I was at the dinner table on a race trip with a group that were talking about the track, about the weather, about the hotel food: small talk. There was a lull in conversation and someone turned to me and asked (I hadn’t said a word until now), “So, Katie, what are your thoughts on transgender athletes?”
>> Try 5 issues of Cycling Weekly magazine for just £5 in our Autumn Subscription Trial. Enjoy the luxury of home delivery and never miss an issue <<
I was walking through a hotel lobby and I stopped to watch a team-mate play their shot on the pool table. My pause gave space for someone to approach me and ask, “Katie, yeah, I was wondering, do you think they should scrap the use of podium girls?”
I was in the car headed to a race with a mixed group of riders. The radio was on, occasionally the sat-nav would speak, we could hear the hum of traffic outside. Then the person in the front seat turned around to me and asked, “So, like, Katie, do you think women should get paid the same prize money as men?”
I’ve done something, at some point, that’s made these people see me as Social Politics Girl. Her superpowers include ruining the fun when people are “just making a joke” and causing awkward tension at dinner times by disagreeing with people. Being known as the feminist killjoy of the British Cycling cohort isn’t an image, given the choice, I’d specifically request, and for some reason it encourages my friends and team-mates to quite casually ask me these heavy questions. I don’t really like it.
However, in contrast to this persona, I have not been bold enough or brave enough to write about any of those topics in this column. We’ve spoken about vaginas, sure, but as far as angry feminists go, I’m not pulling my weight.
Our discussions have mainly been about my feelings. A weekly diary where I monologue my thoughts and moods, and the content has validity in a cycling magazine by virtue of my being a professional cyclist.
Isn’t 2019 a wonderful time to exist? Next week, however, I’m going back to bottling my feelings up. This is my last column. For the time-being, I hasten to add.
Never say never, but do say anything else you can convince people to listen to – that’s my motto. My father, forever uncomfortable with how much of myself I share with the world, might read that the column is over with a sigh of relief. I felt relief, too, when I first made the decision. But I’m also sad.
Sad to surrender my weekly catharsis of putting words on a page, and sad to lose my connection with you, the reader.
I spent today going through my old diaries. They become dog-eared, chaotic, and rambling through my teenage years when I seemed to discover every emotion there was, all at once. Once I turn 20 the entries certainly aren’t mellow, but they’re written in a voice that’s no longer as painfully anxious. It was around this time that I started writing publicly; first in a blog, then a monthly column in the Herald on Sunday, and eventually here every week.
It’s only been possible because of my relationship with a bicycle, a relationship that’s occupied the bulk of my subject matter, and a relationship that I’m using now as an excuse to move on.
Have I ever mentioned that I want to go to the Tokyo Olympics? The Games are 250 days away as I write this. A small dot in the distance in real terms, but nonetheless all my eyes want to see.
So for the time being, I’m not stopping writing, but I’m taking it back to my own diary. My great thanks go to Cycling Weekly for letting me onto this page, week after week. And to you, for reading it.
But for now, goodbye…
This Katie Archibald column originally appeared in the print edition of Cycling Weekly, on sale in newsagents and supermarkets, priced £3.25.