Last week Member, Katie Banerjee, came third in the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships in Italy, after only starting to ride 3 years ago. An amazing achievement! We caught up with Katie after her race to explore her journey into cycling.
“I started cycling 3 years ago just around local roads and National Parks for fun. I remember sitting in a café with my friend after we’d been boxing in the park and seeing 3 women in their 70’s come in for a coffee. “I only managed 75km today,” said one of the ladies, who looked remarkably fit and not at all out of breath. My friend and I decided there and then that if you could be that healthy at that age then that was the sport for us. We bought our bikes soon after. I hadn’t cycled before then, I used to be a long distance runner.”
Katie with Minister Melinda Pavey, Phoebe Dunn (Amy Gillet Foundation) and Jon Leighton (Bicycle NSW President) at the Minimum Passing Distance Announcement
People start bike riding for a range of reasons - fitness, fun or to start commuting. For some like Katie, it also develops into a love of racing. Katie started off with a few recreational rides like Spring Cycle (on again on Sunday, October 14) and Gear Up Girl. On the Pedal 4 Kids Charity ride, Katie met Bicycle NSW President, Jon Leighton, who encouraged her to take her riding further.
“I was 44 when I entered my first competition. The Masters cycling events are very supportive and there are a lot of people my age and older who still compete. I’d like to encourage more women to give it a go as it’s great fun and a fantastic way to keep fit. You are never too old to start,” Katie told us.
Katie also balances full time work, family and for her the kids always come first. “Most women in my age group involved in competitive cycling are in the same situation. I was working full time as a paediatrician whilst training for the World Champs. It was difficult to get the weekly cycling hours in - I was getting up at 4 or 5am to cycle for 2 hours before coming home, getting kids ready for school, dropping them off, doing a full day’s work then picking them up again from after school activities.”
All of this hard work paid off in Italy. “As it was my first time, I didn’t have anything to compare it to, but the World Champs course felt quite tough with a lot of climbing with very technical descents. The women’s style of racing was more aggressive than I expected, but you just had to get right in there with the other women and jostle for a good position.”
At Bicycle NSW we support all riders and the things that motivate them. “I think cycling is one of the few sports that truly is accessible for all,” commented Katie, “There are so many options to join a local group who often have many different levels of cyclists. Everyone I’ve spoken to have been very welcoming and I would encourage anyone to find out what’s available in your local area. It’s a great way to involve the whole family as well, and organised events, like the Spring Cycle, help with this.”
Spending time on the road enjoying her passion, Katie has experienced much of NSW has to offer. Unfortunately, like many riders she has experienced close passes – a risk to her safety.
Katie was Minister Pavey’s announcement of the Minimum Passing Distance permanency in April, 2018. “I have seen many drivers respecting the passing distance but unfortunately not everyone does. There can always be more done to continue to raise awareness and protect cyclists and their safety on the road.”
Bicycle NSW continues to advocate for better education and enforcement of the Minimum Passing Distance law to increase the safety for bike riders. You can read more and sign the petition here.
We congratulate Katie on her achievement! Bicycle NSW is always excited to see where cycling takes our Members. Riding on the weekends with your family, riding with your social group or commuting to work – time on a bike is always something to celebrate.