The perception is that British Cycling has a production line of riders with success preordained, but Katie Archibald breaks the mould.
The Milngavie rider said: “The talent team and Olym- pic Development Programme means you grow up in a system where you do realise that the top guys are going through what you’re doing. It was never anything I was involved in. I was up in Scotland, not in Manchester.”
It is little more than two years since Archibald watched the London 2012 Olympics from her home in Milngavie, before later in the year venturing to the Manchester Velodrome for the British Junior Championships, where she won the individual pursuit.
She added: “Nobody knew who I was. Not a clue. I didn’t look like I had a clue. That was a turning point. Before then I didn’t have a clue if I was any good or not.”
She had begun riding on grass tracks at the Highland Games little more than a year earlier and her ascension to the British set-up quickly gathered pace. Twelve months later, Archibald won a bronze medal in the senior British Championships in the three-kilometres individual pursuit behind Olympic champions Laura Trott and Dani King.
She rode for Scottish Cycling-Braveheart.com at the 2013 Track World Cup in Manchester and, having turned down a place at Glasgow University to study French and Spanish, was hoping for a move to British Cycling’s headquarters in Manchester, well known as the medal factory.
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“It was still a fairly cool adventure back then,” the 20-year-old added. “I’d gone to the European Championships but I still wasn’t officially on the team. It’s something I wanted, but not something I assumed.”
Archibald has since proved her talent as a core member of the peerless endurance squad which will compete at the Olympic Velodrome this week in the Track World Cup. It is the first competition in Great Britain skinsuits have been worn at the venue since London 2012. She is in line to be at the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in a team already favourites to defend the gold medal won in emphatic fashion while Archibald watched on TV. Nothing is taken for granted, though, for Archibald, whose self-deprecating humour belies her ability.
She was a good swimmer, specialising in the 200metres breaststroke and 400m individual medley and winning district titles, but began cycling only after playing hockey. She thought cycling was “cool” and she could earn prize money by doing well at the Highland Games. “When I realised I had the strength for competition it all fell into place,” Archibald added.
Her stamina has impressed the British team coaches and is something she attributes to her genes.
She said: “My dad was a mile runner, my brother a 400m front crawl swimmer and now I’m doing pursuits and team pursuits. It’s that three-to-five-minute bracket that we’re looking at. It seems to be our family niche. There’s a whole lot of nurture, but there’s nature on our side as well.”
Soon Archibald was thrust into an arena of established names. She said: “I didn’t know these girls at all, or any of the GB team. That’s what makes it so bizarre when you get into the inner fold and you realise they’re normal people and it’s not just a face on the telly.
“It does make it a big shock when you turn up at training and these Olympic champions are around. I’d introduce myself and nobody would have to say their name back – you know who Jason Kenny is, Joanna Rowsell.”
Now Archibald is firmly established in the team pursuit squad, which now features four riders over 4km, having won the world title in Colombia earlier this year.
Britain will aim to continue their supremacy in the event this week, but there will be no resting on their laurels as internal competition is fierce. Archibald added: “There’s no thinking you’ve got a safe spot. It’s elite-level sport. It’s good that our biggest target is definitely team pursuit and you really need to be good as a team. It’s not like we’re all fighting for one spot. There’s a big squad to be part of. We’re all old enough, big enough and ugly enough to understand we have to work together.”
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