Continuing with our series of articles about Scotland’s cycling selections for the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games – albeit the track cycling takes place on the Lea Valley Olympic ‘Pringle’ velodrome in London – we caught up with John Archibald who was a silver medallist in the pursuit at the last Games.
He spent season 2021 with Italo/Spanish ProTeam squad Eolo Kometa, the ‘baby’ of Alberto Contador and Ivan Basso.
John came within one second of a win in the time trial stage of the UCI 2.1 Tour Poitou Charentes, beaten only by Israel Start-Up Nation’s Ben Hermans.
This year John’s not with a team but is currently getting body and mind together for the National championships on home roads, later this month and the Games, next month.
Where are based these days, John?
“I’ve been dividing my time between Port Glasgow for access to the Glasgow velodrome and my girlfriend, Emily Meakin’s home in Stafford.”
No team for 2022?
“When my contract with Eolo wasn’t extended I wasn’t motivated to look for another team.”
We’ve not seen you on Scottish roads much in 2022?
“At the track Nationals in January I realised I was ‘off’ where I needed to be; it was my intention to ride time trials but I haven’t had a TT bike – my Eolo TT bike had to go back when I left.
“The supply chain issues in the cycle trade mean it takes ages to get equipment.
“I borrowed my dad’s TT bike for the Loch Ken TT but it was all a bit hurried and I ended up with a problem with the ‘bars so I couldn’t ride.
“I now have a new TT bike so it’s my intention to race more.”
Apart for the track Nationals, have you raced much this season?
“I achieved the selection criteria at the Nationals but haven’t raced since, I’ve had my head down training for the National TT and Road Race championships which are on home roads this year.
“But my immediate priority is the ‘Sub 7’ triathlon project (the Pho3nix Sub7 Sub8 powered by Zwift) in Germany, along with the likes of Dan Bigham, Charlie Tanfield and Alex Dowsett I’m one of the pacers for the bike section.
“The goal is to break seven hours for the full Ironman distance – the current record is 7:21; that was set by the Norwegian triathlete, Kristian Blummenfelt, last year; but of course, he didn’t have specific pacemakers like there will be on this attempt.
“It was originally to be Alistair Brownlee who made the attempt but he’s injured so Joe Skipper has stepped in.”
[Joe appeared in the pages of VeloVeritas two years ago when he broke the CTT 12 hour record with 325.55 miles – 27 mph, and he finished second to Blummenfelt whilst achieving his goal of under seven hours for the Ironman distance. ed.]
Your 2021 Eolo adventure?
“It wasn’t a good fit for either party and didn’t work out well, our mentalities didn’t match.
“There wasn’t the attention to detail when preparing for and riding time trials – no proper skinsuits or aero socks and tyres over-inflated at 110 psi all the little things that matter.
“Their obsession was with skin folds and body weight – a memo went round that 60% of the team was not at their correct racing weight, they wanted you at no more than 8% body fat and there was a clause in your contract that they could dispense with your services if you went two kilos over your race weight.
“At the training camp I was six kilos lighter than I was when riding the track – with hindsight, that wasn’t helpful.
“The coach concentrated on building threshold and endurance but where I needed to improve was on top end, sprinting out of bends and roundabouts – and over the top of hills.
“By the time I understood that it was too late to correct but even with the right equipment and on top form the atmosphere just wasn’t right for me.
“And in the races positioning in the bunch is just so important, inside the last 50 K you find guys taking undue risks to move up.
“There’s a lot of pushing and fighting – I only had one crash; that was in Tirreno, a guy pushed me wide into the kerb for no reason and I went over the bars.”
Do you know which events you’ll be riding at the Games?
“It’s not 100% decided but ideally, the Road Race, the Time Trial, Points Race, Scratch Race and Individual Pursuit.”
No Scotland Team Pursuit squad?
“If the funding was in place and everyone was prepared to ditch their individual ambitions then it would be possible, but it’s too complicated.
“The thing about the Games Team Pursuit is that the standard is so high; New Zealand, GB, Australia and Canada were all top six qualifiers in the Olympics.”
What does the lead-in to the Games look like for you?
“First I have the Ironman record attempt, the Road Nationals and then training on the track at Glasgow and deciding which disciplines I’m going to focus on.”
The Lee Valley velodrome, have you ridden it?
“Yes, I remember we rode a Team Pursuit World Cup on it and it’s a nice track.”
And you have a new TT bike?
“Yes, a Cervélo P5 which will soon be to my ‘dream’ spec.
“The extensions are a bit wide though, not tailored but I have a set on order from WattShop – they look after me well.”
Your objectives for the Games?
“I’m uncertain really; at the last Games I won a silver medal so what now – a gold medal?
“Or a medal in a different discipline?
“I’m unsure on where my form is but I’ll establish that over the coming weeks…”
As with all of the selections, VeloVeritas wishes John the very best for the Games, and before that we’ll watch out for him at the Road Nationals at Castle Douglas in a fortnight’s time.