Sunday, June 20, 2021
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John Archibald – Reflecting on his World Championship Pursuit

"The disappointment hit hard but I have my motivation back, I’ve just been enjoying cycling and training without the pressure of competition since Poland."

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After John Archibald’s stellar 4:09:584 ride at the British pursuit championship to many it seemed he was ‘World Pursuit Champion in waiting.’

Here at VeloVeritas whilst we have the utmost respect for the man and his performances we didn’t seek any pre-Worlds interviews from John, his sister Katie, Neah Evans or Mark Stewart.

We felt that the, ‘they just need to turn up and ride then bring home the rainbow jerseys’ vibe was putting all four of them under pressure – of which they would experience more than enough in the cauldron of Pruszkow.

In the event John could ‘only’ produce a 4:14 which gave him seventh spot in qualifying and in the ruthless world of modern pursuiting that’s an end of it; the first four joust for medals, the rest go home.

John wasn’t the only fast man to fall at the first hurdle, world record holder at the discipline with a 4:07, American Ashton Lambie rode to a ‘mere’ 4:12 for fifth and an early exit.  

John Archibald
John has learnt some lessons about his necessary preparation for a 4k IP. Photo©SWpix

We let the dust settle post Worlds and gave John a call and started by asking what his first event of the season would be:

“I’ll be riding the Lang Whang time trial on April 7th with my first road race the Klondike GP in Cleveland on April 14th.

“It’ll be a ‘mixed’ season, road and time trial.

“I’ve never had a big road win but enjoy riding road races.”

Will we see you pursue the SC ‘10’ record; your fastest ‘10’ in Scotland was in a CTT event and not recognised as the record – and how about a ‘50’?

“It’s not something I’ve thought about but if the opportunity arises to ride the right ‘10’, yes, I’d like to go for it.

“I don’t have that many ‘spare’ dates available though, with Ribble being a UCI team our big goal is for us to qualify for the Tour of Britain.

“As for the ‘50’ I’d like to yes but there are relatively few of them – if I could find a weekend to suit I’d be ‘up’ for that.”

John Archibald
John riding for Ribble, at the British Elite TT Championships last summer. Photo©Martin Williamson

Ribble Pro Cycling – more riders and UCI Continental for 2019?

“Yes, we upgraded to UCI continental, we have two rosters, a young development team then with the UCI team we’re looking at races like the Tour of Yorkshire, Tour of Britain and the Tour of the North in Ireland – and the team always rides the Belgian kermises towards the end of the season.”

What have you been up to since the Worlds?

“Not a lot, just training, riding my bike – from October through to the Worlds it was just one big event after another.

“It’s been good just enjoying riding my bike and training.”

Looking back, do you think your Worlds preparation was right?

“I thought it was at the time, it was only after that I realised that I’d peaked at the British with that 4:09 ride.

“There were four or five weeks between the British and the Worlds; I’d felt a 4:09 or 4:10 would be on the cards in Poland – but I rode a 4:14 on the day.

“I’d hoped to qualify second or third and was convinced I could make the final.

“But when I look back I realise that I forgot road miles and let my base slip; it’s only a four minute effort but you need that road background.

“It’s hard to strike the fitness/freshness balance; I think I was too fresh and hadn’t realised I’d neglected my base.”

John Archibald
John was five seconds slower than his PB at the Worlds. Photo©Getty Images

You had a big weight of home expectation upon your shoulders before the Worlds, how did that affect you?

“I was conscious of it and felt the expectation but it wasn’t that which cracked me, I was on the start line feeling confident and ready to race.”

Any other negative factors, do you think?

“The environment – we were at an ‘airport’ hotel so it was either hanging around there or at the very intense atmosphere at the velodrome.

“I was there five or six days before my event thinking I wanted to get to know every inch of that track but it was very hard to relax.

“I was given the choice to fly out early – which I did – or late, which I think would have been better. 

“Then there’s the aspect of food – not to your normal pattern at home so that must have an effect.

“Lessons learned.”

[VeloVeritas reminded John that the man with more professional pursuit rainbow jerseys than anyone else in the history of the sport, the great Hugh Porter (GB) used to fly in late, do the job then fly out again after the race with minimal disruption to his routine, ed.] 

It must have been difficult to get your head back up after the disappointment?

“I had plenty of time to think on the way home, I had a flight to Frankfurt then a transfer to London and shifted my mind set on the journey;

“The question I asked myself was; ‘why was I there ?’

“I told myself that all athletes experience these things and the main reason I was there was because I like to ride my bike – it’s not about recognition or money, it’s because I enjoy riding my bike. 

“The disappointment hit hard but I have my motivation back, I’ve just been enjoying cycling and training without the pressure of competition since Poland.”

John Archibald
John takes a very pragmatic approach to the Ups and the Downs of high-level racing. Photo©SWPix

What are the goals for 2019?

“I’d like to ride the Tour of Yorkshire at the start of May and last year I was fourth in the BC time trial champs, I’m going to challenge for a podium there – that’s at the end of June at Sandringham in Norfolk.

“I enjoyed last year’s race at Ponteland, it was a good course.

“I won’t be riding the Scottish ‘10’ champs, it’s on the same weekend as Yorkshire but I will be riding The Meldons on April 24th and the Buxton Sporting TT which is on Friday April 19th and part of the Sigma Sport CTT series.”

John’s attitude reminds us of the words of General George Patton; ‘The test of success is not what you do when you are on top. Success is how high you bounce back when you hit the bottom.’

VeloVeritas wishes John a successful 2019 season and will be following his progress.

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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