At an Edinburgh Book Festival event last week Chris Boardman was asked about his experiences commentating at the recent Olympics, and his standout moments and riders. Chris mentioned that he spent some time with one of the riders who he reckons is an amazing woman and a very interesting character. We’ve spoken to her enough times to agree with that and to add that she’s also an incredible bike rider – and we had a feeling she’d do the business in Rio… of course, we’re talking about Ms. Katie Archibald, Olympic Team Pursuit Champion.
Important question first – what was your favourite grub? we heard the restaurants were amazing.
“Hmm, maybe shouldn’t admit this but the first thing I ate outside the village was a pizza (not super Brazilian) but it had cream cheese on it!
“I was swooning.”
What was the track like, ‘young’ tracks like that can be a bit ‘sticky’ because the resin hasn’t dried out yet…
“It was a long way from Newport (which was where we’d been training in the preceding weeks) but it was smooth and predictable once you knew it.
“Occasionally felt like hitting a brick wall coming out of the bankings which might explain the crashes that other teams (Aussie women, Kiwi men) had, though I don’t actually know.”
What was the organisation like; at the road race and time trial it didn’t get a good press?
“Very good for us [at the track].
“We’re maybe a lot easier to organise than a road race – everything’s in the one place, you just need to follow the programme.”
Those Cervélos looked mean, how do they compare to the UKSI bikes?
“Stiffer, lighter, more aerodynamic.”
Are we allowed to ask about your gearing? Those chainrings you were riding weren’t for the faint hearted…
“Someone came up to Laura and said ‘That’s a big chainring for a little girl.'” [The men were on 64t rings, ed.]
And those speed suits – very tight and fast, how did they feel, on?
“Ah, not as tight as you’d expect, just perfectly fitted.
“They are hard to get on because of the awkward stitching and the sticky strip around the arms and legs, but once they’re on the only claustrophobic bit is the neck.
“I tried to leave it to the last minute to zip up because it’s designed for when you’re in your riding position – sat upright it’s just strangling you.”
Did the team sprint guys’ riding provide a bit of inspiration to you?
“It’s been a ‘will they won’t they’ journey for those guys so it was a brilliant first medal.”
And on the subject of inspiration – does Sir Bradley contribute much to team morale?
“Can’t say I know Brad so well.
“Cav’s dead chatty though, which took some getting used to. When he first started training with us in Manchester I had a knee injury and every time I saw him he’d ask how it was and if I was training better and I’d just be thinking why on earth does Mark Cavendish care if my knee hurts? He’s Mark Cavendish!”
A world record in qualifying – was that always the plan?
“Nope – we broke it in Newport but we didn’t think the track was running fast enough in Rio.
“We rode a different line-up though (compared to Newport) and had a week of taper in us, so I guess we shouldn’t have been as surprised as we were.”
When the USA rode that 12:282 in the first round did that shock/surprise you?
“No. After qualifying we could see all the ways the US could improve their ride and we knew they’d have to fully commit that round to beat the Aussies (who we thought would only get better with more days passed since their tumble).
“We had actually assumed that (if we got into the gold medal final) they would have the home straight so the surprise was the time that we did cause we felt, for the large part, in control.”
What were the team’s thoughts on the US Felt ‘super bikes’ with the chainset on the ‘wrong’ side.?
“Man that messed with my head. I always knew that World’s wouldn’t be a predictor of where teams would be in Rio but that was put in the press as such a drastic change that I expected a drastic consequence.
“I just decided not to think about it as whilst were still trying to get our positions right weeks before race day. I’m glad I was involved in a rivalry that spurred on that kind of ‘innovation’ though.”
Then you rode 12:152, again, was that pace planned?
The final, that was a huge chunk you took off the record, a 10:236 – how did that ride feel?
“After qualifying El [Elinor Barker] and I had agreed that it feels easy when it goes well. But we were right on the cusp of it all blowing apart in that final which, if it doesn’t blow apart(!), is a satisfying way of knowing we’d emptied the tank.
“Racing like that is the closest I believe I’ll ever get to the sublime, I can’t describe the feeling.”
You seem to have thrived on the jump from three to four K?
“Indeed! I’m wondering at what point in the future all of the men’s and women’s events will be equal distance. Joanna would be good at a kilo we reckon!”
How has the Media attention been?
“Kind of exhausting, I can’t tell if I’m being sincere or not because I’m often repeating myself…
“That’s the game I suppose.”
Do you get a break now? And what’s the next cycling goal?
“I’m actually answering you very quickly now because I want to get out on my road bike!
“I go on holiday this Sunday (a road trip around Iceland) so when I get back from there I’ll start training properly.
“I want to race through this winter track season as much as possible so my next big performance goals will probably come in 2018 with the Commonwealth Games and world championships quite close together.”
And finally – what were those things you got along with your medals?
“Ah, so many people have asked that and it’s an abstract shape so hard to describe.
“It’s a 3D version of the Rio 2016 logo!”