Cyclist Katie Archibald has played down her chances of shining in the inaugural Women’s Tour of Scotland but she believes that the next three days will only enhance the nation’s burgeoning reputation as a host of major sporting events, saying there is no reason why Scotland shouldn’t stage the Tour de France’s Grand Depart.
The women’s three-stage 350km race, which gets under way in Dundee at 12.15pm today and will take in Fife, Glasgow, Perth, Edinburgh and the Borders over the next three days, boasts a 16-team peloton, including some of the leading international outfits. And while Archibald’s GB colleague Elinor Barker is one of the big-name absentees after she suffered a broken collarbone and others were left with a range of injuries and concussion in a mass pile-up during last weekend’s RideLondon Classique, Archibald believes the calibre of the field and the quality of the routes will still impress.
Edinburgh lost out to Yorkshire the last time the nation submitted a bid to host the first day of the Tour de France, back in 2014, but since then Scotland has successfully staged many high-profile championships, including that year’s Commonwealth Games, and continues to attract major events.
“We have also got the Glasgow Track World Cup happening pretty soon, in November,” said Archibald. “Then there is the big one which is also focusing a lot of minds, in 2023, the world championships which is a multi-discipline cycling event. We are the only city that could do that, that has all the facilities.
“It is really cool to call a place home which is capable of all that. Already we can see the interest and excitement around sport in Scotland. A sporting nation as it were, not to be too gimmicky with the catchphrases.
“Are there whisperings of a campaign to get [the Tour de France]? Why not? We’ve seen Yorkshire become its own cycling nation and I think Scotland has that same taste. It is not even just cycling. This has been such a summer of sport with the Solheim Cup and all these things. It has been a big deal. If we look back, Meadowbank really started the British domination of track cycling, I suppose, with Chris Hoy, pictured, and Craig MacLean coming out of that facility and it is such a clear narrative. When the facility in Manchester opens, Jason Kenny pops up. When Newport opens, Becky James pops up. It happens so obviously and that is what feels so satisfying about being here and watching that talent grow out of Glasgow.
“I guess it is harder to pinpoint what exactly would do the same thing for road racing, maybe it would be something like having a Grand Depart here.”
The feeling that things are evolving fast in her sport is just one of the reasons the Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth track champion is so excited to be involved over the next few days, even if she feels nervous and unprepared.
“I feel embarrassed to say that [my expectations] are not very high. It is obviously a big home race but I am not turning up as prepared as every other rider here, I don’t know if I should admit that! Obviously if it comes to a sprint I feel strong enough there, it is just about seeing how my roadcraft fares over the three days. They are gorgeous roads but there will be technical elements, rolling roads, so I think it will be challenging.”
Her road-racing nous has been a victim of a training programme designed for the track, but with her family and friends lined up at various points along the route to cheer her on as she heads the Scotland team, she will give it everything she has, as she celebrates being part of what she describes as a historic event.
“I am not putting pressure on myself but it doesn’t stop other people,” said the 25-year-old. “It is one thing when your legs are [ready], but where is your head? I’ve just not been focusing on the road and I thought I would end up doing more [road time] than I have and that means I have come into this super, super keen and hopefully physically ready, but that doesn’t always compensate for not having been in the races because I won’t know how everyone is going. Hopefully that isn’t a big deal but it has made me more nervous than I normally would be.”