A lot has changed for Katie Archibald since making her European Championships debut back in 2013.
Back then, Archibald had been a track rider for barely a year and the physical exertions of her efforts in Apeldoorn, where she helped the team pursuit squad to gold, left her questioning if she had a future in the sport.
But fast forward four years, and those questions have all been answered, and then some.
The 23-year-old will head to Berlin next week as one of the riders to watch at the 2017 edition. She has an Olympic gold to her name now, two world titles and the not insignificant sum of eight European crowns on her palamares.
“Those 2013 Euros were in Apeldoorn, and I somehow ended up with the chance to do the points race, qualifying and final, and team pursuit, which was only two rounds then, qualifying and final on the same day,” she recalls.
“And all I can remember is lying in bed that night and thinking: ‘I have never been in this much pain,’ my legs were just thumping.
“It was an element of being untrained that allows you to feel that agony, but I was just writhing around thinking: ‘I am not going to be able to manage this, this job is not for me, take away the bike!’”
Archibald has been on a tear pretty much ever since, including team pursuit gold at Rio 2016, before focusing on individual races and racking up the titles last season.
But, by her own admission, she hit something of a wall this summer, and will not be flying in Berlin.
“I am not in the best shape I have been in, but I am OK with that,” she added. “I really seized my opportunity straight after Rio. I don’t know whether I ran out of steam or not, but I hit a bit of a wall over the summer so I am not coming in raring to go.
“But I surprised myself with some testing the other day, I am certainly not going badly.
“There are no tears at night, but I am not going in ready to rip everyone’s legs off at Euros. I am just going in hoping for some good racing.
“These Europeans are one closer to the Olympics than last time and that will make a difference to the field that turns up. It will be a big test.”
With the team pursuit squad now shorn of Laura Kenny – taking a break after the birth of her first child – and Jo Rowsell-Shand – who has retired – Archibald has had to take on a more senior role in the team pursuit.
But with the Madison now an Olympic event for the women’s endurance squad, there is plenty for everyone to learn in this new Olympic cycle up to Tokyo 2020.
“I am learning to be on the elder side of it, it almost needs to be thrust upon you because you are selfish if you just look after yourself, that is just called being selfish,” added Archibald – who is aiming to compete in the team and individual pursuits in Berlin as well as the omnium. “I would like to think so, I don’t know why I feel embarrassed saying it, I do or would enjoy imparting knowledge to the others.
“But there is going to be a contrast with this Olympic squad.
“Previously I have known quite black and white that team pursuit is the backbone of our team, but at the moment we don’t know if there has been an evolution in that, whether we will have bunch race specialists, now you might have to be able to double up.
“Those are new things for our young riders but also for people like me and Elinor [Barker].”
l On 10-12 November, incredible riders like Katie Archibald will compete on the Manchester Velodrome in one of the most anticipated events on the track cycling calendar. Buy your tickets at http://www.trackworldcup.co.uk/tickets/