There was never any doubt about Scotsman John Archibald’s talent; but we must lay aside UK results in the context of international racing, they simply don’t count with European team management.
But some of the world’s fastest-ever pursuit times and a Worlds Time Trial Championship top 15 finish are a much more interesting prospect however.
It’s an ageist sport though; the minute a rider leaves the u23 ranks his chances of a pro contract diminish and continue to become ever more remote as his 23rd birthday recedes into the past.
At 30 years-of-age our feeling at VeloVeritas was that John’s chances of a contract at the highest level were slim, despite his obvious class.
However, we’re glad to be proved wrong – in John’s case a man who knows a thing or two about how well a mature rider can perform has come to the rescue.
The Legend that is Sean Yates is now a DS with Ivan Basso and Alberto Contador’s EOLO-Kometa ProTeam squad.
Yates was still a valued member of the Motorola team at 36 years-of-age after 15 seasons at the sport’s highest levels; and in 1997 at 37 years-of-age added the RTTC (as was) 50 mile time trial championship to the 25 mile title which he had won some 17 years earlier.
In the ‘50’ he put two minutes into major time trial star of the era, Gethin Butler.
Yates contacted John and the Scot was soon sorted for season 2021 with a squad which has big ambitions and major names behind it.
We caught up with John a few days after the announcement of his signing was made.
Congratulations on the contract, John – we last spoke to you after you won the CTT British 25 mile title, what have you been up to since?
“I won the CTT closed circuit championship after that – since than I’ve had a bit of a break, a week riding the mountain bike but I’m back in the swing now since signing with the new team.”
How did the EOLO-Kometa ride come about?
“My partner, Emily Meakin used to be coached by Sean Yates, he keeps in touch with her and he’s now a DS with EOLO-Kometa; he asked her if I’d be interested in a ride with the team and it all stemmed from there.”
No agent involved then?
“No, I dealt directly with Sean and the team.”
And have you had any contact with Alberto yet?
“Not directly, it’s his brother, Francesco who was Alberto’s agent when he was a rider, who runs the team.
“I’ve spoken with him in a ‘group call’ – there will be 20 or so riders plus a junior development team.
“It’s all positive and the management is very passionate about the project.”
Will you be based in Spain?
“No, Glasgow and I’ll fly in and out to races as required.”
You’ve always been self-coached, is that going to change?
“Yes, I’ll be taking guidance from the team.
“I guess there’s no perfect coach but I’ve started to work with the team and so far it’s not that very different from what I would be doing anyway – gym work and getting in steady road miles.
“There’s been nothing extra ordinary, I’ll be working towards blocks of peak condition so perhaps I’ll be training less and racing more – in 2020 I only rode five or six time trials.”
When’s the first get together?
“That’ll be in Spain, a training camp near Calpe within the next few days.”
Do you have any indication of your programme for 2021?
“It’s too early for that but perhaps we’ll know better after the camp?
“The team has big ideas though about which races they’d like to ride; I’ve heard the Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Giro all mentioned.
“The names Ivan Basso and Alberto Contador are very influential names to have behind the team.”
What about your track ambitions?
”They’re on ‘hold’ at the moment, apart from anything else, there are no events to ride – the British Nationals are cancelled and the World Cups as we knew them are no more, so I guess it’s a good time to transition?
“Longer term, of course I still have ambitions at European, Commonwealth and Worlds level.”
A ProTeam programme with the higher level of racing you’ll be exposed to can only be a good thing for your long term development though?
“Who knows? “
But I’m excited about the prospect of riding prologues and time trials at ProTeam and World Tour level.”
And you’ll be aboard those nice Basso/Contador collaboration, Aurum machines?
“Yes and we have some really nice equipment sponsors behind us: Rotor cranks, Vittoria tyres, ENVE wheels and Prologo saddles.”
Tell us about the nationalities on the team.
“The main nationality is Italian, that’s where the team is registered with around a dozen riders from there, perhaps the best known being Francesco Gavazzi and Manuel Belletti, then there are four Spaniards, two Hungarians, a Portuguese rider plus Mark Christian from the Isle of Man and me.”
What’s the team language?
“Thus far all the communication has been in English, which will be the language used in race situations but I feel I have a duty to learn some Italian and Spanish.”
And the 2021 season is about…?
“Firstly, I have to find my feet at that level and see if I’m cut out to perform in stage races.
“Then, I’d like to see how I perform in prologues and time trials.”
VeloVeritas will be following John’s (and Mark Christian’s) progress with the team carefully. However, it’s unlikely that perfectionists like Basso and Contador would put their name to a venture which was anything less than well-funded and thought-through.
We wish John, Mark and team every success.