NC500: Ride for Charlene

James McCallum Takes on the Double-Header: £10,000 and a New Record

words and images: Mark McGhee

Jimmy Mac, Jimmie Mach, Uncle Jimmy…call him what you will…former pro' rider, Commie Games veteran, coach and current DS for One Pro Cycling, there can't be many people in the cycling world in Scotland, and beyond, who don't know James McCallum.

Mixing a life in professional cycling with that of being a dad and husband often calls for a fine balance between commitments but somehow James McCallum is making it work…so much so that he's about to embark on yet another challenge, but one that is uniquely personal to this amiable rider.

Late last year McCallum's sister-in-law Charlene Doolan fell victim to Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and sadly died. Amid the understandable grief, a desire grew to mark Charlene's passing in a very personal manner and James came up with the idea of a cycling challenge…a not uncommon ambition for cyclists familiar with personal loss.

Charlene had always been very supportive of McCallum's career and he'd felt especially welcomed by her when he and Pamela married so it was natural that he'd use his talents to come up with something special. Short of time during a busy race-filled season, James will take on the North Coast 500 (NC500) tomorrow in a double-header challenge... raise £10,000 for Thrombosis UK and try to break the 38 hour mark of professional adventurer Mark Beaumont.

Finding time to train has meant fitting rides in between commitments, use of hotel gyms and inventive ways of getting out on his bike even if that included nighttime training sorties or riding in the wind and rain…something he could face tomorrow although the forecast is looking decent.

The NC500 has caught the imagination of a lot of long-distance cyclists…combining stunning scenery with almost traffic-free roads, it's a godsend for those riders who don't have time to fit in an End-to-End or an Arch-Arc. Being a relatively newly defined route there's also a certain kudos on being among the first riders to take up the challenge.

Inspired by close friend Rab Wardell who did the ride last year, the NC500 is the ideal course for James to take on. Mark Beaumont rode solo to help publicise the challenge and set a time of 38 hours but James is confident that he can go quicker. He's keen to point out that the time, while still important, is not the main objective as achieving his fund-raising target is the main goal. Ensuring a lasting legacy in Charlene's name remains the focus but he's a racer, and a good one, so we all know he's going to give it everything and put the record on the shelf.

On that point, the NC500 is so new that trying to find official stats is difficult so the accepted benchmark of Mark Beaumont is the target. James is remaining tight-lipped about what time he's going for but if everything goes to plan, expect to see that record reduced by several hours.

Starting tomorrow, James will have a film crew recording his efforts and renowned photographer Trevor Mould will be providing still images. He's over halfway there with £6,465 raised so far so let's help him smash both his targets.

Good Luck James!