Interview – James McCallum Tour Series Swansong


VeloUK talks to Scotlands ‘Jimmy’ McCallum before his last ever Tour Series race in Canary Wharf last Thursday.

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Interview – James McCallum Tour Series Swansong

In a message on twitter, James McCallum tweeted “Just worked out that I competed in 53 @TourSeries in the last six years. #or54 James added when talking to VeloUK, “in other teams, I’ve done every round like I did the first year so I have a fair few ‘caps’ and seen it grow to being the crazy monster it is now.”


“It is almost day and night when you compare it to what it was, to what it is now. The quality of the racing as I have said time and time again, has just got better and better over the years and it’s hard beyond anything we expected it would be.”

That level of difficulty flows into other events whether they be crits or road races. James added “every race I do this season is the last time I will be doing it. The Nocturne this weekend (he was third) and same with the National Crit Champs and the Commonwealth Games”.

“It’s all coming to an end and I could not have asked for a more fitting end with Glasgow coming around and getting to share my last year with Rus and Dean (Downing brothers) is pretty cool as well. I am looking forward to new things afterwards too.”

Asked how hard it is for some one to come into the Tour Series who hasn’t done it before, James explained “I think Adam (Blythe) is a prime example of a guy who has come from a top level into the series. You see it all the time, like in Nocturnes etc, and they come away saying ‘these guys are good at this’ and they don’t get it easy.”

“I think we have the best crit riders in the world because it’s our staple diet of racing and you have to be good at it. The more you do something, the better you get at it and I am quite lucky I am built for these things. The Tour Series happened at the right time for me and I’ve been able to make a career out of it.”

Unlike a road race from where many road stars will come from, where riders can sit in the wheels and switch off a bit in many cases, a crit is a very different animal. Canary Wharf is perhaps more of a ‘crit’ circuit than many of the courses used for the Tour Series being a rectangle with four tight bends joined by two short and two longer straights. And its pan flat.

Asked to describe the effort on a typical lap in a crit like that, James says “the most difficult thing you have is people trying to move up and a lot of people make the mistake of moving up in the corner, dive bombing you. If you are not in the top 20, it’s a shit fight behind you.”

“It’s like riding a wave down the outside and if you’re not in that, you are constantly chasing so you have to expend a little energy often rather than use a big massive chunk. This course especially where with two long straights, it’s a flat out sprint for 10- to 15 seconds, sit down, keep accelerating, then brake, flow round two corners and repeat that. Two flat out efforts each lap.”

“What happens is once you reach that terminal speed down the straight, the group gets bigger as people are still coming up from behind having been in the draft and then pinging off the front so it is almost like a Madison change halfway down the straight. The momentum comes from the back with everyone diving bombing each other and then you go round the corner, and the same thing happens at the next straight and it’s like that for an hour and ten minutes.”

James, a former British Champion in the circuit race has proved over and over how suited he is to a crit that is as different from a road race as a time trial is and so on. Many have said he should carry on such is his form but James explains “I have a lot of ideas for the future”.

“Consultancy and working at events, basically a gun for hire. Having spent twenty years in the sport, it makes sense to stay within it and give something back with all that experience I have got. At 35, I’m in the form of my life once the diesel gets up to speed but now I am a dad, I have to be more responsible and think about what can I do for the future.”

“I think now is a good time with the Commonwealth Games and so on.”

James is down to ride the Points and Scratch race on the track and also the road race at the Commonwealth Games. It was in the Scratch race in Melbourne he medalled in 2006. “I was lucky to be one of the five who fell off the front and got a lap. I wasn’t quite switched on though as to what Rob (Hayles) was doing on at the top of the track doing 65k an hour with Cav on his wheel (Cavendish won the Gold medal).”

With the Games being in Scotland, and having competed in previous Games around the world, James says having it in Glasgow helps the motivation massively. “Every time I have raced there in Glasgow and I have been lucky to race at both the venues, the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome and the Glasgow road circuit, the crowd has got me through an awful lot of pain and helped me hang in there.”

“The response last year in the road race for example was outrageous. So many people shouting at you and it was then that I realised the sport has changed so much in terms of, who are these people, why are they shouting at me and how do they know me? Its then you realise the sport is that big.”

Good luck to James in other events in his final season as a professional bike rider…

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