Less than a year ago, Sydney’s Katie Banerjee (Harlequin Wheelmen Cycling Club) wasn’t even racing bikes.
This month, she joined 2500 riders at the 2018 UCI Gran Fondo World Championships in Varese and was one of the few to walk away with a medal.
In October, Katie will head to the picturesque East Gippsland region for the 2018 Masters Road National Championships.
Cycling Australia sat down with her to chat about her whirlwind twelve months in the sport and goals for the Nationals.
You have just returned from winning bronze in the Women's 45-49 category at the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships, tell me about the race and your experience?
This was my first experience in international women’s racing, I spent a week in St Johann in Tirol (Austria) competing in the World Masters Federation World Cup before going onto Varese (Italy) for the Gran Fondo World Champs.
The World Cup is a fantastically organised event, currently in its 50th year and worthy of greater international recognition. It involves many different events spread over a week including a short and mid-distance road race, hill climb, airport sprint and time trial. There is also even a vintage bike race.
For me, this was excellent racing preparation for the World Champs, mainly as I had been off the road since late June with a broken collarbone, shoulder blade and shoulder joint and was only allowed back out on the road a week before flying out to Europe.
The World Champs themselves was a hard, tough race. 130k with 2000m of climbing and a very aggressive style of riding from the gun. Fortunately for me, the first climb came at 12 k, so I was able to get in the leading group safely from here on. I led on all six climbs in the race and finished 3rd in the final sprint which I was extremely pleased with given this was my first major event overseas.
Why Masters cycling? How long have you been racing Masters and what made you take it up?
I’ve only been racing for a year!
I come from a long distance running background which I took up again for fun a few years after my kids were born to get fit again. After emigrating to Australia from the UK, I stopped running and then bought my first bike three years ago as a way to stay fit with friends, doing a few charity rides and weekend coffee rides.
I immediately got the cycling bug and wanted to do more and more challenges. Starting with the Gong ride, Bobbin Head Classic and then the Zoo to Zoo.
I work as a paediatrician for Sydney Children’s Hospital Network, and it was on the hospitals Pedal4kids charity ride I met my coach Jon Leighton from Peloton Events. He suggested if I wanted to take cycling more seriously I should join a few local riding groups (HKGG’s and JFR) to get out more during the week, start training properly and enter a few Masters events.
So it’s all really happened from there really, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind year for me juggling work, training and family life but my kids and husband have been very supportive and excited for me.
I would love to encourage more women of any age into cycling either recreationally or competitively. You’re never too old to start, I started at 44 years old and only wish I’d discovered cycling sooner.
You’ve joined the Vie13KOM Financial Advice racing team - tell me about that?
I’ve recently joined the Vie13KOM Financial Advice racing team. Unfortunately, I broke my shoulder the week before my first planned race for them, but I hope now to be able to ride some local and NRS events for them soon.
It’s great to have the opportunity to race with like-minded ladies and support each other. I’m so excited to be racing in a team that represents women’s cycling across all grades (and age levels).
Goals for 2018 Road Nationals in October?
The first race I ever entered was the Road Nationals in 2017, but a mechanical problem prevented me from finishing so I’m really looking forward to this year to see how I go.
I’m hoping to be able to compete in all three events. For me, it’s mainly about the enjoyment of racing and trying out new courses, and I’m really looking forward to riding in East Gippsland.
I’m getting to know more and more women now in the Masters events so it will be fun to catch up with a few familiar faces, especially my teammates.
I’m currently still enjoying being relatively new to the cycling scene as there is less pressure or expectation on me from myself or others. I’m not sure how long that will last though!
2018 Master Road Nationals is excited to partner with FulGaz, an online training platform that lets you view and ride the Simon Anderson Consultants Master's Road Nats course in real time, before you race it!
Simply download the FulGaz App from the app store or on Apple TV, create an account and search "Masters Road Nationals" to find the East Gipplsand courses.
Oh and be sure to use promo code 18fgnats to score a free 30-day trial!
Cycling Australia sat down with triple reigning masters road national champion Simone Grounds (Dubbo Cycling Club) ahead of the 2018 Championships. Simone will be heading down to the picturesque East Gippsland region for the Championships which begin on October 18.
How I got started
I wanted to keep fit in the hockey off season while I was in Brisbane. I started doing triathlons as cross training in the summer and cycling was the leg that suited me and I enjoyed the most, so I kept doing it and started racing. I actually started road cycling racing as part of a Come and Try Racing series initiative for women’s racing by Cycling Queensland. This really helped me develop my confidence and gave me a great pathway to move up through the grades as my confidence and skill as a rider improved.
Best thing about cycling
I love being able to get out in nature, in the landscape and ultimately just be outside with the wind in my hair. There’s so many cycling disciplines and I love them all in their own way. I also love riding with other cyclists – people who I may not other wise meet and share stories over a ride or coffee. It’s a great way to spend time with people and it’s great for mental health.
On developing women’s cycling
I‘m currently riding with the Vie13-KOM (King of the Mountain Financial Advice) women’s racing team. We’re all about developing women’s cycling and have ladies in all grades to inspire and provide a pathway for women who want to race in a supportive environment. We’ve got a great group of Masters ladies who are all inspiring riders and I’m looking forward to having some familiar faces around me at races.
A being a triple defending national champion
2017 Nationals was a big event for me. I’d come back from 2 years of serious fatigue and had finally found the energy to string some good training together and made it a major goal event. I thought I’d never get back into racing again, so it was a huge achievement in my life to commit to that level of training and to have it pay off, so it was a huge “life win” for me.
I also really enjoyed being back up in Queensland. I was familiar with the courses having raced on them when I was living up there as an Elite rider, so that made it a lot easier to prepare for them.
The actual event was completely bittersweet for me. I lost an aunty I was very close to the day before the time trial (the first race), she’d been sick for some time with breast cancer but she went downhill rapidly in the weeks leading up to the Masters. I didn’t feel like I could race, but my family had travelled up to Queensland with me and I just had to do it. I used mindfulness techniques to put my grief aside, focus on my preparation and give my racing all I had.
Looking ahead to 2018 Nationals
I’m most looking forward to seeing if I can repeat those results! Sport is fickle and winning in cycling is so hard! Much harder than people give it credit for.
I’m looking forward to being fit and healthy and with stronger form than last year. I’m also looking forward to racing on different courses. I always love racing in and discovering different areas of Australia.
I hope to set some new PB’s, to get to the line healthy and to spend some quality racing time with my team mates.
Advice for first timers looking to enter the Masters Road Nationals?
Don’t put pressure on yourself and focus on the experience not the results. As a Masters’ athlete, there’s so many demands on your time, you need to minimise the energy you waste on worrying about things. There’s some great people to meet and the events are always really well run, so just enjoy riding with people your own age group and getting inspired by others.
Find out more about the course and schedule here.
Thanks to Cycling-Inform, we've got an easy to follow and fun 8-week training program to make sure you'll have a blast on the day.
This high-level schedule is intended for the rider that is new to racing and is provided as a guide to the minimum training commitment required.
If you're new to racing, make sure that you try to do some racing prior to these events so that you get experience riding in racing bunches.
Cycling-Inform also have a specific coaching programs for this event that covers this all off in detail and is available from their website: www.cycling-inform.com.
by Alex Renzella
Two-time Champion of Champions Justine Barrow will look to bounce back from injury and defend her Masters Road Nationals titles this October in East Gippsland.
Barrow, the reigning women’s Champion of Champions, fractured her clavicle and ribs in late May this year competing at the U.S. based Winston-Salem Cycling Classic in North Carolina, hampering her preparation and form entering the Masters.
Having undergone surgery only nine weeks ago to repair the injuries, Justine has since then been steadily getting stronger and targeting a return in October, ‘never missing or slacking off in a training session.’
“I have been doing a lot of indoor training sessions, which hasn't been the worst thing in the world in Melbourne's winter. I hope that I will be back to full fitness by October.”
Justine has been involved in the past four Masters Road Nationals racing in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland which were highlighted by her two Champion of Champions honours and her maiden Criterium last year in the Women 2 category.
The physiotherapist and now avid cyclist had a somewhat serendipitous introduction to competitive cycling after some encouragement from a few members at local club, Coburg Cycling Club, to get in the saddle.
“A Coburg member twisted my arm, and I entered a D grade Crit. I ended up the first placed female, won $50 and loved it - I was hooked and haven't looked back since.”
Now headed to her fifth Masters Road Nationals event, Justine has her eyes firmly set on the road race title in East Gippsland asserting it her strongest event of the three, declaring ‘the hillier, longer and tougher the better.’
Representing many of the female riders that will take their places in the event in October, she went on to support all women to get involved and try something that they may have never previously considered.
“There are very few opportunities for us to race in Masters categories, so it is well worth taking the chance to test yourself against your peers. Finally - you are competing for a National Jersey - something I never expected to win 4 years ago when I entered my first Championships.”
Entries for the Masters Road Nationals are open until Monday October 8.
by Alex Renzella
Watch out Victoria! Queensland’s John Hampson will be looking to add to his Australian Masters titles this October in East Gippsland.
The Coral Isle Cycling Club rider has put in strong performances in previous additions of the Masters Road Nationals, blowing out his competition and taking victory in the 2017 Men’s Masters 8 ITT as well as placing in the top 10 for the Road Race and a top five finish in the criterium.
After taking action to get fitter and healthier following a life of heavy smoking, Hampson’s first road bike came after a trip to the tip, finding a frame and putting on some new tread, never looking back and now a national champion.
Hampson’s 13 year cycling career started as a part of a fitness regime, but those humble beginnings have now reaped multiple national and state masters titles. His first national success came in the ITT at the 2015 Masters Championships.
The successes quickly continued as he qualified for the 2016 UCI Gran Fondo World Championships in Perth, placing within the top 10 in his respective category, something that he stated as ‘a memory that will stay with him forever’.
A self-described “honest rider who always gives 100% and never gives up in life or in a bike race”, Hampson only has a year left in the Masters division 8 and is looking to put in another memorable performance later this year in East Gippsland.
“I’m looking forward to racing hard and giving it my all. With ITT racing there is nowhere to hide, so looking forward to see how I perform” Hampson said speaking to Cycling Victoria.
The Bundaberg cyclist is also keen to show the younger riders that he and others like himself still have plenty left to give to the sport, taking out titles along the way.
“I enjoy the competition amongst the younger riders, sprinting and battling it out with them to the finish. It always gives me much pleasure to show the young ones that this oldie still has it in him.”
Good luck John!
by Alex Renzella
The Champ is here. John Cain will be seeking to take out a record SEVENTH Masters Road National ITT title in October at the nation’s premier masters event.
With Masters titles from 2010 and 2013 to 2017 in addition to a tally of 11 state ITT victories, Cain is moving from Masters 5 to Masters 6 after a consistent period of success which he credits to always having a strong preparation and training regime before each event.
A modified training schedule over the past 12 months has challenged the Victorian’s lead up to this year’s event but he remains adamant that the goal of claiming a seventh title is very much attainable.
“My goal will be to win but my knees aren’t what they used to be, after 6 wins in the past I am now happy to just get to the start line in good shape” Cain told Cycling Victoria.
Amongst his plethora of titles, the 2015 Masters title in Pottsville NSW was a stressful one for Cain and almost never was as he had forgotten a significant requirement to compete in the event, registration.
“My prep was perfect, had organised my flights, car hire & accommodation. The day before the race I realised I had not entered! I spent the day on the phone to some very nice people at CA and after mentioning ‘but I’m the defending champion!’ several times, was able to get my name on the list. I won’t make that mistake ever again.”
Cain isn’t a stranger to the Gippsland area, having competed in the inaugural Tour of East Gippsland some years ago conquering the hillier terrain, however, was unable to contest the event in 2017 or earlier this year.
The former triathlete turned cyclist praised this year’s host towns of Metung, Paynesville and Swan Reach, commenting on the location and landscape that the riders to face.
“Great roads to race on, great scenery and the regional areas always try really hard to put on a special event and I’m sure the Nat’s this year will be no different.”
Representing Carnegie Caulfield CC, the reigning ITT Champion had some words of encouragement for first time riders, stating that a solid preparation is key for those striving for a victory.
“I really only have one tip for Masters Cyclists – GET TO THE STARTING LINE FIT & HEALTHY. If you are able to do that you are always in with a chance.”
Cain went on to say that cyclists of all abilities should give it a go and get involved in the Masters.
“The more the merrier. If you are just an average club rider then it is definitely something you should think about and experience. Attending the Nationals is always a great weekend away with lots of cycling to participate in and a new part of Australia to discover.”