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5 Minutes with Katie Archibald

Get to know Tokyo Games Olympic hopeful Katie Archibald

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The next rider in our Q&A series in collaboration with Voxwomen is Katie Archibald, Olympic, world and European champion on the track. Find out about her preparation for the Tokyo Olympics, where she’ll be aiming for gold in the team pursuit and madison at the Tokyo Games… and also some other little-known facts, such as her go-to coffee ride snack and what she’d be doing if she hadn’t have become a pro rider.

Where are you from?

Milngavie, close to Glasgow. I always feel like I’m back in school parroting “J’habite à Milngavie près de Glasgow en Ecosse” when I say that.

Where do you live now?

Today I live in Manchester, close to the National Cycling Centre. I’m meant to be half and half Glasgow and Manchester, but Covid.

How did you get started in cycling?

A family friend suggested I was wasting my time just riding with my dad at the weekends and should try racing. I started racing at various Highland Games across Scotland and a competitor suggested I was wasting my time racing against middle aged men and should enter some junior races. I entered some junior races and… this fortuitous cycle of meeting people who were generous with their time and advice continued until I was racing at an Olympics Games. Among many, Allister and Callum Watson were particularly generous.

At what point did you realize that cycling was more than a hobby?

I couldn’t tell you for sure. It became a deep part of my identity when I was 17 years old, but is that (grasping for self definition) not the hallmark of being 17? I started receiving lottery funding just before I turned 20 years old, and was at an Olympics by age 22. I like to think that without the success I would still be as passionate about track racing, and probably more involved in the on-the-ground track cycling community, but who knows.

Photo: SWPix

What’s your most cherished memory in your sporting career to date?

I put a jersey on a while ago that I hadn’t worn since a particular race trip, and the detergent that the team soigneur used for that particular trip was still strong on the clothes, and it was so nice to be pulled back into that week of fond memories. I’d love it if people could gift you a tiny spray of the smell from a happy memory and you could skoosh it on special occasions to go back there. But that doesn’t exist, so when you ask me for a cherished memory I think of photographs. I love the photograph of our pursuit team on the podium at the 2015 European Championships. We’re so happy. I remember having a really tough run in to that competition, remember hyperventilating crying in the bathrooms before race day, but in that moment on the podium we’re all so happy.

What are your goals for the Olympics?

A gold in the team pursuit and the Madison.

What will your training look like as the Games approach?

Lots of time with my team! We are hoping to go on some training camps (in the U.K.), and spend time being looked after and training hard.

Which athletes inspire you?

I love attacking riders. I became a fan of Sophia Arreola after seeing her go for laps in what felt like every points race of 2013, and I love watching Mark Stewart race for the same reason. I like crafty riders as well; Lotte Kopecky has always stood out to me as a smart rider on the track, and, another crafty rider and another Belgian, I’m a fan of watching Nicky Degrendele race as well.

Photo: SWPix

What keeps you motivated during difficult times?

I pretend I’m doing the post race interview with Gill Douglas at the Tokyo Olympics, and I tell her about how we kept training hard knowing we’d eventually be here speaking to her.

Advice for younger riders striving for the Olympics?

If you really want to go to the Olympics: try every sport there is to try, join every club, enter every race, and eventually you might discover something you’re exceptional at. If you really want to go to the Olympics as a cyclist: keep striving to be the best you can be; you might have gotten lucky and this is the thing you’re exceptional at! And if that gets you there, great! If not, you’ll have still had a fabulous time racing your bike, and learnt how to push yourself, set goals, and do a track stand. My one piece of practical advice is be part of a community. Whether that’s going to track league or your local weekday time trial, or joining a club, you’ll get twice as good if instead of just learning from yourself you learn from others.

If you weren’t a pro rider, what would you be doing now?

In 2012 I deferred a place studying languages at Glasgow Uni for a year to find myself working abroad, but after a couple months on a French vineyard I came home to work in the family business and train at the newly opened Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome instead. In 2013, I told the university I wouldn’t be taking up the place at all because I was going on trial with the British cycling team (“Suck it! Best regards, Katie Archibald”). Many months later, when I was still just on trial and not on the team, I decided I was going to put everything I had into competing at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and then get on with my life after that. Oh hey, I guess that was the point I realized it was more than a hobby! Anyhow, if I didn’t make it, I think by now I’d have overthrown my father and be the head of a chain of 12 bed shops across the central belt of Scotland.

Favorite coffee ride snack?

Cheese and ham galette with an egg on top.

Favorite coffee ride stop?

It used to be the place that does cheese and ham galettes with an egg on top, but I don’t tend to stop anymore because I’m a bit precious on saddle health. I know there are pros out there literally spending 8 hours a day in chammy, but you just need a couple bad experiences to think nah, I’d rather get home, get out my kit, and go for a coffee in some nice loose fitting shorts/ trousers/ skirt/ dress/ sarong/ neatly placed bamboo leaf/ whatever really.

What’s your spirit animal and why?

I don’t have a spirit animal, was one of my parents meant to register me? I bet their favorite, John, has a spirit animal.

One thing you can’t live without on the road?

Headphones.

For more coverage of women’s cycling, head to voxwomen.com