As he prepares to make his Commonwealth Games bow for Scotland, John Archibald admits he still has to pinch himself when he reflects on his rapid rise in track cycling.
The 26-year-old made the transition from doing road cycling as a hobby to the track just last summer, since then he has flourished winning three medals at January’s British Championships.
John’s seemingly flawless transition to the track saw him quickly attain a Gold Coast qualifying time, and he joins his sister, track Olympic gold medallist Katie, on the Scottish team going for gold on Australia’s East coast.
The Milngavie native sees competing alongside his sister at the Games as a once in a lifetime chances, and he is going to give everything to make the most of it.
He said: “Competing for Team Scotland is special. You always look at it growing up, watching Commonwealth Games and seeing what it means for everyone, especially with the last Commonwealth Games in Glasgow – you saw the support that was there.
“So it’s totally special to be part of that team and representing Scotland. And then doing it with a sibling is just unique. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I keep having to step back and think about how special it is. I’m really looking forward to the whole thing.”
With some inspiration from his younger sibling, help from his coach Mark McKay and support from the staff at the sportscotland institute of sport, John has adjusted his body from coping with the long slogs of road racing, to the electric bursts of the track.
Despite his early success he conceded the switch hasn’t always been easy.
He explained: “There has been a learning curve. The intensity on the track is a lot higher. I’m used to road riding where you spend hours on the road in a low intensity zone and you’d wake up the next day and feel like a zombie, I’d be walking around tired all the time.
“The track work is short but intense so you walk around the next day thinking you are fine but when it comes to putting pressure through the pedals you think ‘no I’m wrecked’.
“The main adaptation is how I need to recover from these intense sessions. Technically it’s following the black line, it’s the most basic thing of the individual pursuit, but if I’m off that line I’m losing seconds every lap.”
Kurt Rumley, sportscotland performance physiologist, is part of the team at the sportscotland institute of sport which developed a training programme to ease John’s adjustment to the track environment.
Kurt says it was clear from a very early stage that John had the credentials of an elite track cyclist.
He said: “It’s been quite a rapid progression. The sportscotland performance physiology team have worked with him and his coach to help fine tune that road based time trial physiology to more what we need in a track environment. The events are much shorter and at a higher intensity to what he was used to on the road.
“Once we had gathered some data on him it was pretty obvious really early on that he had the potential to be really quick. He is a tireless worker. He can train as hard as anyone I’ve seen. When you give him a programme and explain to him what each session is supposed to achieve he gives his all every time.”
That determination obviously runs in the family, John revealed watching the progress of his world champion sister has provided immense pride, as well as tremendous inspiration.
He said: “She is a massive influence. At first I didn’t appreciate how far she was going to take it. So I was watching her thinking ‘this is amazing’.
“Her progression is the thing I find most inspirational. There’s a progression to a point where some people settle and say they are happy with that. People like Katie say that’s where I am but this is where I want to be and I still want to keep raising that bar. That’s the part I really like, the continual chasing of progression.”
And Katie says the feeling is mutual after watching John’s progress with excitement.
She added: “As anyone will tell you, it’s been pretty remarkable the impact John has made on the Scottish cycling scene.
“I guess he was just hesitant; his line is that he just wanted to have fun and not take it too seriously, and taking it too seriously meant entering the big races and putting his neck out there to say ‘maybe I would like a spot on the Scottish squad’ and things like that.
“It hasn’t come as a surprise to some people, the results he’s had, but the way it has accelerated in the last few months on the track is very exciting.
“It feels pretty cool to have him on the team and it’s nice because our family is coming out to watch us.”
John and Katie both begin their hectic schedule on track and road on Friday in their respective individual pursuits.
Both are also scheduled to ride in the scratch and points races on the track before switching to the road next week for the time trial and road races.