Victory in the Tour of Salimu Lake capped off a brilliant experience of racing abroad for Callum Gordon. Here the U23 rider who dominated the Club Road Nationals in Alexandra and races for Team Skoda Racing when in New Zealand reflects on a very successful racing stint overseas.
Callum’s stint of racing abroad has so far taken in three events, at the Skoda HEROS Qian Dao Lake Gran Fondo, an 80km race around White Horse Lake and the Tour of Salimu Lake. It was the latter that provided the principle objective for Gordon, with the offer of a spot on the team being too much to resist. “It was actually the sole reason I planned the trip to China. I had been offered a spot on Team Serk with less than 7 weeks to go before the race. I thought adding some time before and after to my stay in China would make for a nice experience instead of just coming for 1 or 2 weeks,” Callum said.
First up though would be the 2-day Gran Fondo at Qian Dao Lake. First up was a 75km stage followed by 138km the next day. Callum immediately took the opportunity to get stuck in with some aggressive riding, reminiscent of his performance in Alexandra earlier in the year. “For the first day I was feeling pretty good from the gun, I attacked from the line and went out on my own for a few kms; then I could see the group was catching a bit so I eased up,” Callum said. His early efforts obviously didn’t detract from his energy levels too much as Callum was up for another attack that would eventually lead to the stage win. “Once we lost some riders around the 40k mark I went off again with one other taking my wheel. We worked well up until the final meters where I just snuck In front of him claiming the yellow and stage honours.”
What might have been a second successive stage win was confronted by an obstacle in the form of the arrival of a World Tour professional. “Day two was a little more interesting as the race organisers thought it was a nice idea to bring in a pro Lampre Merida rider as a guest,” Callum revealed. “It [quickly] became evident that he was not there as a guest. I was still feeling pretty good, and so were a few other guys that missed the break the day before. As I was a solo rider I was a big target. Every thing I tried got shut down and eventually as I tired a break got away from me. Knowing that I couldn’t do it by myself the day was done. I was happy to place high in the bunch finish and claim 6th on the GC. For me it was a good tour and a great first race in China.”
After taking 4th place in the 80km race around White Horse Lake, it was on to the major goal at the Tour of Salimu Lake. Overall the goal for Callum has really been exposure and this race would provide a great platform for that if only he could deliver the results. He finished 10th on the opening day, but lost 1.13mins down on the leader. Despite the time loss Gordon didn’t feel like the GC battle was lost. “I knew that there was plenty of opportunities to come especially with the Queen stage looking like such a good opportunity to take time back. There didn’t seem to a lot of climbers out there so I was feeling good,” Callum said.
Gradually Callum began to close the 1.13min gap down. Elsewhere things were progressing well in the team with teammate Luke Pledger taking over the race lead, although he would later lose that in stage 4; but all was not lost as a great performance from Callum saw him finish second on the stage, thus closing the gap in the general classification to just a solitary second.
The pressure was on for Callum and co and they knew it, but they also knew that all they needed was 2 seconds and the lead, and the race was theirs. “There was a little weight on my shoulders that’s for sure, with Luke just losing the yellow on the hill stage I couldn’t let this affect me. I couldn’t let the jersey go after we had all come so far to get it. We had a job to do and we did it flawlessly,”
Callum and the team sighted four opportunities to make up the necessary ground to take the race win, at one of the four intermediate sprints providing bonus seconds along the way. “We tried for the first and second sprint but couldn’t get up there as it was just too hectic, so it came down to the 3rd sprint because everyone knows I’m no Sagan and I wouldn’t have a show in the final sprint. Luckily I had former world track champ Michael Freiburg and one of Australia’s finest crit racers Luke Pledger in front of me to place me right in line for second place. When I got the 2 seconds I needed the celebrations already started with two laps still to go, the whole team was buzzing after that.”
Callum crossed the line 35th but the stage finish was irrelevant, he’d done enough to win the Tour of Salimu Lake. “A race like this is huge, it really shows how far I’ve come in the last year. It shows the passion and commitment I’ve been putting in to achieve these goals. I’m really excited about the future and what I have to offer. Results like these are why we race.”