Hamish McCallum had his run at the UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup cut short due to a mechanical problem with his bike, but the Oamaru cyclist says he learned a lot from his first international event and hopes to give it another crack next year.
McCallum represented New Zealand at the Para-cycling Road World Cup in Ostend, Belgium, from May 16 to 19 competing in time trial and road race events.
He was one of 300 athletes from 34 countries competing at the international event described as the “most important para-cycling competition after the World Championship and the Paralympic Games” by the world governing body for sports cycling.
McCallum (41) suffered a severe brain injury in a mountain biking accident when he was 20 years old, and now has a condition called hemiparesis, which affects feeling and mobility on his left side.
His international para-cycling classification is C3, a class that includes cyclists with moderate upper or lower limb dysfunctions, cerebral palsy, limb impairments and amputations.
He had been hoping for a C2 classification for the World Cup, which he said would have been more reflective of his impairments as the spasticity of his arms is more severe than his legs.
“My coach commented that I have higher levels of impairment than most athletes in C3 classification,” he said.
Arriving in Belgium five days out from the start of the competition, McCallum had little time to familiarise himself with the time trial and road race courses, get used to cycling on the other side of the road, adjust to a new bike and deal with jetlag.
The 27km time trial event held on May 17 was McCallum’s main focus for the World Cup.
McCallum said he was “stoked” to finish 21st, in a field of 26 experienced para-athletes, in his first international race.
Sunday’s road race was marred by problems for McCallum from the start. He had difficulty clicking into his new pedals, which saw him lose the main bunch of cyclists early on.
“The problem with needing a new bike right before the road race was I didn’t have time to adjust to it,” he said.
He was then forced to stop with mechanical problems.
“I waited 15 minutes .. before support mechanics arrived to sort it out, by which time I was well out of the race,” he said.
McCallum is only taking away positives from the experience, however.
“This was my first international event and was quite educational,” he said.
“I’ve got a much better idea of what is involved. I would hope to do this again next year.
“Hopefully, though, next time I compete internationally I will have time to be much better prepared.”
He plans to continue to compete in the New Zealand paralympic series with the aim of being selected for the Paralympic NZ High Performance Unit.
“That way I would have a better level of support to compete internationally events,” he said.
“Locally, I will continue to compete in able-bodied cycle races with Cycling South Canterbury.”
McCallum said he was very grateful for the support of all those who helped to finance and arrange his trip.
“A big thank you to all my sponsors – I am hugely grateful for the experience which the North Otago community has given me.”