Reigning British criterium champion James McCallum is preparing to defend his national jersey in East Yorkshire on Friday evening, and is determined to retain the title and make up for a disappointing season.
McCallum won the 2007 event in a thrilling sprint finish in Otley last year, but plans to show off his jersey around the country throughout his 12-month reign have largely been scuppered by injury. Two falls caused damage to his shoulder which needed reconstructive surgery, and forced him to stay off the bike for ten weeks.
“The shoulder injury has really messed things up this season,” he told BikeRadar. “But I still want to get something out of 2008. The ten weeks I was off the bike so happened to be the most important time for the national criterium champion.”
McCallum is part of an eight-strong Plowman Craven RT line-up which includes many top crit riders such as Tony Gibb and Simon Gaywood, and while McCallum would love to retain his jersey for another year, the Scot has a wider aim.
“To be honest as long as someone from our team wins I’ll be happy because we’ve had the jersey for three years and I don’t want us to lose it. That’s just as important as a personal victory,” he explained. “But criteriums are very much a lottery. You always have a team plan, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. As long as your team has some people in a break, then that’s fine. Otherwise you try to chase it down – that’s basically how it goes.
“The plan last year was to ride for Tony Gibb and Simon Gaywood, but things didn’t work out and I ended up winning.”
The fate of the title will be decided around a tight 1.25km circuit around the markets area of Beverley, and while at first glance the course seems more or less rectangular, there are plenty of subtle twists and turns where riders will need to be on their guard to avoid coming to grief – not least on the cobbled finishing section.
The title race begins at 7.40pm, with the supporting race for 3rd and 4th cats at 6.40pm.
“There will be any number of other riders there who could win, the scene has been so strong this year. Rob Hayles is in fantastic form at the moment and may well be out to prove the Olympic selectors wrong, while Dean Downing rode strongly in Germany last week [winning a stage of the Sachsen Tour].
“And there’s Russell Downing and Malcolm Elliott who are always up there. Graham Briggs has looked consistent in the criterium series this year and has a good sprint, but also you can never rule out someone coming over from the continent, like Adam Blythe and Ian Stannard.
“The forecast says rain, but that won’t bother me – I live on the east coast of Scotland, so I’m used to the rain. It could be a deciding factor, but so could a puncture or a crash, but the conditions will be the same for everyone. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be so I just want to get the race started.”
The criterium championship is part of a weekend of events while culminates with the East Yorkshire Classic, a round of the Premier Calendar Series on Sunday, where all the main riders will be in action again.
With Russell Downing (Pinarello RT) leading the series by a country mile, the best his second-placed rival and brother Dean Downing (Rapha Condor) can hope for is the glory of winning the individual round.
Time trial preview
In time trialling, CC Breckland stage their 12-hour event at Scoulton in Norfolk on Sunday, while other events include the VTTA (North Lancashire) 100-mile on the A6 course at Garstang.
The Western TTA also stage a 100-mile event on Sunday – which incorporates the Royal Navy and Royal Marines CA Championships – at Ashton Keynes in Wiltshire.
Over shorter distances, events of note include the Hitchin Nomads 25 on the fast Tempsford course in Bedfordshire. Open to middlemarkers with a best time of one hour over the last three seasons, it should give many the chance to improve their personal best.
And following his competition record-breaking ride in the Shaftesbury CC 50 last weekend, Michael Hutchinson plans to be back in action in the Team Cambridge 10 this Saturday, an event which uses many of the same roads.