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She's still only 20 years old but already Katie Archibald is one of the rising stars of British track cycling having won World & European gold medals.

In this Sunday Times interview Katie recalls her time in the early stages of her career competing in ''proper Highland Games.''


Scotland’s new track cycling sensation Katie Archibald has always been ahead of the rest ANDREW LONGMORE reports.

ONE indelible image emerges from the early career of Katie Archibald, the newest rising star of Britain's track cycling team.

It is of Archibald pedalling for her life round the flat grass tracks of the Highland Games, pursued - because, as the only girl in the field, she was given a half-lap of a start- by a peleton of middle-aged Scots, who, more often than not, were still chasing in vain by the finishing line.

''I was about 15 or 16 and had a ponytail at the time, so it was clear who the girl was,'' Archibald recalls.

'' They gave me a large head start but they didn't realise i could pedal a bit. I feel quite guilty now because i wasn't paying my parents for petrol or lunch or anything but i still pocketed the prize money.''

Her biggest purse was £50. '' My clothes money,'' she says. '' They were proper Highland Games, tossing the caber, running races and Highland dancers, all that. I didn't really have the right tyres on my bike so there were a few wipe-outs, but it was fun. I suppose i was a professional bike racer even back then.

The experience helped when she took the giant step up to one of the most successful teams in Olympic sport. Two years ago, Archibald was being recommended to the academy programme in Scotland; shortly after, she won the Nation junior pursuit title and was invited to attend the GB Academy in Manchester.

'' I was put in the box room at the house for Academy riders,'' she says. ''It didn't have a bed so i knew it was a bit last minute. It was all fairly terrifying at first. On the track it was: 'OK, which line do we take?' and trying to listen to the shouts of the other riders. If someone says 'hold' you slow down, if they say 'squeeze' you go harder. I thought they said 'easy' not 'squeeze' so i slowed down.

'' Do we share in the house? Do we eat dinner together? When new girls come up now, i try to remember the little things that scared me.

Nothing much seems to scare Archibald once she is on her bike. She is already a world champion in the team pursuit, and in the recent European Championships joined Laura Trott, Elinor Barker, and Jo Rowsell to take the team title before going adding a second gold to her tally in the pursuit.

This week at the opening World Cup of the season in Guadalajara, Mexico, the focus of the 20-year-old from Milngavie, near Glasgow, might switch to the Omnium. Archibald's long-term goal is to win gold in the team pursuit in Rio, but being chosen as a natural replacement for Laura Trott in the six-event Omnium is a reflection of her versatility and her growing status within the GB squad.''I feel comfortable as one of the strong riders now,''If Rowsell's opening halh lap is the fastest in the team, and Trott's second half is, in Archibald's words, ''insanely fast'', Archibald boasts the fastest overall lap.

She has also learned to adapt her almost freakish one-lap pace to the requirements of the team: at the start, picking up the tempo in mid-race or pushing hard at the close. Either way the numbers have confirmed what the pursuing Scots at the Highland Games knew a long time ago-the girl with the ponytail has a deceptively powerful engine.

''My dad was a miler and my brother is a 400m swimmer so i guess along with the team prsuit we're all in the three-to-five minute basket,'' she says.

''It's a whole lot of hard work, a whole lot of nurture, in there as well.''


Published: 2014-11-06 20:42:28