A DECADE ago, Calum Johnston’s involvement in the Tour of Britain extended to being a super fan, prowling the roads near the start line looking for photo opportunities.

Only a few days ago, Johnston found himself flicking through those old photos of him with the likes of Mark Cavendish, Thor Hushovd, Ivan Basso and the Team Sky cars as they prepared for their Tour of Britain assault.

And as Johnston smiled for the camera, every fibre of his being yearned to one day no longer be the fan asking for photos, but the rider being asked to pose for his own pictures.

Tomorrow, Johnston will fulfil the ambition that consumed his younger self and he admits that of all his experiences in cycling to date, this is going to be one of the most special.

“When I was a kid, any time the Tour of Britain started in Scotland, my dad and I would go to watch it and try to meet some riders,” the 23-year-old says.

“At the time, I wanted so badly to become a pro cyclist, although I was still too young to really know what it took.

“Back then, I was completely obsessed with cycling, all I wanted was to become a pro rider and live that life.

“My dad and I went to the stage that started in Peebles and ended in Dumfries in 2011 and it was a sprint finish that Mark Cavendish won. I remember seeing the riders going by and I couldn’t believe the speed they were going.

“I still clearly remember the crowds and the atmosphere and I knew I wanted to be one of those guys when I grew up.”

Johnston may not yet be a household name in his home country, but much of that is due to the fact that in order to pursue his dream of becoming a professional cyclist, he relocated to where it matters in the world of road racing – Europe.

Having initially moved to Italy as a teenager, he then was signed by the Spanish pro team, Caja Rural, with a number of good results earning him a professional contract for this season, becoming the only Scottish man with a professional road contract.

Despite the daunting prospect of being in the pro peloton, Johnston, who hails from East Kilbride, has equipped himself well with a string of strong performances in stage races this season, with a highlight being a fourth place in stage seven of the recent Tour of Portugal.

While satisfied with how he has performed as a pro, he was frustrated that he failed to claim his maiden win in Portugal.

“It’s been a busy season but my first season as a pro, I wanted to get as much race experience as possible and as many miles in the legs as possible. You progress quicker that way,” he says.

“Pro racing is just much harder than anything else – physically, it’s very hard and I know I’m biased but I definitely think this is one of the hardest sports in the world.

“The Tour of Portugal was 11 days and that was a real eye-opener but it was really good experience to get that under my belt. It was really good fighting for the stage win but it was bittersweet because while I was really happy with my performance, I was kicking myself because I made mistakes that might have cost me. It was the first time in that position of fighting for a stage win so I just have to learn from my mistakes.”

What Johnston’s impressive performance in Portugal has done is ensured he goes into this week’s Tour of Britain brimming with confidence.

He will be an integral member of what he believes is a strong Caja Rural team and with the first two stages taking place on home soil for the Scot, it is an experience he is going to relish.

With Finn Crockett the only other Scot in the starting line-up, there will be no shortage of home support directed Johnston’s way but he is well aware how tough a week it is likely to be with the peloton including the likes of Team Ineos’ Tom Pidcock and Richie Porte, as well as grand tour regulars Felix Großschartner and Matteo Jorgenson.

There is little opportunity for Johnston to ease himself into the race, with stage one full of testing climbs as it snakes from Aberdeen to Glenshee Ski centre.

But he is adamant he will enjoy the experience that a young Calum Johnston wanted more than anything else.

“I’m so excited. For the first two stages of my first Tour of Britain to be in Scotland is so special and all my family will be there,” he says.

“The first stage is such a hard stage but I’m a pure climber and so it should suit me.

“I’m definitely going to take it all in and enjoy it. I’ve not raced in Scotland on the road for years so it’ll be a great experience.

“Living abroad though has turned me soft so I hope there’s no sign of rain or I’ll be out of there.

“But it’s racing, isn’t it and if the Scottish weather’s not great, you just have to deal with it.”