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Colourful take on life working for Archibald

A CONVERSATION with the green-haired Katie Archibald has its regular highlights.

A red-haired Katie Archibald on the podium at the team pursuit in Cali. Picture: Getty Images
A red-haired Katie Archibald on the podium at the team pursuit in Cali. Picture: Getty Images

There is the meditation on the stories of Shel Silverstein, the insistence that everyone needs a mattress protector, the joys of riding 100km on Christmas day and the experience of working with beauty queens.

There is hardly a pause to reflect that Archibald, at 20, is a world team pursuit champion with a Commonwealth Games schedule that includes track endurance, time trial and the road race.

Indeed the cyclist from Milngavie breezed through the interview at the Sir Chis Hoy Velodrome before heading to win the third round of Matrix Fitness Grand Prix series.

From Matrix to mattress. Archibald takes her media listeners on a spin through her employment career. This included a stint in a bed shop where she worked alongside Sam Greer and Sara Pender, two former Miss Scotlands.

"I wasn't very good, to be honest. It was telesales," she says. "But I really believed in the products. There's an odd feeling when you're selling an add-on: you know it's an add-on and you think 'They mustn't want this'. But everybody really needs a mattress protector. I always felt like I was conning people, and I couldn't get across the sincerity, somehow."

There is no doubting her commitment to her sport. Typically, she talks of the demands it makes with a grin. "It's a 24/7 job. That's what my dad doesn't quite believe. He thinks I've got it easy," she says.

Now based in Manchester, she adds: "I live with girls between 18 and 20. We're essentially in a student house minus the drinking. I do have friends at uni and I do hear stories about 'this one time when I was drunk'. And I think: 'Am I never going to have these mad, mad experiences because I'm not constantly inebriated?' "But then, when you're on the top step at the world championships you think: 'I'm perfectly sober, I'm perfectly alive and I'm having a fantastic time'."

This time involves dealing with priorities. "We do have birthdays, and Christmases and things, but we're constantly aware that your goal requires 100% commitment," she says. "I'm fortunate in that my brother likes to cycle. We're quite an active family, I suppose, so it's a Christmas bike ride." This involved a trip of about 100km. "I wasn't going to cook, was I?" she adds.

Archibald, who started her career on a grass track in the Highlands, is one of the strongest hopes in the squad of 30 cyclists in Team Scotland. She became the first female world champion in the sport when she was part of the team that won the team pursuit world title in Cali, Columbia, in March.

Her hair colour changes with the wind. "It's something that I started in my last year at school when I realised that you really could do whatever you want. And it's kind of stuck," she says.

This attitude has stretched to a series of tattoos that run up her arm. They come from Silverstein's children's story: The Thinker of Tender Thoughts.

"It's the first line of the story. The character gets ridiculed for the flowers that stick out of his head and he chops them all off and has a perfectly pleasant life blending in. So you can take from that what you want. I hope it's about staying true to yourself regardless of the ridicule you might receive," she says.

Archibald is a vibrant character but there is a quiet resolve that includes that commitment to being herself but also being the best.

"This is every hour of the day. You can't just decide not to sleep one night, because that's going to set off your whole next day's training."

The speaking stopped to allow Archibald to do a recce of the Commonwealth Games time trial course in Glasgow. And then it was on to Edinburgh where she finished 29 seconds clear in the grand prix series, earning the points jersey after her 100% success rate in the two sprint laps of the evening.

From a Glasgow press event to an Edinburgh podium, it was just another day in the journey for a singular cyclist. "The pressure's hard," she says. But she's smiling.

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