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Photo ©: Bettini

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Photo: © James Victor

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.


Not quite quick enough at the Primavera Rosa

Italy, Saturday, March 22, 2003

The Primavera Rosa is a round of the Women's World Cup, the equivalent of the Men's Milan- San Remo. The women's race covers the same last 121km as the men's race, arriving at the finish one and a half hours before the men.

The race was mostly undulating with the first 5.5km climb (called the cipressa) starting at the 100km point. I was most worried about this particular part of the course. I am not the best climber and I knew that I had to get over this climb with a rather large bunch in order to chase back onto the front group before the start of the next critical 2.5km hill (called the Poggio) at only 7km to go. After the crest of the Poggio there is only a 2km descent and 2.5km of flat to the finish.

It was a tail/cross wind racing along the coast; the race pace was quite high so there was not much chance of a break being successful before the climbs started. The AIS national team used up a couple of riders to keep the pace high along the flats while other team members would attempt a break but the bunch continued to pull them back.

My legs felt a little heavy rolling along the coast in the bunch and all I could think about was getting over that 5.5km climb. I knew I should be up near the front when hitting the bottom of the climb, but of course every rider in the bunch was hoping to do the same thing, so the pace during the 5km to the bottom was really fast with riders desperately trying to get to the front of the bunch. I was happy with my position hitting the climb about 10 back, it was important that I did not try and climb with the strong riders who took off early on the climb. If I had, I think I would have blown up and lost too much time - it was too much of a risk considering I was not feeling 100 percent.

The riders from the Prato/Aki Maraton bike team were extremely aggressive on this climb. Nicole Brandli and Svetlana Boubnenkova started the attacking on the climb and it was their team mate Zoulfia Zabirova who made the winning move with an attack 3km from the crest of the climb. Zabirova went on to hold her solo break over the Poggio and all the way to the line for the World Cup stage win.

I climbed the Cipressa consistently in a strung out line of riders, the bunch coming back together by the bottom of the descent.

The pace was kept high along the flat to the bottom of the Poggio (2.5km hill). Our team, Acca Due'o/Ausra Gruodis Safi got up the front and helped keep the pace high, mainly hoping to put our team climber, Nicole Cooke, in a good position to catch the lead rider on the climb.

I was climbing with the bunch quite comfortably for the first 1.5km, but then riders started attacking like crazy. I saw Nicole react and move away with a small group of six riders, including Oenone Wood (AIS) and Regina Schleicher (Chirio). I continued to climb at my consistently slower pace - the best I could do! I crested the hill with only two other riders, one being the current World Champ, Susanne Ljungskog. She really chased hard down the descent, accelerating like mad out of the hairpins, and I took advantage of her aggression and followed her down the descent.

We reached the main bunch with 2km to go. Teams had already started their lead outs and I was not sure if I was going to see the front of the bunch. A couple of my teammates saw that I was back with the bunch and they did all they could to get me up near the front, ready for the sprint. There was a left and a right hand turn in the last 800m. Going into these corners we had the perfect position as I was sitting on about fourth wheel, breathing very hard from chasing like mad, with my teammate Nicole Cooke in front of me ready for the lead out. The corners were very messy and I came out of the corners in about eighth to tenth position in a bit of a panic. I basically started my sprint from there chasing and switching wheels. I reached Regina Schleicher's wheel with about 150m to go but just could not get over her! Zoulfia Zabirova won solo then Regina second and I was third.

I am happy with my race today BUT Regina beat me in the sprint, Errrrrrrrrrr! She got over all the climbs with the break away groups and got a lot of recovery while I was chasing like crazy to rejoin the race. If I had not had to work so hard on the hills maybe I could have beaten her in the sprint! Even though I am climbing all right, I know that I am lacking a lot of fitness due to my poor preparation in Oz over the summer.