Despite ending her 2022 Track Champions League experience on the high of victory, Katie Archibald found herself reflecting on what could – and perhaps should – have been.
The 28 year-old lost out on the overall title to the USA’s Jennifer Valente by a mere three points.
Valente claimed just the single win across the four weekend contest – Friday’s elimination race – but was more consistent. Not once did the Olympic omnium champion finish lower than fourth.
In contrast Archibald, who won five endurance races out of ten across the series, had more highs than Valente but also lower lows.
Emotional scenes as Archibald wins elimination race but Valente becomes champion
“I feel like I lost my mojo a little bit with the elimination races” the British track star told Kristina Vogel after’s Saturday’s events. “You won’t believe it, but it’s something I’m usually quite good at. I’ve had some mess-ups this series.”
Those “mess-ups” began in Mallorca, when the 27 year-old was uncharacteristically the first rider to be knocked out of the race. As she won the elimination in the next two weekends, it seemed like Archibald had dealt with whatever had caused her to falter, only for her to experience another (relatively) early KO on Friday.
A finish just two places better than 7th would have seen her score enough points to dislodge Valente from top spot.
‘It’s been brilliant!’ – Kenny on Archibald v Valente
Archibald attributed her early round difficulties to a lack of physical fitness:
“I came in and I had no confidence in my legs, but I thought ‘I’m a good racer and I’m getting a feel for it.’ I think this is where I can control things, and I can use what I have in my head.”
The later struggles she put down to being not quite where she needed to be mentally.
“My form has come round,” she said, “and I’ve gotten stronger and stronger. My brain has just fallen out.”
Sitting six points behind Valente going into Saturday’s show-down elimination, Archibald knew that not only did she have to win, but that the American would need to fare significantly worse than she had in the same race in the series this year. Any finish higher than fourth would secure her the title.
‘I’m in a lot of pain’ – Archibald takes the lead of women’s endurance
For her part Archibald decided to focus on what she needed to do, and allow the other cards to fall where they would:
“I felt going into that: ‘It’s the final race of the evening, the final race of the series. I’m not going to be clever, I’m just going to ride as hard as I physically can.’”
She rode the perfect race, proving all but invisible right up to the final head-to-head with Valente. Knowing what the British fans wanted to see, she then stormed to a memorable victory by a massive margin, as her rival settled for second spot on the night and the overall crown.
“Tonight I just thought: “don’t think, just ride,”
After winning the opening series in 2021, even a strong second place would be a blow. Archibald vowed that body and brain would be in sync in twelve months time:
“Next year, I’m going to mesh it together,” she promised.
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