Katrin Garfoot may have entered into cycling late, but the 36 year old’s results — which include three world championship medals — line up as among the best in Australian cycling. An Olympic medal in Tokyo in 2020 had looked like the next big target, but instead she has decided it is actually the right time to pull the pin on her cycling career.
After the Commonwealth Games in April — where Garfoot walked away with a gold medal in the time trial and was part of the gold winning road team — Garfoot got sick. She was off the bike for four weeks, lost form and was facing the effort of training her way back into it. However, she wasn’t sure that it was really all worth it anymore.
“That [illness] was definitely one thing that helped me make the decision. To then start again, its a lot of time to build again so the World Championships already were written off,” Garfoot told Ella CyclingTips.
“In those four weeks a lot happened. I couldn’t train and then I got used to not training, and I looked into other things. It all just fell into place,” Garfoot said, adding that life just took over.
The German-born Australian had last year left Orica-Scott after three years with the team, as she no longer wanted to race in Europe and be away from her family and friends for so much of the year. However, the three-time Australian time trial champion was still a key athlete for Australia, as her proven record and time trial strength made her a great asset in an era of medal-focussed sport funding models.
Though even with that support, ultimately pursuing a career in women’s cycling still meant big financial sacrifices. That was part of the price Garfoot wasn’t prepared to pay anymore, especially not when she’d already delivered on so many of her goals and her sense of fulfilment on the bike was waining.
“I got everything out of it that I’ve felt I wanted to get out of it in the time I did it. Just to do it now for the experience, it was not the right time anymore,” she said forthrightly.
It’s clear by Garfoot rapid rise in the sport that when she was committed to the sport, it was 100 percent and nothing less wouldn’t do. She started out in competitive cycling in 2011, dominated the local scene in 2013 and then headed over to Europe in 2014.By 2017 she’d become only the second Australian woman after Anna Wilson to claim dual medals at the Road Worlds in the same year. Garfoot is also the only Australian, alongside Michael Rogers, to have claimed three medals for Australia.
The benefits of arriving late
Garfoot says her late entry into the sport, may have in fact worked to her advantage, making her a more strategic and driven player.
“It was easier for me to maintain that level of effort for the short period of time, whereas if I did it for ten years I could not imagine myself having kept it up,” said Garfoot. “Also the short time frame taught me a lot of skills in how to get an outcome very effectively, with focussed outcomes.”
Not that it was always easy, the year of her greatest successes, 2017, was far from straightforward. Orica-Scott was in the process of shifting away from its association with the medal-focused national high performance unit run by Cycling Australia. That was happening, just as Garfoot had signalled her attention to shift away from the team at the end of 2017 and instead focus on representing Australia with support from the Cycling Australia system.
“I felt like the kid in between during a break up,” said Garfoot. “I had a very hard time before those World Championships, but the pressure probably helped me to perform.”
Now the Queensland-based rider, who managed to finish off her career with a successful home Commonwealth Games, is turning her attention to what happens after she closes the door on the cycling career.
The key priority as she walks away from the intensity of her cycling, is to enjoy time with family and friends. Having a baby is still among the options but as Garfoot pointed out, “you don’t buy them in a shop.”
We are not likely to see her racing locally, although she’ll probably take a roll to the coffee shop with friends for fun or go mountain bike riding. And as for that next career, she wants to pursue one that matters, where she can make a difference.
“I am not certain of what that is, but I am taking my time to mull over some ideas and see what comes of it,” said Garfoot.
Whatever it is, if her cycling career is any indication, she’s bound to throw herself into it with the utmost energy.
“While Kat’s international results are worthy of high praise, it is her passion, dedication and commitment to excellence that will be her lasting legacy,” said Cycling Australia CEO Steve Drake in a statement.