As a talented swimmer, it is perhaps no surprise that Katie Archibald made a big splash this summer. However, it is not in the pool that the 18-year-old has been creating ripples, it is in the velodrome.
Having sampled grass track racing while attending events on the Highland Games circuit with her athlete father, Archibald was keen to pursue her interest in cycling. After talking to Scottish Cycling board member Tommy Banks earlier this year, she was directed to try a session at Meadowbank. And, under the watchful eye of Edinburgh Racers coach Allister Watson, she progressed quickly and within weeks was lining up in the Meadowbank Track League. That was followed in May by an initial foray south of the border to compete in a British Cycling Omnium League meeting at Herne Hill in London.
“I found it really hard,” she admitted. “I went into it with no experience at all, but I learned quickly and made sure I remembered it for the next time. At the end, I just thought, ‘I want to do that again.’”
Archibald had given up swimming but was still combining cycling with hockey. Her natural ability delivered promising early results on the bike as she sought to juggle the two sports.
“I wasn’t doing a high number of sessions. I was training three times a week for hockey, doing three turbo sessions on the bike and I dabbled with gym work. I was tactically poor but I was fit.”
As cycling assumed greater prominence, she was forced to make a choice. “I couldn’t fit in hockey any more. It’s team-based and I felt I was letting people down if I called off because of a race.”
Competing in multi discipline Omnium events accelerated the learning process, as she suffered in sprints but was competitive in endurance races. And the effectiveness of her rapid cycling education was put to the test at the British Junior and Youth Track Championships in Newport, south Wales. “I had never met or raced them before,” she said of her high-profile opponents, and she insisted that the ambition was limited in her first event, the junior women’s points race, and she added: “I just didn’t want to get dropped.”
She comfortably exceeded that objective, launching a series of bold attacks that ultimately paved the way for a silver medal behind the double world junior road race champion Lucy Garner.
Archibald was not yet finished, taking ninth place in the scratch race and going on to post the quickest time in qualifying for the 2 kilometre individual pursuit to secure a gold medal ride off with Garner. And she underlined her raw talent by blasting her way to victory by around five seconds.
“Although I had qualified four seconds faster, I certainly didn’t know I was going to win,” she recalled. “I thought I could do well but the thing I was feeling most was fear.”
And the accolades have kept coming for Archibald, who is now racing in the colours of the City of Edinburgh Club. A successful weekend’s work at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome last month yielded three Scottish titles, and her success was topped off when she received the Chris Hoy Trophy as the most promising track cyclist in the East of Scotland from the multi Olympic champion himself.
With a stunning first season under her belt, Archibald’s focus is now on an increasingly intense training regime over the coming months and a set of demanding goals for next season.
“I will be doing more miles over the winter, looking to build a stronger base and improve my basic fitness. And I will be doing more road racing next year. I want to improve my bunch racing skills and accelerate my progress. In terms of results, I will be looking to place better in the women’s Omnium League and to get closer to the qualifying time for the Commonwealth Games.”
The Glasgow games may be less than two years away, but at her current rate of progress, the supremely talented Katie Archibald appears firmly on track for a place in the Scotland team. And she has the potential to make waves.