Tuesday, July 27, 2021
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John Archibald – “My Games Pursuit was a Dream Ride”

“I hadn’t appreciated how close I was, but Charlie was always going to be hard to beat."


The best Commonwealth Games performance ever by the Scottish cycling team’ – that’s for sure.

VeloVeritas hopes to speak to all of the athletes concerned and we’re proud to start with individual pursuit silver medallist, John Archibald.

Congratulations on a great ride in The Games, John – what were your goals for The Games before you travelled to Australia?

“I wanted to leave Australia knowing I’d maximised the potential of this opportunity.

“The pursuit was my number one focus and the nature of the event means I can truly hold myself to account for the end result.

“My personal benchmark for “success” was 4mins 15secs – I felt this was an achievable target that would also put me in the mix for finals.”

[John returned 4:13:068 to qualify, breaking the Games record in the process before Charlie Tanfield recorded 4:11:455, with John’s time eventual second fastest. ed.]

John Archibald
John Archibald – pursuit silver. Photo©Sport First

Pursuit qualifying is very pressured in the current format; get that wrong and it’s over – but you got it very right.

“There are so many variables to getting it right on the day and it was definitely a case of everything clicking for me.

“I remember being so nervous before the British nationals in January that I was shaking in the start gate.

“I knew this would be an issue, so Mark McKay and I worked on how we could re-create my training environment at a race.

“Despite hitting a pad in my starting quarter, I settled into my pacing strategy as planned, held my line consistently and delivered something exceeding my expectations.

“Everyone knows the joy of being on a “good day”.

“I dropped into 15.3 second laps splits and they felt like 15.5’s; it was a dream ride.”

You rode a 4:13; a magnificent ride – what was your previous best and where did those seconds come from?

“My previous best was 4.19 and there’s been a lot of changes that will have had an impact.

“The trifecta I’m giving credit to is: gearing, tapering and pacing.

“I ignored what “everyone else” was having success with and worked to my strengths;

“What cadence do I like?

“What opening lap pace sets me up for the fastest finishing time?

“What warm up do I perform best on?

“What sessions do I need in the weeks leading up to a race?

“These were important questions that I’m only now starting to develop answers for.”

The individual pursuit final saw you coming back very strongly at Tanfield…

“I hadn’t appreciated how close I was, but Charlie was always going to be hard to beat.

“I could see my lap splits slowing throughout the final and I also knew I was “down” on Charlie’s splits.

“It was only when the crowd livened up in the final kilo that I realised I hadn’t taken a battering from him.

“The afternoon qualification obviously took more out of me than I expected and slowing to a 4.16 was somewhat disappointing, but the silver medal more than made up for that.”

John Archibald
John has worked hard on his position, as well as every other aspect of the pursuit. Photo©PA

You were on Walker Brothers wheels – faster than Mavics?

“I can’t definitively say.

“I started practicing on the Walker Brothers wheels upon recommendation, hit some fast times in training and then never looked back.

“Even the guys who have the test data admit there isn’t much in it, but once I set some quick times in training on them, I was reluctant to change back.”

What did you think of the track – it seemed pretty quick?

“The track was lovely to ride on, although I believe we also benefited from fast conditions.

“More so for the afternoon qualifying ride, the temperature was scorching in the velodrome and the air density was favourable. I was rinsing myself with ice, wet towels and fans just sitting trackside before my event.

“At night, the cooler temperature seemed to slow things down again and this was a consistent theme from day to day.

“For example, the sprint qualifying also threw out some rapid times.”

Eighth in the scratch, were you happy with that?

“Not really.

“I knew the team environment of these races would change the dynamic, but the Australians had a stranglehold on the race that left me feeling totally uninvolved.

“It was a bit deflating, but eye opening at the same time.

“If I had my chance again, I’d have geared up and changed my strategy; although a scratch race will never really be my strongest event.”

And 11th in the points, how about that ride?

“My placing became irrelevant as soon as Mark Stewart soloed off for his first lap gain.

“I’m proud of that ride, but not for the 11th place.

“The intensity, will power and grit that Mark showed was unifying – he was a man possessed on track that night and it was a delight to see him win gold.

“It also had the knock-on effect of boosting the entire team’s morale.

“Everyone could see how deep he had gone and how deserved that medal was.”

John Archibald
John and sister Katie celebrating their medals at the Games. Photo©Eurosport Asia

The time trial; tell us about the crash; what happened and what injuries did you sustain – but you still rode to 11th place…

“It was the first tight bend on the course and it now had additional racking and cones that hadn’t been present in the course recon. the day before.

“I went into the bend with too much speed and crashed on my left side.

“The main injury was to my shoulder, but once in the elbow cups and full of adrenaline, I only noticed the pain properly when I crossed the finish line.

“I placed 11th, but the crash was only the start of my problems.

“The heat was killer and my power was 40w down on where I’d expect to be.

“To describe it to fellow TT’ers, I could push the pedals in short bursts, but my sustainable power was way down.

“If I didn’t have any track racing beforehand and the TT was my sole focus, I like to think I’d have done much better.

“But I certainly wouldn’t trade my silver medal for a ‘what if’ scenario like that!”

No road race – because of TT injuries?

“Yes, although nothing is broken, I’m currently lacking range of motion in my shoulder and can’t support my body weight on the handlebars.

“I haven’t been able to ride my bike for a week, but as soon as I can support my bodyweight, I’ll be on the turbo for sure.

“Things have started to improve today as I write this… luckily.

“It was disappointing not to be involved in the road race, but the Scots held their own and it was cool to be a supporter on the road side.”

Are you going straight back into Scottish race action of having a wee ‘blaw’?

“Depending on my recovery from this injury, I’ll be kicking off with Klondike GP road race in Cleveland in 10 days or so.

“There are several targets I have on the road this season and I’m looking forward to this change in focus after a heavy winter of track work.”

John Archibald
John in action at last year’s Scottish 25 Mile TT Champs. Photo©Martin Williamson

The British TT has to be a big goal?


“I plan to be a lot better prepared for it this year.

“Obviously my results at championship time trials haven’t been ideal when you take Isle of Man and the Commies into account.

“I need dedicate the same focus to it as my individual pursuit was given over the winter.

“Then I might come away with a result to be proud of.”

And the Euros in Glasgow?

“No idea whether this is a realistic proposition or not.

“Once I know more I can evaluate my options, but I’d definitely jump at the opportunity.”

And the $64,000 question – will we see you in Tour de Trossachs action, this year?

“It’s always been on my list, but circumstances get in the way.

“Road works two years ago and my preparation for the track season last year have forced me to miss it recently.

“I’ll be entering this year, that’s for sure.”

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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