It’s not easy to get a ride with a good Belgian or Dutch continental team, never mind a Pro Team or World Tour squad; ‘Home Boys’ always have to take preference for sponsors so if you’re an ‘Anglo’ you have to be good or the team must have faith that you’ll come good for them.
It was our mentor, Viktor who pointed out to us that Englishman, Callum Macleod had spent season 2022 with the Dutch ABLOC CT squad and that his contract is renewed for season 2023; of the 19 riders on the squad 16 are Dutch, there’s a Latvian, a Finn – and Callum.
The team’s biggest new recruit over the close season was big, strong, bear of a man, Jan-Willem Van Schip whose palmarès include a European Madison title with Yoeri Havik and a World Points Championship.
The team already enjoys an excellent race programme but Van Schip’s name will do no harm when it comes to opening doors to more races for them.
We caught up with 22 years-old Callum, originally from Oxford but now based in Reading when in the UK, early in the New Year.
Happy New Year, Callum – first question to avoid the ‘Wrath of Jos Ryan,’ are you a, ‘Rayner Man?’
“I have been supported by The Rayner Foundation but turn 23 in March so not this year; the support I’ve had from the Rayner Fund is something I’ll always be grateful for.”
You were with the UK Canyon team for three years, what inspired you to head, ‘over the water?’
“I could have been with Canyon last year but when the chance came to ride for Abloc in 2021 I felt it was a great opportunity to develop, especially since the Covid and Brexit situations had affected the number of UCI European races a UK team could participate in.”
“It’s an alcohol-free ‘sports’ beer, the company is owned by the same person who owns the Parkhotel Valkenburg ladies team.
“We also have a lot of other sponsors, like Schwalbe tyres, Bolle eyewear.”
How did you get the ride?
“A friend put a word in for me.
“I fitted in with the team’s mission to nurture talent – but the team gets so many applications to join, over 100 each season, and it’s usually Dutch guys they take on.
“For 2023 there are 19 guys on the books, 16 are Dutch, with one Latvian, one Finn – and me.”
Where are you based when over there?
“At the team house in Heerlen, I know that I’m very fortunate to have that luxury.”
The team enjoys a great programme.
“I’m very lucky with the team’s programme and 2023 promises to be even better with more races outside of Europe.
“In 2022 I raced in Turkey, The Netherlands, the UK, Denmark, Luxembourg, Austria, Romania, The Czech Republic, Belgium and France.”
Which 2022 result are you most pleased with?
“I carried illness into several of my races but I had good legs in the Sazka Tour in the Czech Republic where Oscar Onley rode so well but I think I tried too hard to get as skinny as possible and that was a mistake, I’m never going to be a Grand Tour climber.
“Where I’m good is on punchy, shorter climbs.
“I was 10th in the Fleche du Sud in Luxembourg. That was an OK result and the race was a good learning experience.
“In the Turul Romanei I was 27th on final GC but only 29 seconds away from fourth place; I’ve been physically close to good results and gained a lot of experience so it’s not been a bad year.”
You had a long season, the Tour of Antalya was early February and you rode Paris-Tours in October.
“It was a long year, yes, but I had Covid in January and it hung around so I had a small break in March/April where I went to a training camp and that was when I learned more about specific training.”
You used to be a good cyclo-cross rider, is that something you’ll pick up on again?
“As a first year u23 rider I won the UK National Series – but it cost a lot of money with equipment and travel and over this winter I’m concentrating on training to build my endurance.
“That said, I picked up a ‘cross bike this winter but my plans were scuppered by a bout of ‘flu over Xmas.
“I’m not being negative but if I don’t manage to sign a full pro contract by the end of the 2023 season then I think I’ll ride a full ‘cross season through the winter of 2023/24.”
Your Abloc team mate in 2022, Ivar Slik is a top Beach and Gravel race exponent, have you ever considered either aspect?
“I don’t think I’m built for Beach Racing at 55 kilograms!
“But Gravel is definitely something I’d like to experience; I’d like to ride the ‘Kings Cup’ back in the UK, that’s the Gravel national title race.
“I’d also like to ride the famous ‘Three Peaks’ cyclo-cross in Yorkshire, that’s 61km (38 miles) and 28km of the route is on-road, 33km is on unsurfaced ground and 6-8km on running/walking terrain.”
‘Big Beast’ Dutchman, Jan-Willem Van Schip will be a team mate in 2023.
“Yes, I hope to learn a lot from him, he’s at the very highest of levels on the track; his presence should help us get into races.
“I’ve not spoken to him yet but hope to get the chance to spend time with him at the team training camp in January.”
I believe you have aspirations to be a chiropractor?
“I’m in the process of applying for university and if I don’t get a Pro Team or World Tour place by the end of 2023 then that’s the direction I’ll take.
“There’s no minimum wage for Continental teams and you have to start thinking about your future.”
Do you have a coach?
“I was with Grinta Coaching but have changed to Duchy Coaching with Max Stedman as my coach, Max won the Tour of Antalya in 2019 and graduated from the University of Exeter with a Sport and Health Science (BSc) degree.
“I’ve started doing gym training for the first time so it’s a fresh start – I hope it’ll make me a better, more rounded rider.”
Lastly Callum, what’s 2023 about?
“I want to train as well as I can, enjoy my racing, make the most of any opportunities but only put pressure on myself when it’s appropriate.”