Katie Archibald had talked with infinite fervour about how the opportunity to merely be part of the first-ever women’s madison to be staged at an Olympic Games had turned Tokyo into her “special shrine.” A shot at history, with Laura Kenny, who has accomplished so much. But not this. Until now. Deities both. Infallible from start to finish, the British pair did not so much power to gold as gather it as they exploded into the stratosphere with a margin of victory so immense that the mortals behind could merely genuflect and bow.

A series of 12 sprints, riders trading high-speed shifts, sapping enough that monopolies are discouraged and normally discounted. “All of the technical, all of the tactical and all of the physical,” was how Archibald described it. All of the points, almost too. Just two of the dozen races were ceded, almost unprecedented, Great Britain’s second track cycling gold in as many days secured with such ease that the history girls were grinning in their closing changeovers and enjoying the view.

78 points in total, a mammoth 43 clear of Denmark, with an already dwindling challenge from the Dutch evaporating in a crash that allowed the Russians to poach bronze. “It’s unfortunate to see them come down and not contend in the way they could have,” the 27-year-old Scot acknowledged.

“But the Danish were exactly where expected. That was the biggest thing for me, sort of midway through the race, the Danes were an attacking team, the French were an attacking team, we didn’t want to leave ourselves vulnerable, going so big in the sprints. And yeah, I guess being aware of your weaknesses means you can react quickly.”


The truth was that her second Olympic gold was propelled by plots hatched months ahead rather left to chance on the day. Monica Greenwood, installed as their coach last year, got all creative when their race schedule was destroyed by Covid and the Manchester Velodrome was the only circuit they could use.

British Cycling’s Under-23 male development squad were deployed as both bait and catch. A human flight simulator that allowed Kenny and Archibald to secretly become madison maestras behind closed doors. “We’ve done this about five times, this exact plan,” beamed Kenny. “And we just ran it. I’ve never felt so confident about a plan in my whole life.”

This was the 29-year-old’s fifth Olympic gold, and her first since the arrival of her son Albie. The first British female athlete to win gold at three successive Games, she may yet move level with her husband Jason onto six in Sunday’s omnium. “I feel like we’re just making up these records as we go along,” she grinned. “It’s not about the records, it’s about the race and I’m just so happy we won the bike race.”

Archibald’s Games are done but she remains motivated for more. Omitted for last year’s world championships, and sitting out the one prior due to a concussion, it has been three years since her last global crown.

“And so it felt like a long wait, and not a lot of gold medals along the way,” she confirmed. “But I really felt like I had a point to prove. And I knew what I was doing in this race. I wanted to show that I had the legs and the head to put it together in one of track cycling's exemplary events.


“You know, you have to be fast. You have to be smart. You have to have the full package.” Gold, delivered, speedily, to her personal shrine.

Record this one carefully among the long chronicles, she beamed. “I’m looking forward to going home and seeing whether someone has updated the Wikipedia page. Because you do, you look on the records, and the first one at the top is 1908 or whatever, and now it will be 2021 and we will be right at the top. People are going to have to scroll past Great Britain: Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald. And that is pretty cool.”