 front and Zipp rear disc.

“The Giant is good because there’s so much scope to tweak the front end and get your position right.”

Your position looks pretty ‘dialled’, to use a trendy word.

“It wasn’t when I first got the bike but I’ve taken advice; I attended a track day at Glasgow and Dan Bigham was there – he was very helpful, telling me to raise my stack height and go for a 15 degree tilt on the tri-bars.

“Evan has helped me a lot with my position too – but I think much of it is just getting used to the position, spending time in it on the turbo and training on the road.”

Have you gone for clinchers – all the stats now say they’re a faster option?

“Ideally I would like to ride them but I couldn’t source a second hand pair so I’m on Vittoria Corsa Speed 23mm tubulars.”

Callum Thornley
The MTB background which Callum Thornley has had should stand him in good stead. Photo©supplied

Are we allowed to ask about, ‘numbers’ for that 19:49 performance.

“They’re nothing special, 370 watts average.

“I’ve had better on my road bike for a 20 minute effort but being on the TT bike with your head tucked in makes a big difference – my power output is still a work in progress though…”

Back to the beginning, how did you get into the sport?

“When I was eight or nine we were on holiday in France and saw the Tour de France on the Tourmalet, that really sparked my interest and I got into riding the MTB crits at Glentress every Thursday evening.

“I was mad for it, thinking about it all day at school and then at the race it seemed like there was a huge crowd – there wasn’t really but at that age it was all very exciting.

“I rode my first road race at 16 years-of-age but my main focus was XC and Enduro MTB.

“I rode my first time trial at 12 years-of-age, on the local ‘mini-Meldons’ course, I enjoyed the experience but the MTB was the big thing.

“I rode the British and European Championships on the MTB, but now it’s the road I want to focus on.”

Callum Thornley
Callum Thornley began his racing with the Peebles Cycling Club. Photo©supplied

Evan Oliphant is coaching you now?

“Yes, since October last year, we’re actually going out on a run together, tomorrow.

“He sets my programme and gives me suggestions, we have a good relationship.” 

How did you handle ‘lockdown?’

“Like a lot of people I struggled a bit with motivation; initially it was cool being a full time athlete but the novelty soon wore off.

“I took some time off the bike, played football, did some running, went to the gym – all stuff to try and keep my head right.

“I got back on the bike last November then gave myself a talking to in January of this year and got serious again.”

Callum Thornley
Callum Thornley has some big races with the Spokes Team on the horizon. Photo©supplied

What’s the programme now?

“I have the Thursday criteriums at Lochgelly but my first big race of the year comes on the weekend of June 12th/13th, the MAS Design Junior Tour of Yorkshire; there’s a five kilometre time trial on Saturday morning – which we have to ride on road bikes – then a 67 mile road race in the afternoon.

“On the Sunday there’s another 67 mile road race but over a tough, hilly route.

“Two weeks after that I have the Junior Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic, the Elite race is cancelled but the junior one goes ahead on June 27th.

“With the off road sections it’s a race which should suit me with my MTB back ground – it’s a big target.”

Knocking out 30 mph ‘10’ times surely bodes well for the velodrome?

“I did a bit of track work over the winter of 2019/20 but I didn’t really take to it – I’ve done a lot more training now though and I intend to ride the track over the winter. 

“But the road is where my ambitions lay for the foreseeable future.”

Callum Thornley
Callum Thornley (in green) sees his future on the road. Photo©supplied

What’s the ultimate goal?

“I’d like to be a professional cyclist; my initial goal is to get a place on a World Tour u23 development squad – that’s is if my race results go to plan.

“I’m just going to train hard and hope I get a little luck on my side.”

And if you could win just one race?

“It’d be a Classic; Roubaix, Flanders, Milan-Sanremo; I somehow can’t see myself as a Grand Tour rider.”

Here at VeloVeritas we’ve diaried to check out the Junior Tour of Yorkshire results and wish Callum well for that one and The Rutland.

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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