Capital cyclist James McCallum confirmed that his final season of high level competition is shaping up well when he narrowly missed out on a podium finish at the Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic.
McCallum is targeting selection for his fourth Commonwealth Games this year – he was a medallist in 2002 – before hanging up his wheels.
And he could barely have picked a tougher first outing for his new team NFTO Pro Cycling than the gruelling 112-mile event, which features several sectors of cobbles.
McCallum finished third two seasons ago and was well-placed to challenge for another podium finish after featuring in the day’s main breakaway.
However, he lost touch in the closing stages after suffering from cramp and, although he managed to resume the race, he was unable to catch the leading trio and had to settle for fourth spot, 24 seconds down on the winner Tom Moses (Rapha Condor-JLT). Another Edinburgh-based rider, Evan Oliphant (Team Raleigh), was 12th.
McCallum, who was celebrating his 35th birthday, had the consolation of combining with his colleagues Russell Downing and Adam Blythe to take the team award.
Reflecting on a tough day in the saddle, he said: “We went into the race with a plan, be aggressive and be in the race from kilometre zero.
“Every one of us had a job to do and we all committed to it. Once we got in the break it was all about using the head and ducking and diving as much as possible as well as surviving the unpredictable sectors.”
And, admitting that he had believed his chances were gone after cramp struck, McCallum added: “A quick stretch and a hard chase back to the break and I was back in the game.”
Summarising the finale on the team’s website, he said: “Three kilometres to go and I hit out in pursuit of the three ahead but never got close enough.
“So, for my first official race in NFTO colours, I had it all – cramps, muddy roads and a long break, but just not the win I was hoping for.
“It wasn’t the usual way to spend your birthday, but I loved it.”
Meanwhile, Sean Noon (Edinburgh RC) battled gamely in the junior race, eventually finishing in 42nd place, 11 seconds down on the winner. Musselburgh rider Ben Forsyth was ten places further back after suffering a puncture at a key point in the race.