Golden girl Katie Archibald swaps track for Tour de Yorkshire

Katie Archibald celebrates winning gold for Scotland in the women's 3,000m individual pursuit during the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Picture: Getty
Katie Archibald celebrates winning gold for Scotland in the women's 3,000m individual pursuit during the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Picture: Getty
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The Tour de Yorkshire sets off today, the men doing four days of racing through those narrow northern roads, the women’s race will be over in half that time. For some it may be a source of bitterness that the sexes are treated differently but Katie Archibald is her own boss and, to be honest, she almost sounds relieved.

“Looking forward to it? I am not sure,” says the wary Scot. “I am a bit intimidated but it should be exciting.

“The women’s race has been getting bigger and bigger. I think that if you start complaining about the women’s race being shorter they will end up shortening the men’s race rather than make ours longer.”

A track cyclist, and a world-class one at that, Archibald is way out her comfort zone. She won gold at the Rio Olympics, she backed it up with gold on the Gold Coast and inbetween times she became world champion at the Madison.

The Scot has status and gongs and respect on the track but now she is racing on tarmac she becomes a nobody, just another domestique and one that the peloton will doubtless keep a critical eye on. With anyone else this might add to the burden of two days racing over 250-plus kilometres but for Archibald it comes as something of a relief.

“I definitely am a track rider who does roads through the summer,” she says. “If I had the same expectations of the road as I do on the track then I would be a very disappointed lady. Through the summer, especially since I signed with Wiggle High5 which is a step up from the team I was with last year, there won’t be a race this season where I will be leader. It is more about being a cog in one of the best teams in the world.

“On the track I am targeting World Championship medals or Olympic medals and the like. It’s a bit of a comfort (on the road). When you are on edge for most of the year constantly trying to do your best in every race you just become exhausted.

“The ambition attached to the road is more reminiscent of when I was just getting into track cycling – having successes in the way you race rather than the outcome, which is something that I don’t do on the track now because you do just want to win. So to be proud of how you have contributed, how you have changed the way you race, you target those kinds of things and I enjoy that.”

Archibald’s role over the next two days, I suggest, is to get team leader and designated sprinter Kirsten Wild to her destination safely? There is an awkward pause in the conversation. It turns out that Archibald has already started because, as we speak, she is driving Wild to the team hotel.

At just 24 the Scot has the confidence of an old pro but she has been at the top end of her chosen profession since she first started back in 2013 with a first place in the team pursuit at the Europeans. She has won so much so young that motivation might be a problem but there is no hesitation when asked about her next goal?

“The conversation with a lot of people in British Cycling right now is the introduction of the Madison into the Olympics,” she replies.

“The events I have had success in are Olympic events and that is not an accident, that is the focus of British Cycling. That is how we apply ourselves and that is what we 
target. The next big thing for the team and myself is the Madison, it is going to be exciting in the coming years.”

Archibald and her partner Emily Nelson beat the Dutch favourites in their own backyard earlier this year to become World Champions in this esoteric discipline. They finished 15 points ahead of their rivals in what the commentators called one of the most dominant rides of the series.

The Madison involves 120 laps of the track with two riders per team, only one of whom is racing at any given time while the other recovers. It is difficult to follow, slightly bonkers and utterly fascinating. Archibald is hoping to go for gold in Tokyo 2020 but does she have a say in who she partners?

“The way that we work in Britain is that it will be the two best individuals that will get the racing opportunities in the coming months,” replies the rider.

Archibald and her precious passenger have arrived at their destination so I squeeze in one last question. How will someone built for track cycling hope to haul themselves up the fearsome 19 per cent gradients dubbed “the Cow and Calf” on tomorrow’s Tour de Yorkshire stage?

“The kit that I wear is black,” she shoots back, “so it’s 
slimming!”

l Get There with leading women’s pro cycling team Wiggle High5 at www.wiggle.co.uk