Katie Archibald reflects on previous Paris disappointments ahead of 2024 Olympics

Track superstar casts her eyes on preparation for 2024 as she enters the final weekend of the Track Champions League

Clock15:20, Thursday 9th November 2023
Katie Archibald currently leads the Track Champions League Endurance standings

© Sprint Cycling Agency

Katie Archibald currently leads the Track Champions League Endurance standings

Great Britain's Katie Archibald continued her fine form in the UCI Track Champions League last weekend, dominating the Elimination event at round 3 of the series in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines. It was to be a teaser for things to come for the world's best track cyclists, who will face the same boards next summer in the Paris Olympic Games.

Read more: Katie Archibald continues to dominate, but Sarah Van Dam picks up her first victory in the Track Champions League

However, rather than offering Archibald the comfort of experience ahead of 2024, the Velodrome National de St-Quentin-En-Yvelines instead opened old wounds for the rider, whose chequered history with Paris leaves her somewhat trepidatious.

"I was really excited [for last weekend], and the rational version of myself thought it was such an opportunity and said so in countless interviews, about how we can be really deliberate with our practice here and what an advantage it is to have exposure to the Olympic track," Archibald said ahead of the Track Champions League finale in London.

"And then when I got there [to Paris], maybe it felt overwhelming or maybe I just didn’t sleep enough, but I found it oddly stressful and it has put a bit of a mental block in my mind of ‘do I just not like Paris?’

"Because I know that it is a nice track, I really love the track, I really love the city of St-Quinten. But I just realised how many off experiences I have had in Paris. I was part of the end of a winning streak for Team GB in Paris in 2015 - so that really sticks in my mind for Paris."

The velodrome on the outskirts of Paris welcomed a fresh-faced Archibald in 2015 for the World Championships.

At the time, Great Britain's team pursuit team was led by the all-conquering Jo Rowsell and had won seven world titles in the space of eight years. Such was their dominance that since 2008, the team had picked up 11 out of a possible 12 gold medals from the Olympics, World and European Championships.

However, it was not to be for Archibald in her maiden World Championships as part of the team pursuit squad, with the Scot, Rowsell, Laura Trott (now Kenny) and Elinor Barker only able to pick up silver in the face of Australia's gold medal ride.

Archibald would be back seven years later, this time as the elder stateswoman of the team pursuit squad for the 2022 World Championships, but another silver medal left an equally bitter taste in the mouth. Lining up alongside Neah Evans, Megan Barker and Josie Knight, Archibald's Great Britain were comfortably beaten by an Italian side that featured Elisa Balsamo, Chiara Consonni, Martina Fidanza and Vittoria Guazzini.

"It was the 2022 World Championships which were really hard for me," Archibald said. "I did a lot of crying in Parisien toilets in 2022. It was ok last week, but I hope that next year it will be better."

As she turns her attention towards next year's Olympic Games, where she hopes to put her previous experiences of Paris to rest, Archibald is keen to put into practice the lessons she has learned from the past two Olympic Games - from which she has taken a silver medal and two golds.

Katie Archibald: Constriction can bring about innovation

Not dissuaded by a disappointing bow at the 2015 World Championships, Archibald solidified her place in Great Britain's Team Pursuit squad throughout the course of the year and all looked set for the Rio Olympic Games in 2016. That was until the Scot tore a knee ligament over the Christmas period, which left her in a race against time to get fit.

Rather than proving a barrier to success, however, Archibald looks back on this setback as one that worked in her favour.

"In the eight months as we prepared for the games, I [only] raced once and that wasn’t particularly fun, but the focus that it gave me around the rehab process and being really blinkered on one goal - I think that was a big part of that success in 2016," she said.

"My big goal there was Team Pursuit, which you can be quite siloed with, you don’t necessarily need the race exposure."

Great Britain went on to win the gold medal in Rio, smashing not only the Olympic record for their time of 4:13:260, but the world record as well. It was a sensational ride by the same four women who had been left with a point to prove after the 2015 World Championships.

Archibald's preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games were equally tested by a twist of fate, only this time one that affected the whole team.

"It was very different for 2021, where I wanted loads of race exposure but because of Covid, we couldn’t travel, so we brought the racing to us. We did loads with the Under-19 and Under-23 men, with the various academy teams that we have here in the National Cycling Centre. Again, it was something that was built by circumstance... but in both instances, something really good has grown from it."

Though the team pursuit squad were only able to secure the silver medal in Tokyo, Archibald still left the postponed Olympics with another gold medal, having ridden to victory in the madison alongside Kenny.

Whether it be a torn ligament or a global pandemic, the build-up to Archibald's two prior Olympic Games have been anything but usual, which has left her somewhat sceptical of an uninterrupted 2024.

"In 2024, a clean run almost worries me a little bit because if you’re given the full platter, how do you know what to choose? It is almost like the constriction can bring about innovation on occasion," Archibald reflected on Rio and Tokyo.

Ever determined to spin a negative into a positive, however, Archibald is pragmatic when assessing her plans for 2024. Things do not always have to go to plan - they never have for the Scot before the Olympics - but more often than not, success follows for Archibald and her teammates.

"The good news is that I have the reflections from ‘16, from 2020, to say ‘this is what works, so don’t get carried away thinking now it can be perfect,’ because maybe it doesn’t need to be perfect - maybe it just needs to be right."

When can I watch the Track Champions League on GCN+?

All five rounds of the UCI Track Champions League will be broadcast worldwide, live and ad-free on GCN+, with live shows providing additional analysis and interviews from inside the velodrome. The schedule for the 2023 series is as follows:

  • October 21 | Round 1 - Mallorca (Velòdrom Illes Balears)
  • October 28 | Round 2 - Berlin (Berlin Velodrom)
  • November 4 | Round 3 - Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (Velodrome National de St-Quentin-En-Yvelines)
  • November 10 | Round 4 - London (Lee Valley VeloPark)
  • November 11 | Round 5 - London (Lee Valley VeloPark)

Head over to GCN+ now to check the broadcast times in your region so you don't miss a minute of the TCL action. Plus, catch up with all the behind-the-scenes action from the 2022 series with our Back on Track documentary series.

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