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'She broke the world record and no-one has heard of her'

EVER since six-time Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy called a halt on his competitive career earlier this year, the search has been on for the next big Scottish cycling star to take the world by storm.

Katie Archibald has taken cycling by storm, yet she only started racing in 2011. Picture: James Galloway
Katie Archibald has taken cycling by storm, yet she only started racing in 2011. Picture: James Galloway

One name fast gathering momentum: Katie Archibald. It's a lot of pressure on the shoulders of a 19-year-old who only began cycling competitively in 2011, but the Milngavie rider is deftly proving she is up to the task.

Archibald burst on to the scene in September, when she finished third in the individual pursuit at the British National Track Championships, rubbing shoulders on the podium with Olympic gold medallists Laura Trott and Dani King. Three weeks later, she herself had a gold medal around her neck as part of the British side, including Trott, King, Joanna Rowsell and Elinor Barker, that dominated the team pursuit at the UEC European Track Championships in Apeldoorn.

As British Cycling performance manager, Shane Sutton, succinctly put it: "We dropped an Olympic champion [Dani King] to give her a ride in the qualifying round and then dropped another Olympic champion [Joanna Rowsell] to give her a ride in the final. She broke the world record and yet no-one has heard of her."

The cycling world duly sat up and took notice. But Archibald wasn't done yet. She made her UCI Track World Cup debut in Manchester last month, riding for Scottish Cycling/Braveheart.com, where she claimed a silver in the scratch race and bronze in the individual pursuit.

Archibald will be hoping that stellar form continues as she joins the British women's endurance squad for the second round of the 2013/14 Track World Cup, which begins today in Aguascalientes, Mexico. It is a meteoric rise for a teenager who, until eight weeks ago, juggled training alongside working in telesales for her family's business, Archers Sleepcentre.

Officially recruited into British Cycling's Olympic Academy programme last month - which she celebrated in markedly restrained style with a litre of Lidl's Stracciatella yoghurt - Archibald has upped sticks from Glasgow to Manchester, where she will be based for the foreseeable future.

She admits to being a teeny bit starstruck when she first joined the team. "You see these guys on telly and then are suddenly face-to-face. It is bizarre," she said.

"The first time I went down to Manchester I was introducing myself, but no-one else had to say: 'Oh, I'm Laura Trott, you might know the name?' It was a surreal experience, but all the other girls were so laid-back I just had to play it cool."

With her pierced lip and eye-catching, colourful hair (most recently pink but variously green, blue, orange, red and blonde), Archibald turns heads both on and off the track. She has a tattoo on her back of a girl looking through binoculars, inspired by the lyrics of her favourite spoken word artist, Scroobius Pip. "There is a little too much hype around sensibility and a well rounded soul," she said. "I think you need a bit of eccentricity."

A former swimmer, Archibald was a late arrival to cycling. She was already 17 when she began to hone her skills on Highland grass tracks to earn some extra pocket money. Her first season on the hard track came only last year at Meadowbank Velodrome in Edinburgh. She missed contesting the 2012 British National Track Championships while working for three months in a French vineyard.

Archibald, who rides for Team Thomson's Cycles, gained the 2014 Commonwealth Games 3km individual pursuit qualifying standard of 3.41.581 in March. She has already blown that time out of the water, setting a new personal best of 3:37.093 last month. Her goal is to also compete in the points and scratch races as well as the individual time trial on the road next summer.

While Hoy has said that he believes she is a future Olympic and Commonwealth Games medallist, Archibald is reticent to speculate. "I'm too self-conscious to declare the huge dreams I lie in bed at night thinking about," she said. "I've seen team-mates ridiculed for saying: 'I want to go to the Olympics.' It's demoralising for someone to turn around and say: 'Who are you kidding?' It's best to stick to your plan and know what you want, but there's no need to advertise that."

Alongside fellow Scot Charline Joiner, she has signed to Dame Sarah Storey's new team, Madison Boot Out Breast Cancer, for 2014, having caught the eye of the 11-time Paralympic gold medallist at Prudential Ride London in August.

"It's been so fast, there's not been time for it all to sink in," said Archibald. "It's nice to know I don't need to panic about not meeting my commission at work and can concentrate solely on cycling. I wake up now and get on my bike, have lunch, then I get on the bike again. This is exactly where I want to be."

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