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By Jeff Jones
Born: December 14, 1981
1st: Australian Criterium Championships
1st: Australian Criterium Championships
2nd: Pointscore: Track Cycling Junior World Championships, Greece
Australian cyclist Rochelle Gilmore has just finished her first season as the holder of an Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) Road Scholarship. This meant that she was based in Novelarra, Italy for 6 months along with the rest of the team, competing in national and international women's races.
The highlight of her season came when she won stage 2b of the Giro d'Italia Femminile in a bunch sprint, beating top quality riders such as Olga Slioussareva, Greta Zocca, Diana Ziliute and Mirjam Melchers. She is only the second Australian (after Anna Millward) to win a stage, and at 19 she is also the youngest stage winner in the race.
Cyclingnews recently caught up with Rochelle for an end of season chat. She was happy to recall her exploits in Europe during 2001, and revealed that the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, Great Britain is amongst her major goals for 2002. Her ultimate goal is the 2004 Olympics, where she wants to win a gold medal in the women's pointscore.
Cyclingnews: At the beginning of the year, your stated goals were stage wins in Tour de Snowy, Giro d'Italia and medals in the some of the track World Cups and World championships. You won a Giro stage, came pretty close in the TdS, and took silver in the points race in the Pordenone World Cup. How do you think your season went?
Rochelle Gilmore: I was wrapt with the season - I thought it was fantastic. When I wrote those goals down, I did not expect to realise them. It was quite a big achievement to win a stage in the Giro, I was quite overwhelmed. The women's Giro is definitely bigger than the women's Tour de France. The TdF used to be a bit more prestigious, but most of the riders rate the Giro higher.
It's a very hilly race and for me it was a matter of survival. I only went in to do six days [the race is 14 days]. If I finished 14 days, I would have fallen into a hole for the rest of the reason. I completed eight days and I finished in the top top 3 in three of the flat stages, including the stage win.
The season's given me a lot more confidence in a career as a road sprinter.
CN: Did you have any injury problems?
RG: I battled a fair bit with the common flu and hayfever. My body wasn't used to doing that many kilometres, and I was fighting a cold all year.
CN: You started racing in January in the Bay Series. That makes for a very long season.
RG: It was a long season. I chose not to ride the road World's. I gained automatic qualification by being one of the top two ranked Australian cyclists, along with Anna Millward. I spoke to James Victor (AIS women's coach) and Anna and they both said it was very hilly. They said I could go for the experience but I decided not to.
Then I went over to the track squad in Belgium for the track World Championships. I thought that maybe I could ride the pointscore. In the end, they gave it to Kate Bates, who had spent a lot of time racing in the World Cups and ended up having a good race at the World's [silver in the points race]. When the track team was announced I had a holiday.
CN: How important to you was winning the Australian criterium championship in November?
RG: When I came back I had a couple of weeks off. Two weeks beforehand, I found out the championships were on. I'd only been back on the bike for 8 days before the race. I heard that most of the AIS girls were going to do it so it was different. I had to race against girls who had been my teammates for most of the year.
There were attacks going for most of the race; It was wet, and there were gaps being left around the corners. We kept it together until the finish. I was confident with a few laps to go, but I wasn't sure about Bridget Evans whom I haven't raced with much. In the end I finished in front of Bridget in the sprint.
CN: How's the buildup for next season? Do you start with weights/easy rides etc.?
RG: I've been straight back into it. I've done a little bit of gym work, but it's been more strength work on the track. For the Commonwealth Games I think I would like to ride both track and road. The program is good and I'm training for both. I go to a pre-Commonwealth Games training camp in a week, and then I'll know more.
I wish I could have found out a lot earlier. I've had a lot of offers from professional teams, who aren't really interested in the Commonwealth Games. Most of the top road sprinters are 30 years old. To have a 19 year old come out and beat them caught the attention of a lot of teams.
CN: Will you still be with the AIS next season, or are you considering a pro contract?
RG: I haven't made any final decisions and that's the biggest. The AIS is is one of the most professional teams in the world. Fantastic riders, a great structure, a couple of houses, coaches, managers in Italy. The only unfortunate thing is that there's no additional salary other than a monthly food allowance, and I can't really see it improving. They're trying to increase the food allowance from 6 months to 12 months, which would mean that some of us wouldn't have to find a job once we got back to Australia.
CN: Do you have a personal sponsor?
RG: Speedy Wheels - they make mag wheels for cars. I sent out a few portfolios to a few companies last year. I was talking to the director of Speedy Wheels who said that they'd like to take me on until the 2004 Olympics. Without them, I'd be working in a bike shop, because there aren't many jobs that give you the flexibility to be a professional cyclist.
CN: The men's professional scene will tightened up a little for next year, with teams having to reduce their riders to 25 by 2003. Do you think that this is the case in women's professional cycling too?
RG: I think that women's pro cycling is expanding. We have lost two teams, but I think there are three of four new ones starting up.
CN: Can women's salaries in cycling ever approach the men's, as is the case with tennis?
RG: I have heard that the top men's pro cyclists make $1 million, while the number one women's cyclist makes $100,000. I would say Leontien van Moorsel would be the world's highest paid female cyclist.
I don't think that the money is going to improve for the individual athlete, although it will improve for other areas of the sport: sponsors, media coverage and so on.
I think James [Victor] and Shayne [Bannan] are trying to push women's cycling as much as they can. All of us are grateful for that. A few in the federation criticise us for being based overseas, but they obviously haven't been over to Europe. In Australia you line up with 10 girls for a 120 km race and ride slowly. In Europe it's totally different, and it's the only way to learn how to compete at that level.
CN: Are you still studying?
RG: I've been studying full time since I left school. I've done a lot of courses by correspondence. It's just for security, but it also improves riding and training. I've previously completed diplomas in Sports Science and Journalism. I'm studying Information Technology at the moment and it's really interesting.
CN: Does it help keep you occupied between races, or are you always flat out?
RG: When we're on tour overseas it's too hectic. When I'm back at the house training I've got more time.
CN: Do you have any other preferred ways to unwind?
RG: There's not enough time. In 6 months that we were in Italy, we went into Milan for one day to sightsee. We didn't do any socialising. The AIS men's team were based 4 kilometres away, and we had dinner twice with them. Mostly the only other time we'd see them was when we passed them going the other way on the road.
It's a hard life, but when your goal is an Olympic gold medal at the 2004 Olympics, 'normal' things tend to get put to one side. It's already clear that Rochelle Gilmore has the ability to achieve her goals, which combined with her level headed determination should see her succeed at the highest level. Look out for her in Athens.
1st: Australian Criterium
1st: 2b stage Giro d'Italia Femminile
3rd: 5th stage Giro d'Italia Femminile
3rd: 8th stage Giro d'Italia Femminile
1st: GP Cento d'Carnivale Europa
1st: 5th stage Trophée d'Or Féminine
2nd: 3rd stage Trophée d'Or Féminine
4th: 1st stage Trophée d'Or Féminine
3rd: Canberra World Cup
9th: Rotterdam Tour World Cup
2nd: stage 1 Tour de Snowy
3rd: stage 7 Tour de Snowy
4th: stage 2 Tour de Snowy
3rd: stage 1 Tour de l'Aude
4th: stage 2 Tour de l'Aude
1st: stage 1 Skilled Engineering Bay Classic Criterium Series
2nd: Overall Skilled Engineering Bay Classic Criterium Series
2nd: Pointscore Track Cycling World Cup, Italy
1st: Sprint Oceania Track Cycling Games
1st: Australian Criterium
2nd: Pointscore: Track Cycling World Cup, Malaysia
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