Having made a name for himself on the track and in the UK time trialling scene John Archibald signed for Alberto Contador’s ProTeam Eolo-Kometa for 2021. He tells Vern Pitt about the suffering and lessons of his first few months in the pro ranks.
Through the rain you could still make out the imposing yellow and black gilet on the back of Wout Van Aert in full flight. The Belgian was straining every sinew, pushing the limits of traction on the treacherously slippery Italian roads to hunt down his nemesis Mathieu Van Der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Tour de France Champion Tadej Pogacar (UAE-Emirates). The TV camera moto sticks resolutely close to him, they know you’ll want to see this.
But further back down the road the chase is not for glory, it’s just to stay in the race. And it’s no less urgent. An crucially no less painful. “You just thought how long can this go on?” marvels John Archibald, new signing for UCI ProTeam Eolo-Komete riding his first WorldTour race at Tirreno Adriatico.
“You’d there must be other people feeling like I did but that just didn’t seem to be the case. Van Aert spent three laps chasing down [Tadej] Pogacar and Van der Poel off the front, after four days of racing, and you’re just looking and going, where’s he finding that from? I’m doing the same thing chasing the grupetto.”
The Scotsman, a champion time trialist on these shores and holder of one of the ten best individual pursuit times ever ridden, admits that that week in Italy was “a shock to the system”.
Archibald signed for Alberto Contador’s Eolo-Kometa team over the winter. Helped into the English-speaking set-up by Sean Yates who was well aware of the then Ribble-Weldtite rider’s prestigious skills against the watch. The learning curve he’s been on in his first few races has been steep, partly a product of a distinct lack of bunch racing at domestic level in 2020.
When Archibald eventually pulled on the team’s sky blue kit in anger at the ProTour ranked Clasica de Almeria he’d not been in a bunch race for nearly two years. It’s fair to say he’d had better days.
You can read the full interview with John Archibald in the April 22 issue of Cycling Weekly magazine, on sale in shops and online. If you want your weekly cycling fix delivered to your door and save on the cover price, why not take out a subscription?