John Archibald has proved to us during season 2017 that he’s the fastest man in the country against the watch with fastest rides ever at 10 and 25 miles in Scotland.
But could he make the transition to pursuiting with all of it’s challenges, not least of which is the much higher cadences and mental aspect of the discipline?
With a series of quality four kilometre rides in Portugal and Switzerland, Archibald has proved that he can indeed adapt to the boards, bankings and all that time sitting about waiting…
Some nice rides in Portugal, John, at the Trofeu International De Anadia track meet. How did that ride come about?
“Scottish Cycling were keen for me to build experience in elite level track racing and the Anadia meet was a UCI Class 1 event – the perfect stepping stone from track league, I hear you say?
“I’ve never raced abroad, so it was a unique opportunity that I really enjoyed.
“Especially being part of a small squad of riders. The atmosphere is much more relaxed when there’s more than your own performance to obsess over.
“Plus, Kyle Gordon’s Portuguese hostel experiences provided plenty of entertainment.”
That’s a full UCI meet, so proper time keeping and sponges down in the time events?
“There was electronic timing, sponges and a UCI jig for bike checks – of sorts.”
How does the track compare to Glasgow?
“Glasgow is the only track I’ve ever ridden on, so it was always going to feel unusual to me.
“Based upon feeling I wouldn’t have said the conditions were fast in Anadia.
“The temperature was cold and the air density during the event was sub-optimal.
“This didn’t stop Charlie Tanfield (well under 4:20) doing his thing, but I have a feeling he had form to go faster if the conditions had presented themselves.”
Individual Pursuit – 4:21:749 and third; were you happy with that or were there an ‘what ifs?’
“It wasn’t particularly ambitious.
“I was happy with my placing, but pushing the 4.20 boundary was my main aim for the competition and I didn’t really threaten that with the pace I set out on.
“It was one of those days where the lap splits I was hitting were 0.1 – 0.2 secs slower than they felt.
“If ‘pinging’ is the aim; I wasn’t on that day.”
Tell us about the bike please – wheels, gearing, tyres and are you on ceramic bearings yet?
“Plenty to get excited about as I’ve recently upgraded to a Cervelo T4 frameset with a lot of decent kit on it.
“For example, I’ve slapped on a nice 58 tooth chainring, a crankset with an aerodynamic spider and even got myself a waxed chain.
“I was also fortunate to borrow wheels from Scottish Cycling for the event, as the double discs are a requirement in elite level pursuiting.
“I ran 104” for Portugal and this gave me a cadence of 116rpm.
“Whilst still experimenting with various gears, that’s what I’ve felt comfortable on lately.”
An excellent ride in the Scratch race too, beating Stroetinga, talk us through that one.
“The scratch race was interesting as I got away with murder, and loved it.
“I assumed every move would be marked and the bunch would roll in for a big sprint finish.
“However, my die hard tactic to take laps actually paid off.
“Whether I wasn’t on anyone’s radar, or just the luck of the draw, when I went for my second lap immediately after taking the 1st one, I caught them all napping and managed to sneak that crucial advantage.
“It helped that I had Andy Brown in the breakaway for the second lap – we had a mutual interest to take a lap, but he definitely pulled himself inside out to make it work.”
And you rode the kilometre…
“I love the kilometre as an event; despite it not being my strength.
“My top end speed is a limiting factor in my pursuit, so I see it as a complementary test of IP form.
“Despite my time not being competitive, the nature of a one minute time trial has always appealed to me.
“The variety of approaches to gearing, pacing and aerodynamics also makes it particularly interesting.
“I can watch beefy sprinters roll themselves off the finish line demanding medical attention, or I can watch an endurance rider come from over a second behind with a lap remaining to take victory.
“It’s a brilliant event in my eyes.”
Then Switzerland and the Stadt Gretchen meeting, another UCI meet?
“Yes, why not?
“Another high pressure race scenario with a good level of competition.
“By this time I started to feel more relaxed about the racing too, so it helped having the two competitions back-to-back like this.”
What’s the track like compared to Glasgow?
“Again it had softer bends, but wasn’t noticeably faster or slower to me.
“The atmosphere of the event was much bigger than in Portugal though.
“There was a riders’ lounge, track centre bar and music on the go at all times.”
Individual pursuit – 4:20.075 – nice one. Third again – any lessons brought forward from Portugal?
“I didn’t leave anything in the locker this time and I was rewarded with a personal best.
“My first kilo is a limiting factor at the moment, as I have to start an IP brazenly close to my kilo PB to ensure I’m competitive.
“This means I tied up in the last kilo more than I would have liked, but there’s definitely things I’ve learned from the last 10 days that I’m really keen to experiment with moving forwards.”
The same bike set up?
“The bike setup was identical and my discipline to holding the black line was equally horrific.
“It’s a shame that I’ve not got this basic technical aspect nailed, but it does mean I have easy room for improvement … when it comes.”
And third in the points – you’re getting the hang of this distance race game?
“I’ve never suffered so much in a race before. It was like fighting to be in the winning road race move … for 120 straight laps.
“After watching the race footage back, I wasn’t smart with my energy expenditure, but I was really pleased that I proved to be competitive in the event.
“It’s been a nagging worry that I just wouldn’t be able to compete with the skill set I have.
“The bunch races are definitely exciting to take part in as there’s always something going on and there very rarely seems to be a lull.
“Having said all that, I was more than a little bit nervous beforehand.
“It was one of those races that you’re scared of until the gun goes … and then the adrenaline rush suddenly makes you see red.”
Some might say you’re going too deep, too often, with all these pursuit rides?
“I can see an argument for that.
“However, the Commonwealth Games is in April and I’ve only ridden half a dozen pursuits in my lifetime.
“This learning curve needs to be accelerated slightly and the timing of the events forces my hand.
“For example, I think the British Championships in January will be my last big test before April.
“So I can’t afford to be experimenting with new things at that stage in the game.
“These pursuits so far have been really valuable foundations.
“Now I can go away and build some form without panicking over equipment tests, pacing strategies and gearing. I have a firmer idea of where I’m at.”
What’s the plan between now and The Games?
“To build more strength for the pursuit.
“My rolling efforts (excluding a standing start) suggest I’m capable of faster times, so If I can marry that with a semi-decent start that doesn’t bury me, I could find a chunk of time.
“With the bunch races also becoming a possibility, it sounds like my track league days are set to continue in the build up.
“Taking down Matti Dobbins in the elimination race has become a secondary target.”
Where will that sub 4:20 come from? A better start? Higher gear ratio?
“Pushing a bigger gear is one answer and following a better line is another.
“An improved skinsuit won’t do me any harm and trialling some different nutrition strategies is also on my to do list.
“I’m working towards 4.15, as this is the minimum of what it’ll take for me to be competitive.
“I really hope I’ve got that type of performance in me; but I’m certain I’ve got more to give than 4.20.
“If I make sure no stone is left unturned in the next few weeks, I’d love to show up at the British Championships with a sub 4.20 to get the ball rolling.”
With thanks to John – VeloVeritas looks forward to the British Championships with relish…