John Archibald will be riding into the unknown when he races for Great Britain in the men’s elite time trial at the UCI Road World Championships on Wednesday.
The Scot has already done his job after helping Britain deliver bronze in the team time trial mixed relay on Sunday, but got the late call to ride the individual event after Geraint Thomas withdrew on Saturday.
As a result, he has had only two days to prepare, two days to recon the route, two days to even think about competing in the biggest time trial of his life at the age of 28.
“I don’t know what I can expect because I’ve never done a race of this calibre before,” Archibald told the PA news agency. “The biggest UCI time trial I’ve done is the nationals.
“I’ve raced against big names on the track and have an idea of where I fare on that leaderboard, but here this is a first toe in the water.”
Sunday’s result can give Archibald confidence, but as he was keen to point out, there is a significant difference between preparing for a 14 kilometre team time trial and a 54km individual effort.
“I feel fit, I feel fresh and I’m ready to race, but the team time trial was very high-paced short efforts and then back in line to recover,” he said. “A 54km time trial is going to take over an hour with lots of threshold efforts.
“I should be fit, but it’s an unknown. I don’t know how I’ll fare but I feel confident.”
Archibald may have been thrown in at the deep end – hopefully not too literally after flooding marred Tuesday’s men’s under-23 time trial – but his coaches are not taking it easy on him.
“They want a top 10 out of me,” he said. “That’s their aim. Personally I’ll know at the end of the race whether I’ve done a good race or not.”
But whether or not the pressure is on, Archibald is determined to make the most of the opportunity that has come his way.
The brother of Olympic track champion Katie is riding a road worlds for the first time at the age of 28, just six months after making his track worlds debut in Poland.
Having come into the sport in his early 20s and given up a full-time job to pursue it, Archibald fully recognises the chance he has in front of him.
“It means you are more motivated,” he said of his late start. “I’ve given up work to do this. I’m not a young kid being told to go out and train. I’m here because I want to push myself.”
Archibald’s time trial ended in success as he took second in the British nationals in June. Alex Dowsett was the only man faster as he claimed his record-equalling sixth title, and the Essex rider will join Archibald in Wednesday’s race.
The 30-year-old brings far more experience of racing at this level, having taken bronze in the 2015 world championships in Richmond, Virginia, and unlike Archibald, Dowsett has been targeting this race since May.
“The form is good,” he said. “I’ve moved to altitude and I’m usually useless up there. So I come down to races having done terrible numbers in training and then do good numbers in racing.
“Everything I’ve done since the Tour (de France) I’ve been good at. The first two days at the Tour of Germany I was very good, and the first two days of the Tour of Britain I was very good. Hopefully that bodes well for Wednesday.”