• Katrin Garfoot digging deep at the Santos Tour Down Under. (Getty)Source: Getty
Katrin Garfoot is taking a very different approach from most of the road cyclists going into the Commonwealth Games.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

Cycling Central
7 Feb 2018 - 11:54 AM  UPDATED 7 Feb 2018 - 11:56 AM

Casting aside the constraints and pressures of having to work for a road team set-up and instead forging a solo path to a gold medal on the Gold Coast.

It has been a successful summer for the German-born Queenslander, taking results and perhaps more importantly, looking very strong and on track for a tilt at gold in the time trial and road race for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in March.

Garfoot blitzed the time trial course at nationals to win by over two minutes then took another eye-catching win on Mengler’s Hill at the Tour Down Under. Standing atop Mengler’s Hill was a very different Garfoot from 12 months earlier.

Previous incarnations of the time-trial star have been irritable and tense at times, whereas 2018 saw a new lease on life for the teamless 36-year-old.

"There's definitely less pressure on me this year,” Garfoot said. “I'm just doing it for fun, trying to have fun every day out there. It's good to be free."

"If I have a bad day, I have a bad day. It doesn't have any repercussions on my career anymore. So there's that pressure taken off.

“Usually, it's all, I need a qualifying point or result, or when you are with a team, you don't want to mess things up for the team and race for other people. That pressure is just gone which is great."

A local to the Gold Coast, Garfoot will be both the sentimental and realistic favourite going into the challenge against the clock for Commonwealth gold. Being stationed at home, without much race form going into the event will be a different approach, but one that Garfoot thinks will be beneficial.

"I can train on the course, which obviously helps, but mostly it's being settled,” said Garfoot. “Not having to travel to Europe and travel back again, that's a big advantage I reckon. Having the home crowd there will be awesome."

There are no current plans to return to a more conventional approach to the road in the future, or to progress on towards the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

"At this stage, it's all about Comm Games for me, doing a really good time trial there. After that, I haven't thought about it yet."

Kim Palmer, Garfoot’s coach for 5 years and sports director for the national team, talked about the process that saw a novice take up the sport late on and progress to become amongst the best in the world.

"It's been a wonderful journey,” Palmer said. “I remember the first time she came and saw me, sat down on the lounge room floor in my house and said 'Will you take me to the Olympics?'.

“I said, 'It's a big call, but potentially. You need to have certain steps and goals in place to get there'. She asked if I was up to the challenge of working with a German. I said yes."

Being ‘German’ is arguably more of a statement of personality rather than nationality. Garfoot is renowned for her no-nonsense, relentlessly focused style which has seen her continue to improve since that living room meeting.

"It's been a learning process for both of us working together,” Palmer said. “I like an athlete questioning why and what training they are doing. It assists the process, they have buy-in and understand why they are doing training, educating the athlete so they get to the point where they know their own body, know why they are training and what the expectations are.

“We can then try and challenge her a bit and find those one per centers and extra performance. We work quite well together and it challenges me to be a better coach."

Aside from losing the pressure and mental stress associated with riding a World Tour calendar, Palmer also identified other reasons for the shift to having less racing to start the 2018 season.

"This year we don't have the season and the roster which often guides the training. When you're a professional athlete, you need to prepare for races and do the job the director expects of you in the team.”

The flexibility that offers wouldn’t be afforded to Garfoot in the course of a normal season and that has allowed her the chance to really focus in on the close details required to win gold.

“We can take a different approach now,” Palmer said. “She wants to focus on the time-trial and to win the time-trial. Part of that is really specific training. Kat has had great results at worlds, but we've never focused on a specific event like this before.

We're trialling a lot of different things, which are working well if you look at the nationals results. We've particularly looked at aerodynamics, physiology specific to time-trialling and performance psychology."

When asked if this could be the fittest, strongest version of Garfoot, Palmer was careful to put the Australian’s current form in the context of her career.

"She was in tip-top form before Rio, then she got sick. In terms of her condition and physiology, we're trying to get back to there and I think she'll be getting close to that again."

Garfoot should be appearing next on the road at the Oceania championships in Tasmania in March, leading into the April Commonwealth Games.