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An interview with Katie Mactier
2003 brings new neighbours and new challenges
by Lucy Power
This year Australian all-rounder Katie Mactier is moving from Italy and the Michela Fanini - Record Rox team to the mighty Saturn team based in the USA. She'll be there with her partner Nathan O'Neill, another Aussie who's also migrating to Saturn. Katie talked to Cyclingnews about her career, women's cycling and how to move a dog to from Italy to Idaho.
Cyclingnews: Many of the Australian women are now 'graduating' into trade teams from the National team - is this a good thing?
Katie Mactier: We have a number of the Women's National squad going to pro teams next year - Rochelle Gilmore going to Acca Due, Hayley Rutherford and Alison Wright joining Kym Shirley at Itera, Sara Carrigan and Kate Bates at Power Plait. This can only be perceived as a positive step in Australian women's cycling and I am sure that they will all thank James and the National program for giving them this opportunity. While the National program is losing a number of girls, it also opens the door up for a lot of other very talented woman in Australia by giving them the opportunity to race at an international level.
CN: So is Australia still fielding their strongest teams for the Commonwealth games, Olympics and World Championships?
Katie's move into professional cycling came relatively late, at age 24, after she had seemingly settled into an office-based job in marketing; Katie was a keen and talented runner before starting university.
In 1999, armed with her new marketing degree, Katie jumped into the working world at a large Melbourne ad agency, working on accounts such as Cadbury Schweppes, Dr. Pepper and Nintendo. As she progressed down the career track, she realised something was missing - the athletic challenge and fitness that goes with being a top athlete still held a strong attraction for her.
CN: How did you get back into sport?
KM: I missed being ultra-fit and being around people like that. I thought I'd be able to do both, so I started doing triathlon and thought I could just do it for fun. But one thing led to another with my competitive nature; my training increased and I wanted to start racing interstate.
I was doing road cycling during the winter and joined my local club, Carnegie-Caulfield - they were fabulous. A lot of the veterans there were so supportive, they were just terrific, it was very easy.
I raced the Bay Series crits (now the Jayco Geelong Bay Classic) in 2000, and shortly afterwards the Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS) offered me a sponsorship to race the Tour de Snowy with them. Once I'd raced that, the VIS told me they were sending a development squad to America to do Hewlett-Packard and a couple of other tours, and would I like to be a part of it. I said absolutely!
Now there was no turning back - Katie had already resigned from her marketing
job and was concentrating on her cycling career:
KM: In 2001 I won the sprinters jersey in the Bay Series; then at the Road Nationals, James Victor offered me my position on the Australian women's road team. So off I went to the team's base in Italy.
I won a one-day race early that season (7th Trofeo d'Argento Silvano Borrione) - it was the most incredible feeling, a two-up between me and Katia Longhin (Acca Due O HP Lorena Camici). It was raining and cold, and we'd been away for about 50km. My first big win!
As James Victor commented, it was also a big win for the Aussie team: "Apart from Kristy Scrymgeour's time trial win last year, this was our first win in Italy since Anna Millward's three stage wins and points jersey in the Giro in 1998."
CN: When did you get approached by the Michela Fanini team?
KM: "At the end of the 2001 season before the World Championships in Portugal. Fanini showed some interest in me and asked if I'd be interested in riding with them in 2002."
CN: Was there a noticeable transition from the Australian national team to a private Italian team?
KM: There was a huge difference - James' program is so well organised and run: training programs were all worked out, you know your racing program from the start of the season so you've got something to work towards. The support staff are also incredible - masseurs, specialists from the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) come out during the year and make sure your physio and biomechanics are OK, and your bike's good.
It wasn't until I stepped out of that that I realised this doesn't happen on every team! You really appreciate it, it's a great launching pad to a European team, where you certainly don't get that kind of attention. You really have to rely on your own skills to make decisions and thankfully having come from [the National team background] you have a fairly good idea of what you should be doing.
I certainly can't say it's the same throughout Europe but with Fanini, they were a little bit different with some of their ideas, nutritional ideas and even training, but the biggest difference I noticed was travelling to races - very long drives - we tended to do them overnight with no stopping. It hardened me up a lot I think!
In 2003, Katie is moving from Europe to the USA - to compete in the strong US domestic scene with Team Saturn, as well as being in Europe for a few months to compete in the major European stage races.
CN: How did your move to Saturn come about?
KM: "My boyfriend, Nathan O'Neill, and I had decided
during the latter half of 2002 that we would be very interested in racing in
the States for 2003 and beyond. We both sent our CV's to a number of American
teams. As it turned out Saturn showed interest in both Nathan and I.
In cycling, new contracts can often be arranged without the formality of an interview, so this was a wise decision and unprecedented, according to our new General Manager Tom Schuler. We both left Chicago (where Saturn are based) with contracts.
CN: How do you think Saturn will be different to your previous team experiences?
KM: From the communication I've had with Saturn, I'm looking forward to Saturn's management style; their mission statement is to always look after their athletes and it's so evident when you look at them at races - the athletes are always very happy. I'm also looking forward to developing a nice relationship with my team director (Giana Roberge) so we can work towards my goals and utilise my strengths, and I know this is very important to them as well.
CN: What is your role at Saturn?
KM: I'll be a handy addition to the team in the sense that I am an all-round rider and if I am not going for the win myself, I will be there to make sure that one of my teammates is. My primary objective is the US National Calendar. I'm really looking forward to the Hewlett-Packard Women's Challenge - it's a really well organised tour. I rode it in 2000 and had a ball; it has a great ambience.
CN: At Michela Fanini you were ostensibly the 'domestique' for Regina Schleicher - how do you feel about performing that role?
KM: I don't think there are any lows to being a domestique. I get as much joy - I honestly do - working for my teammates as I would when trying to win a race, particularly when the team's very close knit. Saturn are just so family oriented, and being within the Saturn team, a win is a win for everyone, so I can't see any lows.
CN: Since you're concentrating on the USA next year, what about the Hamilton World Championships?
KM: Both Nathan and I are very motivated for Worlds. I will be doing some racing in Canada and Giana is keen for the team to go and have a look at the course.
CN: Are you looking forward to living in Boise?
KM: I'm really looking forward to it - our beautiful baby girl [Katie and Nathan's Golden Retriever, Jess] has already flown across; Jess flew on Air Animal to Boise from Italy.
We'll be living with my friend Karen who I was billeted out with for Hewlett-Packard in 2000, we've become really good mates, and now we're sharing her house. Boise's terrific - we've got the mountains, it's close to an airport and has a good atmosphere training-wise, we'll fit in easily there.
CN: What's your view on dietary supplements?
KM: Be aware - definitely - and be realistic. Labelling isn't necessarily true and it's just not worth the risk. If they call themselves professional athletes they should be professional enough to check it out. I can't see it being an excuse.
CN: Are you scrupulous about diet?
KM: We both are, definitely. We watch everything we eat. It's not like we have diet/nutritional plans drawn up, but Nath and I are fairly careful; we've got to watch the weight, and you can avoid so many unnecessarily fatty foods just by being a little careful.
CN: Life with Nathan - how much do two professional riders actually see of each other?
KM: That varies a great deal. This year our programs were fairly diverse. We live together no matter where we are - Italy, Australia or the USA. There are periods where we may not see each other for weeks, only to come home and briefly catch each other for a day or two - then one of us is off again. I am sure if you speak to any professional athlete or successful business person they would say that being apart from loved ones is part of the parcel. Nath and I are fairly committed to our sport and each other; I think we are fairly well suited - distance only makes us closer!