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!