Thursday, July 25, 2024

James McCallum – “I hadn’t realised how cool this sport is”


HomeInterviewsJames McCallum - "I hadn't realised how cool this sport is"

We make no apology for featuring Endura Racing again – they’re out there, getting on with the business of pro bike racing. The Tour of the Med, Haut Var, Murcia and now – Singapore. We caught up with former British criterium champion and reigning British omnium champion, James McCallum to get the low down on one of the richest crits around – (he was on the way to the supermarket when we spoke to him, but don’t tell anyone, those glam pros aren’t supposed do the ‘trolley thing.’)

James McCallum
James messing around at a cafe stop.

How did you get the ride, James?

“Rob Hayles got an invite from Alan Rushton, who organised the race; Rob said to me, when we were in France; ‘do you fancy riding a crit in Singapore?’

“There was Rob, me plus Scott Thwaites and Sandy King – with Matt Ellis as mechanic.”

I heard it was damn hot.

“It was ‘biylin!’ 30 degrees with 80% humidity.

“It was like being in a sweat box but we were only there a few days – the day before was probably as hard as the race; a big group of us went out and it turned into a ‘smash fest.’

“Jaan Kirsipuu punctured and we all waited for him; just as well because Tom Southam’s crank fell off just at the same moment – if we hadn’t stopped for Kirsipuu we’d never have noticed that and he’s still be trying to get back to the hotel, now!”

How did the race go?

“It was held on the Formula One track so it was a a massive, wide course.

“There was a $US 12,500 first prize with money down to 25th place – our plan was to stay together and move up late.

“The field was pretty cosmopolitan with Euro Pro Tour teams like Footon and Lampre plus US squads like Bissell and Kelly, not to mention Aussie outfits like Fly V.

“The corners were wide and sweeping so there were no tricky bits where you had to brake – into the last few laps it was apparent that it was going to be a bunch sprint, so we got our string together.

“It was perfect for us, I was last wheel with Rob at the front – but when I got out of the saddle to go at 300 to go, I’d punctured and that was that!

“Rob got 20th, Scott was 21st and I was 25th – so we came away with a few bob.”

James McCallum
James is loving the Pro lifestyle.

Where did all the dosh come from?

“It was sponsored by OCBC Bank, it’s the longest established bank in Singapore and has one of the highest credit ratings in the world.

“It was a great race, we were really well looked after; hotels, shuttle buses, everything – and the food was awesome.”

Kirsten won for Australia and Fly V.

“He was very impressive, he won the US crit champs, last year and has made a brilliant transition from kilo rider to road rider.

“He won by five or six lengths clear – once he hits that top end kilo speed no one can get near him.

“Fly V were impressive too, they gave him a very good lead out.”

Changing the subject – what about the big crash, in The Med?

“I’ve had loads of crashes – when you see it coming you think, ‘I’m gonna lose some skin,’ or ‘I might break a bone, here’ but in that one I thought, ‘I’m going to die!’

“I had a double puncture on a decent and was chasing back from that, I was just off the back of the convoy, no stress, when i went into this left hander and the bike started to do a ‘high sider’ on me, I could see I was running out of road and I braked as hard as I could.

“I was doing maybe 20 mph when I went over the edge, it was a 10 metre drop but I flipped over in mid air and my back wheel hit the tree, first.

“I was amazed I’d survived, my wheels were totalled but I didn’t have a mark on me.

“The doctor checked me out, but by that time I was 15 minutes down; I got back on the bike but the shock kicked in, I felt dizzy and light headed – I had to climb off.

“After a while in the car I was fine, but at the time you don’t know what you might have done to yourself – I was just lucky to walk away from that!”

How do you rate the French adventure?

“It was very worthwhile, to tell the truth I hadn’t really realised how cool this sport is – everyone in France is just so into bike racing.

“There were folks stopping us in the street and coming up to us with Plowman post cards to sign – Evan even had to sign DFL cards.

“I just wish I’d come over when I was younger – I’m so glad to have this opportunity.”

James McCallum
The Endura lads are having to get used to signing autographs.

What about the reality of a UK programme?

“It’s not so bad, we have the Tour Series crits to look forward to and the Premiers are good races.

“We’re quiet for two weeks then we have The Reservoir followed by Doon Haem – we’re back to France for the Tro Bro Leon, Finisterre – and then it’s the Rutland before the Tour Series and Premiers get properly underway.

“It’s as good a year as any for us to win that crit series!”

Is there room for the track?

“Rob Hayles has been in the same position – riding for a road team but having track commitments – so he’s sympathetic to the cause; the crits are just about finished by the end of June, remember.”

The full time pro life – is it agreeing with you?

“I’m loving it!

“It’s nice to be able to train properly and not have to worry about the stress of another job; my girl friend says that I’m so much more relaxed about things.

“It’s great to be doing the right training, eating the right food and getting the rest you need.”

James McCallum
Endura have had a great start to the season, mixing it with the top ProTour teams.

The Med in Feb through to The Commonwealth Games in October – a long season.

“I’ll have a wee break for a week or so – but not much more.

“I hope to ride the scratch and points on track and the road course is pan flat – it would be good if we could get a Scot up there in the top ten.

“If we just get a wee bit of luck, you never know!”

Indeed, James, indeed. With thanks to Mr. McCallum for his time and wishing him all the best for season 2010.

Thanks to Kevin Hague and Endura Racing for the pics.