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Calum Johnston – “I wanted to make my mark in Spain”

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The last time we spoke to young Scot, Calum Johnston was after his sterling 12th place in the 2020 ‘Baby’ Giro riding for that ‘Man of Cycling,’ Flavio Zappi’s Holdsworth team.

For 2021, Calum has stepped up a level, joining Spanish amateur ‘feeder’ team for the UCI ProTeam Caja Rural-Seguros RGA; it wasn’t the best of starts to the season for the Scot – thanks to Señor Covid – but the man is back on his best game; we spoke to him soon after his first win, in the Trofeo San Jose-Iberdola.

Calum Johnston
Calum Johnston. Photo©Oskar Matxin

Top of the podium in the Trofeo San José GP – Muelas de Pan, nice job, sir – talk us through it please.

“Thank you, it was a National Elite race over 155 kilometres, the first 60 or 70 kilometres were pretty flat and there were guys trying to get up the road, with around 20 getting up the road and going to five minutes – but I knew it wouldn’t stick, the group was too big, you get guys messing about and missing turns in a group like that.

“I attacked with a team mate with 50 K to go, it was a big, open road and we got a good gap, four came up to us and we worked well together.

“On the final climb we still had a 1:40 advantage; it was 2.5 K at 5%, a power climb, there was a bit of cat and mouse but at 1200 meters to go I went for it, as hard as I could, opened a gap and knew I had it.

“The team hadn’t won for a while and I wanted to make my mark, so it was a nice result.”

Top 10 on GC in the National Elite Vuelta a Zamora prior to your win.

“I was actually hoping for more but on the last day a break got away which meant I moved down the standings but I was happy with my form in my first stage race of the year.”  

Calum Johnston
Calum Johnston at the Vuelta a Zamora. Photo©supplied

And the question I must ask or Jos Ryan is on my case, are you still a ‘Dave Rayner Fund man?’

“Oh yes!

“The Dave Rayner Fund has been such a help to me on this journey I’m on.”

Did you have much hassle getting out to Spain initially, with all of the travel restrictions?

“To start with there were, it was difficult as a non-citizen or non-resident of Spain but I found a loophole and came over in February.

“I flew from Heathrow to Belgium and once you’re actually in Europe it’s easier to travel – and it helps if you’re an athlete.

“But I contracted Covid out here in Spain and was off the bike. I half-recovered but decided that I should come home and get properly fit again.

“There was no point in staying and knew that I could train better back home and get back to fitness.

“But coming back again was difficult, getting a visa was a nightmare and it began to mess with my head, especially seeing the team doing well over here – however, I got myself back to fitness and eventually made it back over.”

Calum Johnston
Calum Johnston is based in the Navarre province in the Basque Country. Photo©Txirrindulariak

Where’s ‘home’ in Spain?

“Pamplona in the Basque Country. It’s Miguel Indurain’s hometown so cycling is pretty big in the area.

“It’s hot right now, 40 degrees but a great place for a cyclist, you can go up in to the mountains or ride on the plains, the road surfaces are good – better than those in Italy, I would say.

“Like I said, you have plenty of choice, flat roads, short climbs, mountains…”

How does the Northern Spain racing scene compare to the Italian experience?

“Both have pluses and minuses; when I was with Flavio Zappi’s team in Italy you had to be more personally responsible, which was no bad thing.

“Here at Caja Rural – Seguros RGA it’s a bigger set-up with more staff including a masseur and service course.

“With Zappi it teaches you to be responsible and self-sufficient whilst here absolutely everything is done for you, with a team of great staff in place to help you.

“I still keep in touch with Flavio, we have frequent chats.”

Calum Johnston
At Caja Rural Calum Johnston just needs to ride his bike – fast. Photo©supplied

Are you coached by the team now?

“Yes, Carlos here at Caja Rural sets my programme, I’ve been with him since last December but right now we’re not training so much because we’re racing.“I did the usual base miles in the winter, gradually building intensity, now a typical week is:

  • Sunday: race
  • Monday: rest day
  • Tuesday: a couple of hours
  • Wednesday: a long endurance ride
  • Thursday: intervals
  • Friday: an easy day
  • Saturday: race.”