Interview: Multiple TT Champion John Archibald

Winner of three RTTC Championships in a shortened 2020 time trial season, we catch up with John Archibald (Ribble Weldtite) who admits winter training will be done on the turbo …

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Interview: Multiple TT Champion John Archibald

This year has seen little road racing but a rider who was voted Domestic Rider of the year in 2019, John Archibald (Ribble Weldtite), has been busy chasing time trial championships. Winner of three RTTC Championships in a shortened time trial season in 2020, the Scottish rider admits now the racing season is done, winter training will be done on the turbo.

In 2019, there was many a highlight for John. Medals in the Time Trial and Road Race at the British Road Championship against World Tour opposition was certainly proof he has it what it takes to race at the highest level. His win at the Stockton Grand Prix after a 100km solo effort off the front was another. For a rider who some look upon as a ‘trackie’, John is far from a one trick pony.

Unfortunately we have not been able to see John competing in road races in 2020 but his racing time trials has certainly given a rider who was once more known for his pursuiting on the track, some big goals to pursue.

His last championship win was the Circuit Time Trial Championship on a course at Newmarket, a town known for its horse power. John certainly had plenty of that on a course far different to the 25 championship but he was pushed all the way by Chris Fennell. “Chris rode a really good race” says John. “He went out hard and attacked it and fair play to him. He really took it to me”.

“I got a time split off Emily (Meakin) after the half way mark and I knew I was about nine seconds down. I did though have more to give on that second lap so I did pick it up a bit but it wasn’t my best race. I kind of hit my peak around the national 25 and from there, the form started to fade and I think I just faded a little too much in that last week”.

John getting his girlfriend Emily Meakin’s bike ready at a time trial in Cumbria in 2020

Asked about peak form dipping when racing a short season like the one in 2020, John, who coaches riders as well, says “it’s the nature of having so many races in a tight block where you are not able to build on that fitness between races. I am sure if you were doing a UCI road race of four or five hours, that would build on the fitness where as the way these time trial races work, a 20 to 40 minute effort, you need to be really fresh for them. So, you spend the week not digging yourself into a hole and keeping fresh for the race so you can give that peak performance. After four weeks of doing that, the fitness starts to tail off and while I felt very fresh and motivated to race and it was a nice feeling for four or five weeks, the fitness was starting to tail off.”

“I managed around three weeks of feeling good and then the last two weeks, I started to notice it dropping and had to re-assess my pacing strategy a bit. I was expecting it though as I have never had a season that closely packed before and one where I’ve not had road races when it’s just been time trials. So it was a good learning experience.”

Keeping in the family
At the championships, it wasn’t just John who was winning but his girlfriend Emily Meakin and his sister Katie too, who won the Closed Circuit Championship beating Emily.

Asked how it felt doubling up on the wins with Emily and Katy, John replied. “It’s tough in some senses because there are a lot of expectations on both of us. If Katie turns up to a race, even though she has not time trialled in over a year, as an Olympic medallist turning up to a race, there is a lot of pressure on her.”

“So I quite like the fact that Katie was able to turn up to a race like that and have some fun and enjoy it as well as still winning. With Emily and me, we’re not necessarily turning up to these races just to have fun, we are looking to try and win them or podium and it’s the nature of racing, you can’t always win. So you have to be realistic about these things as well so it has been a fun period just doing things locally with family and friends and racing to win.”

2019 and John was on the podium with Ben Swift and now retired Ian Stannard at the British Road Race Championships

At the Blue Ribbon Time Trial championship, the 25 mile one, John won despite the presence of some big names including a rider who shortly after won a stage in the Giro d’Italia, Alex Dowsett. Asked if seeing that gives him the ambition to be racing such events, John replied “it does cross your mind even though racing at that level is a different thing”.

“I have had some good experience in road racing and maybe that will carry on in the future. Certainly, if I got the opportunity to race at a higher level, that will show itself because it was pretty motivating to watch Alex win at the Giro having seen what he is doing in the time trial scene. To have that translate into success in a stage race like that and to see what it meant it to him.”

“But it is hard to draw direct comparisons between him and me but it does make me think about it a little bit”. Asked if he would take the opportunity if it presented itself because in so many people’s eyes he deserves the opportunity, he replied “I’d jump at it.”

Pick of the time trials
Moving on to looking back at the short season of racing time trials, and asked what the pick of them were for him, John replied “the 25 championship was very satisfying as there were a lot of big names who turned up and I rode really well and had a peak performance. I knew I had hit a new level. So it was good to turn up and race the best and have that peak performance”.

“In terms of enjoyment, one of the races I enjoyed the most was the Coalville Time Trial. It was a very relaxed atmosphere, a good sporting course on a nice day with a lot to throw at you. And even though on that day, Dan (Bigham) got the better of me and I came second, it was one of those rides that I got to the end of and really enjoyed it”.

“Putting all the pieces like the preparation and the technical elements to the course together, and regardless of the result, I still enjoyed it.”

Moving onto talking about his TT bike this year, John explained that his setup has remained unchanged all year. “I have the Ribble frame we got for the Worlds last year at Harrogate. I use a Pyramid single chain ring (58) and the ‘Walker Bro’ rear disc with an 11-28 cassette. There is also a Watt Shop waxed chain, Ceramic pulley wheels and tubeless tyres”.

Asked if he changes the front wheel depending on conditions, John replied “I only have the one front wheel and I have been using that one all season and have been very happy with it. Things can be conditions dependent and if it is a heavy cross wind race or if you are racing in straight lines as against a sporting course, there are different variables to consider so I have been using an all-round wheel. From a stability, weight or aero point of view, it ticks a lot of boxes so I have been happy with it.”

John’s Ribble Cycles Time Trial bike

John explained he lives in the West of Scotland (Glasgow area) and that it is very wet there. So when I asked about winter training, he mentioned that he has taken a week to get back to normal post season. “Emily and I went out on the mountain bikes to do something different and start to rebuild”.

“I have done plenty of winters through the UK where I’ve used the turbo trainer as you have to be realistic what you can achieve volume wise. The main goal is to get some aerobic volume and really focus on that while you have the time and what is realistic with the weather”.

“I would try and get abroad if possible and do some training camps. I have certainly noticed when you up the training volume in these kind of phases, like I did in 2019, it paid off quite heavily but there is only so many times in the year you can dedicate the time to that type of training.”

“For the last month with my racing, that was one thing I wasn’t able to do.”

John admits the turbo trainer does get a lot of use because of the weather. “I don’t have a problem sitting on one for four hours although I know riders for whom that is less realistic. They may though find something else to do like a long mountain bike ride or go out on a cyclocross or gravel bike. Finding things you can do in poorer weather is helpful because when you are descending in the rain at 60k an hour, it can be quite miserable.”

“So you need to find something you can sustain and that is still giving you that volume. For me, that is the turbo training but for others it might be gravel riding etc”.

Good luck John with the winter training and congrats on a great shortened season. Been great catching up each week LoL…


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