It would be easy to assume that Katie Archibald, with her brace of Olympic titles and four World Championships gold medals, is overflowing with self-confidence and inner belief at all times.

The reality, however, could not be further from this.

Archibald is a rare beast in the world of elite sport – where competitors tend not to show any chink in their armour that their rivals may exploit – in that she’s happy to admit to her crises of confidence, which rear their head with surprising regularity. And the fact that Archibald’s next competitive appearance comes in one of the most high-pressured environments she’s ever been asked to perform in has only served to heighten those feelings of insecurity.

On Thursday, the Cycling World Championships begin in Glasgow.

Great Britain is sending a 200-strong team which includes 31 Scots, with Archibald one of the riders with the greatest loads of pressure upon their shoulders.

The expectation has been well-earned – Archibald is already Scotland’s greatest-ever female cyclist – but winning a world title in her home city would likely elevate her reputation even further.

And of that, she is more than capable.

But with the track events beginning on day one of the championships at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in the city’s east end, this fact does not stop the anxieties creeping in.

“We’re in that perfect window before a championship where I’m aware of all the stress and all the pressure without gaining any of the exciting parts.

“So it’s been a high-tension period these past few weeks,” Archibald says.

“You constantly ask yourself, ‘How do I feel?’ when you shouldn’t listen to the answer to that question because today’s not race day, race day is in a few days’ time.

“And when you start making it so nuanced and complex asking yourself, ‘Is this how I should feel?’ with however many days to go, you’re digging yourself into a hole.”

Archibald, despite her nerves, has a weapon in her armoury that all athletes would give their eye teeth to possess, but so few really do: the ability to perform when it really matters.

The Manchester-based

Milngavie native is a self-confessed under-achiever in training, but

come race day Archibald, almost without exception, is able to find

her best.

And that, she admits, is a significant comfort as she goes through her final days of preparation for these World Championships.

“You get some people who find race day really stressful and struggle to perform, yet they’ve had no problem in being the best in their training group.

“I’m 100-per-cent the opposite – it’s not that I struggle with the pressure of training but more-so the pressure of daily life and asking, ‘What does this all mean and what’s it worth?’”, she says.

“But when I’m in the moment of the race, that’s when I’m there to do what I’m good at and that’s when you can’t change anything.

“It’s just a base instinct that now I get to do what I can do and that means turning off my brain and that’s a relief more than anything.”

Archibald had something of a nightmare year in 2022.

She was beset by injuries, the worst of which was when she suffered serious ligament damage in both ankles after being hit by a car last summer.

She then suffered the tragedy of her partner, Rab Wardell, dying suddenly last August.

And so, having been in the greatest physical condition of her life post-pandemic, Archibald has been forced to wrestle with the emotions that come with being what, by her sky-high standards, she considers below her best.

“What’s par for the course? People crash all the time and so you never know how fussy you can be with perfect preparation,” she says.

“Strangely, that’s what lockdown gave me. For some people, lockdown might have been torture because you didn’t have the stimulation that brings you on in in your career but for me, stripping that stimulation out really took me to another level.

“But everything since then has been the opposite: there’s been no clean space in the diary – it’s been this injury, that competition, this coaching change. I know I’ve to be less fussy and not cling to the idea that everything’s got to be just me doing the same training week in, week out, so it’s been hard to track where things are going when I’m not just following that mundane training programme.

“But I do have trust in my racing ability. I know that, as a team pursuit rider, I’m one of the best in the world and then about what’s left in my legs for madison and omnium day.”

Archibald’s form has been impressive so far this season, though, with perhaps her most notable result being the three European titles she won in February taking her tally of European titles to 20 and making her the most decorated rider in the history of the event.

In Glasgow, Archibald will ride three events: the team pursuit, madison and omnium. It is the former in which she has much of her success but she has been a world champion in all three, with the most recent an omnium world title in 2021. And while she is quick to acknowledge the difficulty of her target, she is also happy to admit that her goal in Glasgow is to end the week as a triple world champion.

“I reached a point in my career where I could say I want to win three Olympic gold medals in Paris [next summer].

“And when you plan that big, it fills in all the blocks in front of you and the natural progression is to say I want to win three world titles in Glasgow,” she says. “My entire career has been about focusing on the team pursuit and build from there.

“But the difference this season is I’ve done more omnium work than ever before and so it’s made the model different to what it’s been for my entire career. 

“I find the omnium far more daunting.

“I suppose it’s more satisfying because it feels like a bigger challenge, but the reason it’s a bigger challenge is because it’s so lonesome and scary and so it’s a bit of a conflict.

“So that’s how I’m looking at it, and that’s how the programme runs too; team pursuit first, madison second and omnium third and just see what happens in all three.”