Cycling Australia’s National Road Series has a winner for 2013. Katrin Garfoot sealed her victory in the NRS with another display of consistency at the Tour of the Goldfields in Victoria. The 32-year-old is from Münich, Germany but earlier this month, she became an Australian citizen after having moved here in 2008. Garfoot is relatively new to cycling but her enthusiasm for racing is growing each year and, in 2014, she hopes to return to Europe… but only to compete as a racing cyclist. The main challenger for the NRS crown was last year’s series winner, Ruth Corset. The former team-mates finished with over double the tally of points of their nearest rival and Garfoot ultimately took the title with 114pts; Corset was second with 103, while Felicity Wardlaw was third with 40.
Earlier in October, Rob Arnold caught up with Garfoot to find out about how she came to cycling, what attracts her to the sport, and what her hopes are for the future. Here is a transcript of that discussion…
Katrin Garfoot: “I want to see if I can go a bit further…”
– By Rob Arnold
RIDE: My understanding is that you would have gone to the world championships for Australia this year as you won the Oceania TT championship but you couldn’t represent the country because you’re German. Is that correct?
Katrin Garfoot: “Almost. I would have qualified for the long team but they wouldn’t have put me into the actual line-up because I was German at that time, yes.”
RIDE: …But you’re Australian now?
“Yes. In the first week of October that was finalised. I’ve been living in Australia since November 2008; I moved here because of my husband.
“My home town in Germany was Münich.
“I actually didn’t ever race bikes over there. I had a bike that I used to get to university and stuff like that – only for transport reasons – but I never thought about racing back then.”
RIDE: So in the last five years, you’ve come to the sport and already you’re winning NRS races [and the series in 2013, which was confirmed on the weekend with her victory in the final stage of the Tour of the Goldfields, and her sixth place on GC in the race won by Jayco-Apollo-VIS team-mate Chloe McConville]. How did you eventually get into cycling?
“My husband was a cyclist when he was younger but he lost interest in it. Then, one day a friend of his asked him if he wanted to go mountain biking and I thought, ‘Oh, I don’t want to sit around by myself, I’ll go along as well…’ and that’s kind of how it all started.
“We started out doing some mountain biking quite rarely then that became a bit more often – maybe twice a month – and eventually he brought me a road bike, a little aluminium one, and we did some races on the Gold Coast on Saturday mornings at the Luke Harrop Circuit [at Runaway Bay]. You could do them without a racing licence, and we went there a few times just for fun.
“I learned some skills there and was enjoying myself and my husband told me that he’d upgrade my bike, so he brought me another one… but I’d never really been too focussed on it until about two years ago.
“Eventually he just said, ‘Oh, you should race.’ And so I bought a three-day licence and I started my first race in Moree, in B-grade just to see how I’d go. I finished as the fifth girl… or something like that. And I had a lot of fun.”
RIDE: Does it now feel like something you wished you’d done earlier?
“I did track and field when I was young and I always felt like I didn’t have the right muscle fibres. I wasn’t fast. I couldn’t jump high or far. I was okay for my age group but in the long term my muscle fibres wouldn’t suit the sport.
“I can remember my coach suggesting that I maybe should do bike racing but at that stage I just thought, ‘Whatever…!’ I was a teenager then – and I didn’t know much about what I could or couldn’t do.
“When I was young, I didn’t like riding bikes that much because it was just a means of transport in Germany. So I never really considered racing.”
RIDE: It’s clear that cycling is a major part of the culture in Germany but it’s an entirely different concept isn’t it: how people use bikes in Germany is vastly different to how things are in Australia.
“Yes, definitely. For me it was.
“I’d never paid much attention to people who may have actually had better bikes or those who did road cycling in Germany. I’m not even sure if I saw people on road bikes there. It was just a tool used to get around.”
RIDE: Can I get your appraisal of the NRS here because it’s begun to blossom in recent years.
“Well, I’d never even heard of the National Road Series until I started doing it about one-and-a-half years or two years ago. I didn’t know what the quality of racing was. I had no idea about bike racing at that time.
“I’d say that, from my experience in the time that I’ve been racing, that it’s a lot harder this year than it was last year – especially when the girls from Europe are back.
“It can still be competitive but it’s not the quality that it was, for example, at the round in Adelaide or in Tasmania.”
RIDE: You and Ruth Corset used to be team-mates but now there’s considerable animosity between you two… is that right?
“I would say… there is some sort of competitiveness, yes. But I wouldn’t say it’s nasty. But I’d prefer to not talk about what happened…
“I’m very grateful that I had the opportunity to race with the team and I wish them all the best and now I’m looking forward to seeing how my career develops.”
RIDE: What do you imagine happening with your career?
“I definitely do want to step up. I want to try racing in Europe next year.
“I’ve done the National Road Series for a while now and I’ve learned as much as I can here, I believe. And I want to see if I can go a bit further.
“Also, I’d like to give the track a go and try the individual pursuit just to see what happens.”
RIDE: In your youth did you know the names Petra Rossner or Judith Arndt or any of those German cycling stars?
“I’ve heard of Judith Arndt… but only this year, actually.”
RIDE: So not even an Olympic gold medal or world championship wins changed the status of cycling in Germany…?
“No. I was no involved at all. And I’m not a real fan of following sport at all. I don’t like watching sport at all – because that always makes me too energetic and I want to go out and do it myself.”
RIDE: So, come the Olympic cycle, you didn’t care…
“No. Not at all.
“When I was last living in Germany, I remember that the Tour de France was on TV all day, every day. It wasn’t possible to watch anything else at times. But I didn’t tune in, I wasn’t interested.
“I might watch some races now but until I started racing in Australia I’d never heard of any cyclists. Okay, I’d heard of the Telekom team and Festina and about all the drug problems but apart from that, nothing really.
“But let me be clear: I wouldn’t say that my perspective is that of a typical German. I just didn’t have any involvement – or had any contact – with cycling in any other way than transport alone. I wouldn’t even know where they raced in Münich and I’m sure they do.”
RIDE: What is your favourite discipline now that you are a racer?
“The TT is what’s surprised me the most. I didn’t think that I’d be able to step up that much. I’ve also surprised myself in the sprints lately. I guess you could say that I’m an all-rounder.”
RIDE: We’ve talked about your background but how important is the enthusiasm for cycling on the Gold Coast for you now? Is it a good place to go riding?
“There is a great cycling community up here. We have two clubs near us here and there are two club races each week in Summer. I can join groups most days of the week and we have a Facebook group where we post rides and encourage others to join us. There are also some bike shop bunches that I sometimes join. And I still ride a bit with my husband. I also enjoy riding by myself.
“The cyclists up here are very inclusive and friendly.”
RIDE: Do you call yourself a cyclist?
“Sometimes, but I still have a day job. I’m a teacher at secondary schools. I teach maths and science but I couldn’t get a full-time position at the beginning of the year and that was a bit of a struggle for me but then I started ‘supply teaching’ and that fits in well with my training now.
“I could step up my training because I had some spare days and now I realise it’s an ideal scenario and I wouldn’t change it.”
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