Thursday, July 25, 2024

Callum Thornley – Trinity Racing’s Scot is on a ‘life journey’

"I'm aiming to use all my years in the U23 category so I can become as complete a rider as possible before turning pro.”


HomeInterviewsCallum Thornley - Trinity Racing's Scot is on a 'life journey'

Trinity Racing’s Callum Thornley has enjoyed a great first half of the 2024 season, finishing several of the U23 Classics in style and showing superb TT and climbing form in the recent ‘Baby Giro’.

The 20 year-old Scot was 10th in Paris-Roubaix Espoirs, and 20th in Gent-Wevelgem, before netting two 9th places in bunch sprints in the Alpes Isère Tour in May, then finished 5th and 2nd on stages in Italy.

We’ve spoken to Callum before but felt it was about time for another chat, connecting with him at his home in Girona.

You’re from Peebles in the Scottish Borders, which is famous mountain bike country, producing some top-class off-road riders, is MTB how you first got into the bike?

“Yes, I started out on the mountain bike.

“It’s always been massive in Peebles and I grew up riding in Glentress Forest, doing a mix of XC and Enduro.”

Are you from a cycling family? 

“Not really, my dad did a bit recreationally back in his 20’s and he rides now but I think it was just where I grew up that got me into it, really.

“I played football and rugby until I was 16/17 and I’m definitely happy I did that, as I think variety and happiness is the most important thing at that age.”

Callum Thornley
Callum Thornley started riding for Peebles CC. Photo©supplied

You were in the Peebles CC as a youngster, did you concentrate solely on the mountain bike or did you mix it up, riding the club TTs on the Stobo road?

“Yeah, I was between PCC and another local club called Cranked CC and mainly did mountain bike stuff but I did my first club TT on my 12th birthday actually and I got hooked from there, going on to do the local chaingang and the Saturday group ride.

“I credit the local boys a lot for teaching me the rules and etiquette in those early days.”

Then you rode for the Spokes Team in 2021, where the ethos is to bring on youngsters. Did you like it there, was it a good introduction to taking the bike more seriously?

“I had heard about Spokes a lot and that was a big goal to get onto that team, but to be honest I can’t remember much about the years I was on the team…

“What with Covid interrupting everything, and lockdowns, there was a lot going on, but it was my first proper experience of riding for a team like that and I made some good friends there.”

Callum Thornley
Callum Thornley second to new U23 TT Champion Leo Hayter in 2022. Photo©British Cycling

You rode to a superb Silver medal in the British U23 TT in 2022, riding for Wheelbase and second only to Baby Giro Winner Leo Hayter. Would you say that your “breakthrough” ride?

“Aye, that was definitely my breakthrough ride.

“Since all my mates at home had gone to uni and started full time jobs after we finished school that previous year I was forced to start taking it more seriously, so that winter I was pretty committed and early in the season the National TT became a big goal.

“I went down multiple times to recce the course and spent a good amount of time on the TT bike so to podium I was really happy.

”But special mention must go to Wheelbase and Stuart Reid because that year made me realise cycling was my passion and the times I had with him and the boys I’ll remember forever, they made me realise cycling could be the social team sport like I was used to with football and rugby.”

Callum Thornley joined Trinity Racing in 2023. Photo©supplied

Signed by Trinity Racing last season, in 2023, upping the level another rung. Was the increase in the number of race days and the step up in race quality a shock to the system? How did you get on?

“I was buzzing to be taken on by Trinity.

“Knowing how hard it is to make it in the UK as a cyclist I was excited to experience the European scene.

“To be honest though, I felt like I got a kicking all year; there were days I performed well but overall I remember being so tired by day two of the stage races and on my knees by the last days, especially when it went uphill.

“I sold myself to the DS’s as ‘a loyal domestique’, I knew I didn’t have the physical or tactical level to win races so my best bet was getting as many race days as possible to gain experience.

“I got to do a lot of races as a result.”

Callum Thornley
Callum Thornley in action in the Individual Time Trial at the 2023 World Championships in Scotland. Photo©British Cycling

14th last year in the U23 World TT championships in Scotland, how did you feel in that ride, in front of the home crowd? Any problems or highlights that stick on the mind?

“Yeah, that was definitely really special.

“Actually, I was disappointed with the result but in hindsight a lot of the guys in front of me ended up in World Tour teams the following year, so I can’t be too upset.

“Besides the result, it was just incredible to be only an hour’s drive from home, competing for GB, with all my friends and family there – ‘once in a lifetime’-type stuff.”

10th in Paris-Roubaix Espoirs this April, a really great ride. Tell us about that.
 I saw a photo of you on the front of the bunch on the pavé and Evan Oliphant commented that he’d warned you against doing that!

“That day we were all-in for my teammate and housemate Bob Donaldson, so that explains the picture of me on the front.

“Evan coached me throughout my junior years until last year and he told me a phrase; “never be on the front until you can see the finish line”.

“We didn’t get the win in the end but Bob ended up 2nd so it was a good day for the team.

“Not many people know this, but I punctured about 1km from the velodrome and so the sprint for 4th place was done with a front flat tyre!

“Ironic to make it through all those sectors trouble-free and then puncture that close to the finish…”

And 20th in U23 Gent-Wevelgem, you’ve been getting into some good races with Trinity. 

“Yes, Gent-Wevelgem was good.

“I tried to race aggressively but I just did too much early on and ended up missing the key move when it went.

“The calendar on Trinity is pretty incredible, especially this year with the more classics-style stuff… it’s been great.”

Callum Thornley has had some top class results in 2024. Photo©supplied

You also had your fair share of bad luck in April, breaking your collarbone. What happened, and how did the rehab go?

“That was on Stage 1 of the Tour de Bretagne, less than an hour in, the break had just gone, I lost concentration and was too late to break when some guys slammed-on in front of me.

“I went straight over the bars onto my left side. I hadn’t broken a bone before so I wasn’t sure of the type of pain it would be.

“I got back to the bunch okay, but when the adrenaline wore off I was pretty sure it was broken.

“To be honest the rehab was super-smooth; I was back on the turbo after 10 days and outside again after two weeks, so it was just a little mid-season break, really!

“It was a shame to miss Bretagne and Dunkirque though – but that’s cycling!”

Trinity has two classy ex-World Tour riders, Nico Roche and Peter Kennaugh as Sport Directors, how do you find them?
 On Ned Boulting’s “Never Strays Far” podcast, Peter sometimes mentions how he encourages (enforces!) discipline and the right attitude in his young riders – hopefully he’s not referring to you!

“Ah, Pete is great, he’s so passionate about us riders doing well.</