Away at the Races: Katie Archibald on the ‘euphoria’ of racing and her record – extending 2023 UEC European Track Championships performance

Katie Archibald was one of the UCI Track Champions League’s very first champions, dominating the Women’s Endurance category in the inaugural 2021 season with five wins out of eight events, never finishing outside the top four.

Although she was unable to defend her title in 2022 despite winning another five events, the British rider has had plenty more to celebrate since then, most recently at the 2023 UEC European Track Championships in Grenchen, Switzerland, where she extended her record number of gold medals to 20.

Just 24 hours after her Team Pursuit victory, Archibald took to the boards again and wrapped up the Omnium title as well.

“My favourite Omnium event to win is the Elimination Race,” said Archibald of the event which also features in the UCI Track Champions League. “You really feel the emotions of the crowd in an Elimination Race, and winning by being the last person left on track is flamboyant and exciting, so the whole thing is really high energy. On top of that, you come off with a buzz because the ‘real race’ is not over yet.

“It’s a really different feeling of the final laps of the Points Race – which is the final event of the Omnium. That event really empties me. My mind knows it’s the time to celebrate but my body knows the fight is finished and, well, it starts to give up. I feel exhausted.”

With her Team Pursuit and Omnium wins confirmed, commentator Rob Hatch called the 28 year old “the greatest rider in the history of the European Championships”, and as Archibald celebrated, an expression of quiet relief lighting up her face.

“I love racing Omniums, but the feeling of euphoria I chase is held in the race itself, not its ending.”

That said, in every victorious ending is a celebration, and Archibald’s is always striking: open hands thrown straight up in the air above her head. It’s not a muscular ‘look at me’ display of physicality nor an overthought hand signal, it’s a meaningful expression of joy, release, fulfilment. It’s distinctive; it’s empowering.

“Standing tall makes me feel confident – I try to walk extra tall into track centre on race day, so I suppose my celebration is an extension of that, a little moment to feel like the biggest version of myself.”

But her 2023 UEC European Track Championships successes didn’t stop with the Omnium. On the last day of the competition, Archibald paired up with Madison partner Elinor Barker – also a member of the British Team Pursuit squad – 10 years after they first won together at the same event in 2013. Another dominant display saw Archibald take yet another gold medal, and this time she had someone to enjoy it with.

“I’m a lot happier after a Madison or Team Pursuit win than after an Omnium win. Not because it means more to me, just because it feels good to achieve something with another person. I come off the track after Madisons like a child who’s just seen their first action film: ‘And did you see when *that* happened?! And what about this???’ I really love that feeling.”

Madison gold brought Archibald’s 2023 Championships victory tally to three, making her the first rider to do ‘the golden hat-trick’ three times in their career. That’s on top of cementing her status as the most successful rider in European history, and even more successful than many competing nations.

Much has been made of Archibald’s ‘bar-raising’, ’history-making’ and ‘record-extending’ exploits at every competition she enters. She’s very aware of it, of course, but it means more than just marks in a record book.

“A lot of the people I look up to have records or have ‘made history’ – Sarah Storey, Chris Hoy, Graeme Obree – but it’s not just their achievements that make them my idols, it’s the way they achieved them, and it’s who they are as people. So I like to win and I like having a good palmarès, but I also hope my peers respect the way I win and that my teammates enjoy winning with me alongside them.”

In this all-important run-up to the Olympic Games and a home UCI World Championships to come this summer, not to mention season three of the UCI Track Champions League, Archibald and her teammates will look for plenty more opportunities to celebrate in 2023.

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