Olympic and world champion, Katie Archibald got into cycling after winning handicap races on a Highland Games grass track. She writes a column for Cycling Weekly each week
I tried so hard on the turbo this evening I thought I’d given myself a nosebleed. It was in fact just a gushing stream of sweat and snot; how disappointing.
I’ve never been the type of rider to bury myself to the point of body breakdown (nosebleeds, vomiting, fainting). All are hideously impractical yet rarely acknowledged as the biological faults that they are.
Instead, such outcomes garner praise. I’ve seen an asthma attack celebrated by a coach before as a sure symbol of commitment and hard work. I’ll let you assess that how you please.
Only once have I thrown up after an effort. Well, one effort. I was sick repeatedly for the following few hours. I was age 19 and it was after riding an individual pursuit that qualified me for the Commonwealth Games (trivia: Team Scotland criteria for the 2014 games was sub 3.41 for a 3km pursuit; for 2018 it’s 3.36).
I was convinced that something special had happened in my life and I had now learned to try hard. In fact I’d just gone out for a fancy breakfast too close to the effort. What I’d learned was that spinach leaves don’t wilt in your stomach the way they do in a frying pan.
The story of that rider that simply tries harder — or even better: “wants it more!” — than all of their competitors is a crowd favourite.
The truth that ruins this inspiring narrative is that it’s more remarkable to come across a rider that doesn’t bury themselves, that doesn’t keep pushing forwards when they feel fire coursing through every muscle fibre, that doesn’t pedal until their body feels disconnected from their mind.
Honestly I can think of only two cyclists I’ve ever trained with who don’t try that hard — they’re the freaks in this circus show.
It would be nice to feel special though. I might eat my Ben and Jerry’s before my next turbo session (as oppose to after) and see if I can’t be one of those riders that tries so hard they throw up, after all.