My first outing in British kit was at the 2013 European track champs, in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands. I was an off-programme rider and had gone to Manchester for the two weeks prior to train and trial for the squad. The championships were my third trial. My two previous forays south had gone well and left me enthusiastic for more improvements in my performance, but ultimately I was still an amateur cyclist.
A year and a half prior, in 2012, I had left school with a plan to spend a year working abroad before going to university. Three months in I canned the whole project and came home. See, 2012 was also the year the Glasgow velodrome opened its doors, and waiting inside was the springboard that would send me on to a career as a professional cyclist. Not that I knew it at the time. All I knew was that I wanted to ride that track, a lot.
I spent the winter training with the Scottish cycling team, and working in the family business, aspiring to qualify for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. It was on my mum’s birthday in 2013, on March 7, that I met the Team Scotland qualifying time for the individual pursuit (3-41) and started dreaming bigger. The time garnered an invite for testing in Manchester and my new big dream was a spot on the British programme.
So by that October, my third invite, I told the bed shop I was away. I rode team pursuit with the reigning Olympic champions, got carried round to a European title with them, and waited for Shane Sutton to tell me to pack my bags and move to Manchester. I suppose I was naively optimistic (it took six weeks of nervous waiting) but the phone call eventually came and off to Manchester I went for good.
It sounds a simple story when you condense it into 300 words. I’m reminiscing because tonight I’m back in Apeldoorn for another European championship. Much has changed, but much hasn’t: I’m still in love with team pursuit, I’m still nervous, I’m still sharing a room with Elinor Barker. Hopefully I can leave this Europeans, my seventh, just as optimistic for the future as I was after that first one.
This Katie Archibald column originally appeared in the print edition of Cycling Weekly, on sale in newsagents and supermarkets, priced £3.25.