Meet the Masters: Diane & Chris Otley-Doe
What makes cycling even cycling better? When you race with a mate, or in this case, your spouse.
Husband and wife Diane and Chris Otley-Doe will be tackling the 2019 Cycling Australia Masters Nationals in South Australia this October.
After competing at elite levels when they were younger, the pair stepped away from the competitive sports landscape to raise their beautiful family and now that their kids are growing up the pair have decided to get back on the bike.
We spoke to Diane about her husband’s decision to start racing again, what that first step back into the competitive scene was like, last years results and more.
How and why did you decide to race Masters?
Chris and I met through triathlons when we were both in the RAF in the UK in 1996. We have both raced for the GB Team - Chris at Half Ironman and Duathlon as an Age Group athlete and myself at Duathlon as both an Age Group and an Elite athlete.
We both competed in the World Championships together for a number of years and I also did the European Champs. During that time we became hooked on Individual Time Trial racing as it is a much bigger sport in the UK than it is here in Australia with races most weekends and mid-week too.
My best result was a Silver Medal in the National 10 Mile Time Trial.
As we began to have a family, the racing had to take back seat and we now have three children - 18,17 and 13 who have all grown up as competitive swimmers so lots of time has been spent ferrying back and forth to the pool at ridiculously early times in the morning and sitting at swim meets as the support crew.
My eldest son, James, finally passed his driving test early last year and suddenly I had much more time on my hands so after watching various friends competing on the bike through Facebook, I asked Chris if he fancied racing again! We have always kept fit and ridden the bikes for pleasure so it was a nice move for us.
What was it like when you started competing?
Two weeks after we decided to give racing a go again, despite the onset of a cold, we were on the start line for the first of a four-race time trial series here in Queensland.
With a new pair of aero bars strapped to my old road bike and, apart from leaving my lungs somewhere out on the course, I very happily finished second in the C Grade.
Unfortunately, the cold developed into a persistent cough which had me sitting on the sidelines cheering Chris on in the second race, but for the third race, I entered the B Grade and came second again.
The last of the series was the Qld State Champs so I was really fired up by now and my loving husband bought me a new time trial bike and we upped the training regime. I entered the A Grade and had a great race to take out first place at the age of 52.
Our 2018 Nationals
I decided to try my hand at the Masters Nationals and with lots of support from my husband and my old coach, Bob Addy I managed to finish second.
I also gave the Elite Nationals a go in January this year and finished 14th. Both Chris and I were going to do the Bathurst Gran Fondo in March but unfortunately, I started to have lower back troubles and couldn’t race, though Chris had a great race and finished 54th/187.
I tried physio for my back but every time I tried to get back on the bike it came back. I’ve since put it down to an over-optimistic bike fit (our bodies are less flexible and forgiving as we get older!) Luckily, my local Trek dealer, Chris Moore kindly offered me a bike fit at his shop and after some chiro treatment, plus pilates and RPM classes I have been able to slowly build up my cycling again.
I did the third race in the Qld ITT series in August and came second in the A Grade so I’m now aiming for the State Champs in September and having another shot at the Masters Nationals in October. If that goes well then I will probably try to improve on my Elite Nationals result as I would love to get a top 10.
Our favourite event is definitely the Time Trial as we love the fact that it is an individual effort and all down to your fitness and mental toughness on the day.
I certainly would not be able to race as well as I do without the love and support of my husband Chris. We train together and race together when we can and are very competitive, we’re always trying to beat each other on Strava!
How does Gold Coast CC support Masters riders?
The Gold Coast Cycling Club has been very welcoming and they hold lots of crit racing for masters though we haven’t been able to race them yet due to work and family commitments.
Moving from Germany in the early 2000s, Nils Wartemann now calls The McLaren Vale one of his ‘absolute favourite’ regions in which to ride.
The Cycling South Australia Board Member took some time to talk to us about his start in racing in Australia, his love of masters cycling, and his predictions and his goals for the Masters RoadNats.
On moving from Germany
When I came to visit Adelaide for the first time in 1999, it was pretty much love at first sight. The beautiful countryside and enormous cycling potential made me come back every summer to prepare for the German road season. A great day in the saddle can start with a coffee at the beaches of Glenelg and finish two hours later on top of Mount Lofty enjoying the views - it doesn’t get much better than that. No need to go to Mallorca. The riding around the Adelaide Hills is definitely up there with the best, roads are good and traffic is hardly ever an issue.
The comparison of riding and racing in Australia?
Back in the early 2000’s the racing scene in SA was pretty small, much like a small family. The grades sometimes had less than 10 starters and racing got cancelled when raining, which was kind of surreal for me. I was used to racing with 150+ riders back home no matter what the weather was. The level of local racing back then was an interesting mix of high calibre riders who were clearly on par with the best guys on the European circuit (i.e. Russell van Hout, Brett Aitken, etc.) as well as very average riders at the other end of the spectrum - all in the same grade! In Germany, the grades are strictly governed by a qualifying system. Every rider coming out of Juniors or first-time license holder, starts in C grade and you need 5 placings in the top-10 to move up a grade. This repeats in B to move up to A. Considering the size and depth of the bunches for each grade, it is not unusual even for reasonably fit riders to never reach a higher grade. Most riders probably never win a race in their entire career.
I later also raced local events in other states of Australia and it was fascinating to witness how the level of competition changed so quickly. It felt as if within 10 years, the level of riders and especially the quality and depth quadrupled. A strong A-grade bunch in Australia is no longer much different to racing in Europe, just smaller numbers and less technical courses for Crits and Kermesses. But the most noticeable difference is that the cycling scene in Australia appears to be so much more welcoming to new riders. The social aspect also seems to be more important and many cyclists continue to stay involved, even if they don’t make the cut after leaving the U23’s. The general lifestyle in Australia is definitely more suited to combine family, sport and career, when compared to Germany. That is if you can get used to starting your training ride at 6am.
As a local, you know the course pretty well.
The Masters RoadNats coming to Adelaide is obviously something I really look forward to, especially considering that I don’t live far from the start of the road race. The South of Adelaide is perfect terrain for road cycling - it doesn’t really need much more explanation after many years of Tour Down Under. The McLaren Vale region is one of my absolute favourites. On paper, the course looks like a rollercoaster and that is probably a fair assessment. The majority of the course is relatively flat, with a nice descent down Wickhams Hill. But the painful climb up Pennys Hill Rd will make all the difference. It’s definitely not an easy course and clearly favours a strong allrounder. I expect a heavily decimated bunch after the first lap already and only a small group of riders to contest the finale.
Favourite event (RR, TT, Crit) and why?
My favourite event would have to be the road race, even though it doesn’t really suit me at all. But the roads we will race on have featured in the TDU numerous times and are perfect terrain for an interesting race that will only allow the strongest to go for the win. The hilltop finish is definitely great for the spectators. The Range will host the TT course and is a pretty simple affair: out and back on more or less flat roads. The Criterium circuit is another good example of how easy riding and racing in Adelaide is. The purpose-built race track at Victoria Park is in the fringe of the CBD, easily accessible with good parking and great amenities close by. Cafes and restaurants for post-race celebrations (or distractions) are only a stone throw away.
Why Masters cycling?
I am not surprised to see Masters racing gaining more and more traction in Australia in general. Cycling becomes a lifestyle and is a sport where you can have fun and race at very solid levels even at a high age. It is also a great way to explore a new region when on holidays, of which some age groups can clearly enjoy more often. I really hope that all organisations and facets of cycling in Australia will grow together, join forces and provide even more opportunities for Masters and others in the future. For me personally, Masters racing was simply the logical next step, when I wanted to continue to race without the enormous time commitment for training. The distances are shorter and there is usually a good balance in the competition with most riders being at a similar same stage in their life. It still provides for a great challenge and sometimes feels a bit like a throwback in time when bumping into people you raced with almost two decades ago.
Goals for 2019 Road Nationals?
My goals for the upcoming RoadNats are probably aligned with some of the Olympic creed. Whilst I’m not fit enough to hope for a result, its all about taking part in the event and showing my support. Cycling Australia and Cycling SA are putting on great racing with their volunteers, which in itself deserves the attention of all involved in our sport. I hope the gold and green jersey will go to someone like this: parent with 5 kids, 2 dogs, a stressful job and yet still manages to get up for training every morning at 6am - rain, hail or shine.
In 2018, Marg Noonan had a fantastic week at Masters Road Nationals in Victoria where she took home the gold in the criterium and the individual time trial of the Women’s Masters 7.
These dual golds earnt her the Champion of Champions jersey, with her brilliant success made even more impressive by being the eldest athlete in her age group!
With such an impressive haul from the 2018 Masters Road Nationals we’re excited to see what she can do in Adelaide this October.
Marg took some time out of her day to chat to us about her success in 2018, what she loves about masters cycling and her goals for the upcoming 2019 Masters Road Nationals!
My 2018 Champion of Champions Week
I was very excited when I heard that the championships were going to be held at Metung in Gippsland Victoria as it is such a beautiful part of my home state.
Prior to racing I had the usual nerves and gitters, particularly knowing that I was going up against the previous champion, Vikings Cycling Club’s Lyn Vasudeva who was in my age group.
The Time Trial
In 2018 the ITT was the first event and the one I wanted to win more than anything, it was an out and back undulating course, which was always going to be a challenge but it was a great result.
It has definitely become my favourite event over the last 10 years. It has taught me how to strategise, be disciplined and control my pace through-out the race. I really love the fact it is just between me and the clock.
The Road Race
Despite the road race not being my best event because of the hilly course it was still a beautiful and scenic ride in any case.
I was also really happy to see a good number of riders in the Women’s Masters 7 enter all three events, I always make it a personal point to enter all three to support women’s cycling.
The criterium is always short and sharp and I love sprinting, so I was hoping to do well as it has been my strongest discipline by far over the years.
It was truly an amazing week for me, to come away with the Champion of Champions Jersey and win 2 gold medals was great, especially being the eldest in my age group.
The great thing about Masters and juggling life with racing
Masters racing gives me the opportunity to race in club events alongside male and female competitors, this creates great diversity and it is very social which I love a lot!
At the Masters events I get to race in my age group and gender and that gives me the capacity to assess my performances against the other masters athletes.
And I love being coached, I listen, plan and execute accordingly and that works for me.It’s great fun too especially with my life being so busy always juggling my family, husband and children. It’s great to still be able to have the time to compete like this.
Goals for 2019 Road Nationals
I am now training for 2019 and can’t wait for the Australian Masters Nationals to be held in Adelaide in October.
My goals at this stage are to enter all three events and defend my two titles, and I want to place in the road race this year.
It is certainly going to be a different experience from last year, this time I’m going to be the youngest in my age group.
Enter the 2019 Masters Road National Champions today!
In 2018, Nicky Rolls won the Masters 4 Champion of Champions award at the Masters Road Nationals in Victoria after taking wins the in road race and criterium and finishing just off the podium in fourth in the time trial.
The Brisbane Cycling Club member took up cycling in 2014 after switching from triathlons and will aim to defend her crown this October in South Australia. But first she has the National Road Series 2019 Tour de Tweed in her sights where she will line up for KOM Financial Planning and Insurance for Cyclists.
In between cycling and her day job as a sports and musculoskeletal physiotherapist, Nicky found the time to chat with us about her successful 2018 Championships, her love and dedication to cycling, her goals for 2019 and more!
My 2018 Champion of Champions Week
I was quite nervous leading into 2018 Masters National Championships as there is always stiff competition, but particularly this year in regards to Katie Banerjee. Katie had recently placed second at the World Masters Gran Fondo Championships over a tough course in Italy. She is an amazing climber not only amongst masters but also Australia's women NRS riders.
The Time Trial
The ITT is my worst event, so it was good to get that over and done with on the first day. I placed 4th by 1/100th of a second and was disappointed but the road race and crit are my main events. There is a friendly and supportive atmosphere in women's racing, particularly masters as we all realise the effort, commitment and training that is required to be a competitive cyclist, especially at our age. Regardless of the outcome, we congratulate each other on our achievements.
The Road Race
Friday's road race was the nail biting event for me. Would I be able to keep up with Katie on the final climb near the finish of the race? Talk about butterflies in the stomach. Those feelings of nerves and dread make me question why I race bikes. The road race was hard but not overly difficult in that a few breaks were attempted but none stuck. In the end, the group stayed together knowing it would come down to that deciding hill at the end of the race. We all approached it jostling for position. When Katie took off, I went with her and managed to keep abreast until the crest of the hill. Luckily it was only a 600 m or so climb. We'd left the rest of the peloton behind, it was just her and me. I knew I had a chance now as it would come down to a sprint between us 2 km or so away. As the finish line approached, we slowed down and played a bit of cat and mouse, neither of us wanted to lead the other out in the sprint. Finally, I just put my head down and sprinted for the line. I crossed first but it was close. The sense of relief was overwhelming.
After a rest day, we had the crit. Right from the first corner I heard a crash behind me and was thankful I hadn't been caught up in it. There were a few breaks but none stuck until Anna Davis attacked and I managed to jump onto her wheel. We worked well together and kept swapping turns until we'd lapped the field, it was at this point that I knew we both had the crit in the bag. Anna was in the age group above me, so we didn't have to worry about competing against each other. Katie had won the ITT, so was ahead of me in points, I knew I had to win the crit to get the jersey. At the end of the race, I found out that the person who'd crashed was actually Katie Banerjee. She'd gotten back up with two broken collarbones and continued the race. Katie didn't just sit in either, she did an awful lot of work on the front to try and catch the break. That's gutsy.
My favourite event
I'd have to say it's the road race. Criteriums are usually more risky in that there's a lot of cornering at high speeds in bunched up groups. Road races are longer and often result in the peloton being split up by a climb, which reduces the numbers if/when it comes down to a sprint finish. Considering I come from a triathlon background, you'd think I'd be good at the ITT but noooooo, it just doesn't suit my strengths.
The love of Masters Cycling and juggling work, riding and racing
It is refreshing to race against women my own age. Usually, I'm racing open women who range in age from their teens to their 40-50's. I am easily old enough to be the mother of many of the girls I race against. Masters racing levels out the playing field.
For anyone racing at an amateur level, juggling work and home duties is hard. Racing requires consistency and commitment. You will not achieve your best if you don't complete your training programme, otherwise what's the point of having a coach?! Unless you're content with performing at "not your best", then there's no in between, you're either a social rider or a racer.
There's no staying up late if you're getting up at 4.15 am most mornings. Going out to movies and restaurants is only done if they don't interfere with an early bed time. Thankfully, most of the people I socialise with are cyclists and they all want to get to bed early too. This lifestyle won't suit many people and can sound downright boring to some.
I'm sure there are competitive cyclists out there who do fit in a lot more socialising and events than I do, but I can't manage that
Goals for 2019 Road Nationals
I'd love to win the road race again this year and make it 5 in a row, but the course in Adelaide this year has some longer climbs in it, which suits Mrs Katie Banerjee down to a T. In saying that, it pays to not focus on one athlete as there are plenty of women in my age group capable of kicking my butt on any given day.
You have to be aware of everyone and anyone. Despite the rivalry of being in the same age group, Katie and I are actually on the same NRS Team (KOM Financial Planning and Insurance for Cyclists) and are friends.
I applaud her achievements and she mine, that's what I love about women's cycling.