Sydney’s Rochelle Gilmore has claimed opening World Cup honours with victory in round one in Geelong at the weekend.
The 23 year old, riding for the New South Wales Institute of Sport team, outsprinted defending World Cup Series champion and 2004 Geelong round winner, Oenone Wood, 24, (Team Nurnberger) with Katherine Bates (Ton van Bemmelen) coming home third to give Australia a clean sweep of the podium. 93 riders from 16 countries started the race including the reigning World Champion, Judith Arndt of Germany (Team Nurnberger) and Olympic Champion Sara Carrigan (Ton van Bemmelen).
"I’ve got one person to thank and that’s Warren McDonald - the national women’s road coach," said Gilmore after being presented with the World Cup Series leader’s jersey. "Warren picked me up when I was at rock bottom and I’m so grateful for that."
Gilmore was keen to make a winning statement today after last week missing out on selection in the Australian team to contest the upcoming track World Championships in Los Angeles.
"I wanted to win the scratch race at the World Championships," said Gilmore who failed to convince selectors at last week’s Sydney Track World Cup but turned the disappointment into motivation for today. "I won’t have that opportunity and it was a real wakeup call.
"I guess things worked out well with not getting selected for the Worlds because I can just concentrate on the road," said Gilmore who will travel to New Zealand this week to contest round two next Sunday in Wellington. "I couldn’t not now could I, with the jersey!
"I’m heading overseas straight after NZ to Safi, the team I rode with in 2003 and I’m looking forward to teaming up with Nicole Cooke (British star and past World Cup Champion) and taking on the world again."
The race was contested over eight laps of the picturesque 14.9km circuit out and back from the Geelong Waterfront for a total distance of 119km.
The only threatening break of the day formed midway through the race when Amy Gillett (AIS), Tanja Hennes-Smidt (GER - Buitenpoort - Flexpoint) and Jenny MacPherson (AUS - Jayco VIS) established a lead of just over a minute but Wood’s Nurnberger team mates worked hard to chase them down. The effort however took it’s toll with Olivia Gollan (AUS) and Madaleine Lindberg (SWE) both retiring with one lap to go. The tactic played into Gilmore’s hands at the finish line.
"It was a calculated risk - that was their job for the day and they chased back a pretty important break," said Wood who despite this had team mates Arndt and Trixi Worrack on the front with two kilometres remaining in a bid to set Wood up for the final sprint. "I was sitting second wheel in the last corner and I hoped the girl in front of me (two time World Champion Suzanne Ljungskog of Sweden) would stay out there a bit longer but I was in a position where I had to go early because riders started to come around."
Wood was forced to start her sprint at 500 metres to go, far earlier than she usually would.
"At 200 to go I was thinking ’I hope I can hang on to this’," said Wood. "I knew there were about five girls behind me, I knew someone was there.
"So - next week."
Into the finishing straight Bates was also blazing a trail vying with Wood and was a little disappointed to concede placings to both her and Gilmore.
"When you are so close to the win you really want it but I’m going away satisfied," said Bates. "It was pretty crazy in the last few kilometres and a lot of girls went from about 500m out.
"Rochelle was smart and looked after herself to pop around Oenone and I," Bates explained. "If I had better bike skills I would sneak through at the end too because I would get through those corners better."
Gilmore’s strategy paid off as she accelerated out of Wood’s slipstream with 50 metres to go and cruised to a clear victory in a time of 3hr11min26sec.
The riders now head to New Zealand for next Sunday’s round two in Wellington where Gilmore will be hoping to increase her lead in the eleven race series.