Talking to the two riders who shared the podium with Alex Blain at the CiCLE Classic last weekend, Jamie Sparling & James McCallum, and hear their stories of this epic epic race…
Related Link: Report & Results from the CiCLE Classic
It was the type of race that riders can’t help but emerge from with tales of woe or triumph. Raleigh-GAC rider Jamie Sparling and Rapha’s James McCallum had very differing endings to their race.
In second place was Canadian Jamie Sparling (above). He admits that this was definitely a surprise. Explaining why he may have had such a good race, Jamie said “I usually ride better when the weather gets bad and also being a little bigger, I think riders like me are a little more immune to the weather conditions.”
“The strategy was simple enough” he says “get to the front and try and stay there and it sort of happened I was there all day.”
Recalling how the race unfolded, Jamie told VeloUK, “the race split a whole bunch of times and kept coming back and then splitting again. It was like, if you could stay in the top ten, you’d make the splits without trying too hard.”
The first big split came when Endura Racing went on the attack and Jamie was right on it when it happened. “I was on Zak’s (Dempster) wheel when he went and he split it in the cross wind. I think there was a group of about 18 or so and Raleigh had three in there. No-one was really serious about driving it yet though and we were away for about 20k or so.”
Watching, watching, alert. Jamie Sparling, right, never far from the front and making sure nothing escapes him.
“Then it came back together but as soon as we hit the lanes, it started to split up again and again. You couldn’t get any shelter out there and there was tonnes of wind. Unless you were in the top five or so, there was no shelter in the wheels.”
“Endura rode an awesome race for sure. When Blain attacked up the KoM, that was fast, and I went backwards and had to claw my way back on to the chasers.”
Asked if he had any problems mechanically, Jamie replied, “no. We had problems with flats (punctures) in Dengie Marshes and Battenkill (New York) and so we got these new Schwalbe tubs for this race, 28C and they were awesome.”
One of the key moments in the race was when race director Colin Clews came up to the photographers on Somerberg and said the race had been shortened. When I asked Jamie how that affected his race, he replied “I didn’t know the course had been shortened until James (McCallum) told me.”
Up the steep dirt and wet climb of Somerberg and Jamie follows Alex Blain who shortly after this punctured and when he came back, brought up James McCallum to the front again.
“James attacked over the Somerberg the last time and Yanto and I came with him and then Yanto slipped back near the end. I was thinking, we still have 30k to go and I’m in a box here and then James tells me it’s only 12k to go and almost all of it was tailwind.”
“All of sudden, the motivation spark comes back and we just hit it. Unfortunately for James, he flatted in the last six k or so and he was a lot stronger than I was. There were no more tactics at that point; you just ride as hard as you can and the tailwind helped. If there had been a head wind, it would have been way harder to do.”
One of the reasons the course had been shortened was the flooding so I asked Jamie what he’d seen during the race with the rain flooding the course. “There was one part which we went through three times and it kept getting deeper and deeper every time” he says. “The last time, it was almost at the hub”!
“In swimming they have a term called leeching, like drafting in the water and it was like that, you were getting the air draft but if you rode close enough, they were breaking the water for you and you rode along in the wake of the bike in front, it was bizarre.”
And the cold, did that affect Jamie’s race? “This is an epic race in any conditions but when it’s dumping it down, it makes it harder and it wasn’t just the rain but the cold. It’s super hard staying warm and I was having trouble shifting the gears because my hand was numb. I was shifting with my knuckles and stuff. You try and block it out and get the job done.”
“We have raced in the rain quite a bit this year so it’s almost becoming normal but you have to respect it. I was happy with the bad conditions because I do better then. I don’t enjoy it but I come out of my shell a bit more in terrible conditions, so for me, I was happy about it.
“I got some UCI points and the prize money was half decent and won the KoM , so I am super stoked.”
Above: Jamie Sparling second and in the background, James McCallum, third.
James McCallum – great legs – terrible luck
Riders during their racing days will get ‘floater’ days when the pedals spin round effortlessly while you’re rivals are breathing through their ears. For Scotland’s James McCallum, that floater was on Sunday but while he had great legs for the race, he also had bad luck which cost him. While that bad luck was disappointing, there was also elation.
“It’s awesome” he said at the races post event HQ. “Unbelievable. Today was just the best day I have had on the bike since Smithfield 2007. At the start, I felt a bit rough and then I came round and I think the conditions played into my hands.”
“We had some of our youngest guys here and I tried to tell them in the team meeting how important it was to be up for this race. The conditions were appalling but on a day like that, you just have to get stuck in.”
“I knew the course pretty well so I knew where I had to be and how to get there and that helped a lot. It’s not really sunk in …”
While he had good form for the race, the bad luck dented his chances of winning. “I punctured with 60 k to go, front wheel, got it changed, and chased and got on with the help of Magnus Backstedt. We got on just after the KoM and after that, I was like, my legs are ‘good’ today.”
“I then attacked on Somerberg and Jamie and I got away and Yanto was with us so I attacked again and Jamie came with me. We were on the fastest, smoothest piece of dam road and I punctured again! My back wheel this time with 3 k to go — I was pretty annoyed!”
“There was no way we would have caught Blain, but I was confident I was going to get second. I had a quick change, but still lost thirty seconds by the time I got going again. I did a few turns with Yanto and he was knackered. He said, ‘I’m wrecked’, so I was chasing Jamie all the way. I could see the cars and oh man I was close. I chased back to four bike lengths by the line but it wasn’t enough.”
“ I have to be chuffed to get third after two punctures and one in the last few k of the race.”
“If you had told me last year that I would end up on the podium here, I would have been over the moon. It just goes to show that the work I put in this winter is paying off, and that experience pays in the end.”
“I learned a lot from riding this race for the first time with Rapha Condor Sharp last year, and I am sure our young guys have taken a lot from today.”
McCallum now has two weeks to prepare for the Halfords Tour Series, his first major objective of the year. As you would expect, especially after such a great performance at CiCLE, he’s hoping that form is there again as he tries to help his team defend the title in the Tour Series from 2011 …