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Katie Archibald: '2017 will be my biggest ever road season'

Trevor Ward
30 Jan 2017

Katie Archibald, recent winner of three national track titles, sits down with Cyclist to talk Olympics, road racing, and car driver respect

Cyclist: What means more, the Olympic gold medal in the team pursuit or the world record you set winning it?

Katie Archibald: It’s the world record that excites me most. It’s amazing to be Olympic champion, but the sensation of going that fast, the feeling of having the best form I’ve ever had in my life – I’m not religious, but that feeling of powering through the air is the closest you get to transcendence and true faith, a kind of physical enlightenment, because there’s nothing else that exists apart from you and the effort.

I don’t know how long it will stand because since the event changed from 3km to 4km we’ve seen the world record go ‘bam, bam, bam’, then it stagnated a bit. Now it’s at 4min 10secs and it will hopefully be a few years at least before it goes.

Cyc: There has to be a lot of trust involved when you are travelling at that speed and that close to the rider in front. How important is it you all get on with each other?

KA: You don’t have to be friends, though I’d say that we are. It certainly makes it easier for us discussing where you want another rider to be if they understand that you want the best for them and for the team. What aggravates me is when somebody is too gentle. If somebody gets angry, I think, ‘F***, I’ve messed up here,’ and try to fix it. Somebody who approaches it awkwardly – ‘Ooh, it’s just my opinion and I don’t want to make you upset’ – you just want them to spit it out and tell you what’s actually wrong. That makes me angry. Which is ridiculous, that when someone’s trying to be kind and nice I can’t handle it.

Cyc: Since the Olympics you’ve won titles in the individual pursuit and omnium at the European Championships and London Six Day, and in the madison at the World Cup [and three national titles - 30th Jan]. What do you put your success down to?

KA: If I start suffering early in a race, it doesn’t matter because someone else is suffering too. My coach [Paul Manning] has this sign to tell me if it looks like the others are suffering. He’ll say to me afterwards, ‘They were on their knees. You were too, but I know that doesn’t matter.’ Just as long as there’s someone else in more pain, it doesn’t really matter. The only downside is that this mental aspect isn’t really there in training because there’s no stress, no pressure. I recognise that I’m not the hardest trainer, but I’m working on it. 

Cyc: What were the implications of your crash during the madison at the Glasgow round of the World Cup?

KA: It didn’t occur to me to not get back up [she and Manon Lloyd went on to win gold] but I was beyond devastated when I learned I’d fractured my wrist. It’s so aggravating that this is the one season [when the UCI have reintroduced the women’s madison at elite level] I really need my wrist. I’ve always wanted to be a good points racer, and the resting-working-recovering-going-hard-again of the madison fits my physiology. You can’t get away with just being strong – you have to be smart too.

Cyc: How do the team events compare with racing individually?

KA: In the team pursuit or madison, you’ve got to be comfortable and relaxed because someone else is relying on you to keep it together. But when I did the omnium at the Euros [finishing first] the stress on race day was unbelievable because there wasn’t anyone else to almost force me into the role of being calm. Because it was just me and it wasn’t going to affect anyone else, I was tearing my hair out. You let yourself stew in it a bit.

Cyc: You’ve just signed for Team WNT Cycling UK [after two seasons with Dame Sarah Storey’s Team Podium Ambition]. What are your plans for the road this year?

KA: It should be my biggest ever road season because it will be far enough away from the Tokyo Olympics for me to have a lot of freedom to make my own calls on the racing calendar. So I hope to ride the Women’s Tour, the Tour de Yorkshire and get a bit of stage racing under my belt. We have Hayley Simmons, Emily Kay and Eileen Roe in the team, and I assume Eileen will be targeting the 2018 Commonwealth Games [for Scotland] so to be working with her on the season preceding that will be quite exciting.

Cyc: How do you find racing on the road compared to the track?

KA: I love road racing, it’s just the lack of variation in training – I’m not a massive fan of five or six-hour training rides, if I’m honest. There’s not a huge amount of mental stimulation. With the track, I’ll be in the gym, on the turbo, there’ll be specific efforts on the road, speed sessions. You can guess from looking at me that I’m not the strongest climber, but I think I’m punchy enough for the short, sharp hills of a race like the Women’s Tour.

Cyc: You had success as a teenager on the Highland Games grass track circuit, but did you plan to become an elite cyclist?

KA: I had a place at Glasgow University to study French and thought there would be a practical career that came after that. I deferred the place for a year so I could live in France, where I had a job arranged in a vineyard. I was due to fly out just after the British Junior Nationals. I went to the nationals not really expecting much, but left as Junior National Champion [individual pursuit] with a silver medal [points race] and lots of heads turned. It messed everything up. I ended up taking my bike with me to France and training all the time. People like Graeme Herd [Scottish Cycling’s head coach at the time and now DS at Team WNT Cycling UK] were talking to me and after just two months in France I ditched everything, came back home, started working in telesales at my dad’s bed shop and trained until I didn’t have to work any more.

Cyc: Do drivers show you more respect if you’re out training in Team GB kit?

KA: No. When I come home from cycling on the roads in and around Manchester it’s with a sigh of relief. Even on the country lanes when we’ve been cycling two abreast we’ve had people honk at us from the other side of the road and shout, ‘Single file!’ People overtake you to turn left, or they’re up your backside. You think, ‘Why are you going out of your way to ruin your own day, to scream at us?’ There’s easily at least one incident every ride. I get a bit depressed about it sometimes. You start thinking, ‘Why is the world so angry that someone wants to knock you off your bike?’

Cyc: You had a 70mph crash in 2015 while riding your Triumph Thruxton motorbike. Do you have any plans to buy a new one?

KA: Yes, I think I’ll buy one this spring. I used it to commute, but I rode it more as a way to clear my head, to go out for a nice ride but not come back with sore legs – apart from that time I came back with a very sore leg [a ruptured posterior cruciate ligament that put her out of the 2016 Track World Championships]. I just like going fast. Maybe I shouldn’t say that – it sounds bad! 

Cyc: Did you go to Jason Kenny and Laura Trott’s wedding?

KA: The ceremony was for family and close friends, but I went to the evening do. It was a good party. Actually, I got lost and turned up just as the free bar closed. I was gutted. I was literally the first person to have to pay for a drink. 


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