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Going pro: The Rochelle Gilmore Journal 2003

Rochelle Gilmore - super sprinter and silver medallist in the Scratch Race at the 2002 World Track Championships - is a woman full of ambition. Despite being courted by the number one women's team in the US, Gilmore opted to sign with Lithuanian squad Ausra Gruodis-Safi; her goal being to move her World Cup ranking from 5 to 1 in the space of a year. Follow Rochelle as she attempts to rise to the top of the cycling tree in 2003.


Citta' Di Rosignano - 100 km

Italy, Sunday, March 16, 2003

I really surprised myself in the hills today!

During the first 20km I was ordered to swap turns on the front with five other girls in my team (Ausra Gruodis - Safi) - this was to prevent breakaways forming before the hills started at the 40 km mark, and Nicole Cooke (who was the rider we were setting up for the win today) would be in a winning position at the bottom of the hills.

It was soooooooooo windy we were nearly blown off our bikes! After I had done a few hard turns on the front I started to struggle and found myself towards the back of the bunch when it split into two groups. Now there was a lead pack of about 15 riders, we had five Ausra Gruodis - Safi girls in it - a great scenario for our team, so I was in the back group not needing to chase.

When we hit the 10km climb for the first time, our group really picked up the pace, I was surprised that I stayed with the 5-10 girls that caught the front group right on top of the climb! I was back in the rather small lead group with about 40km to go, a 10km climb and a 5km climb still to come.

When we got to the bottom of the descent, four girls had a small gap, we only had one rider in the break and our director was panicking saying that we needed two - safety in numbers. One of my team mates told me to go over to the break, she spoke in Italian so I was sure I had misunderstood her - I said 'Prego' (repeat). Yes I had heard correctly, even though I had only just re-joined the group! But I didn't hesitate, I just went bang and got over there so quickly, no one even came with me!

Now I was in a breakaway group of five knowing I was not going to get over the climb with them. Olivia Gollan from the Australian AIS team also jumped over to the break just after me, making six riders now, then my other team mate in the break got dropped on the climb before me, so the pressure was on, I knew I just had to smash myself to stay there, and as I was just slipping off the back of the lead group, I was so relieved to see the main bunch was catching us about 2km from the top of the climb - this meant Nicole was back in the race for the win and I could relax.

When they caught I kind of just sat up and let them all go past, I was exhausted and happy to grovel the last 10km to the finish alone but when I saw how small the bunch was I knew if I could just finish in front of all the girls in the next group, it would mean I was having a pretty good day for a sprinter in the hills.

So I got over that climb just on the back of the group with a 5km descent and 5km climb left. As expected, the last climb was attack after attack, our team just chased everything back for Nicole, she had been sitting in out of the wind all day and was looking good. With one km to go there was a little downhill dip, I went from about 20th to 3rd position in 100m, I could not believe it, with a sharp uphill 500m finish left I was in 3rd position. Susanne Ljungskog, the current World Champ, jumped us big time down the left side of the road and went on to win, Nicole 2nd and I followed her in for 3rd.

I am happy with my overall form as no one really expected me to finish with the front bunch on this hilly course, but I am a little disappointed that I hesitated to sprint for the win. I was uncertain about our team instructions today and I hesitated, yes Nicole was meant to be our team's winner today but....I think we could have planned a smarter sprint today.

Maybe I should have sacrificed myself to lead out Nicole with all I had, or vice versa - I guess we did not discuss the possibility of a sprinter at the finish. I must say I am looking forward to some flatter races with my new team's support!