I think it is fairly clear from this blog, that I love all things fitness – biking in particular. And although my training time is limited these days with the little one to look after, I still treasure those moments when I can get out on my bike (probably even more so than before!)
So you can only imagine how very excited I was when an opportunity came up to interview Rochelle Gilmore. Gain an insight into the mind of a professional cyclist?? Yes please!
An elite Aussie cyclist, Commonwealth Games gold medallist, business woman and owner of her own clothing label - Rochelle certainly is one talented lady. While she started out racing BMX, she now lives overseas competing in road cycling – and is truly an inspiration for amateur weekend cyclists like myself.
Here is our Q & A session – I hope you enjoy it!
1. How did you find the transition from BMX racing to track cycling? Do you ever get out on the BMX just for fun?
I remember it took me some time to accept and adapt to the rules of ‘no contact’ and riding a straight line on the track! I also had to concentrate a lot on keeping the elbows in. BMX was much more aggressive and, bumping your competitors in the corners and taking them high in a burm was accepted! As I developed into a sprint endurance athlete I couldn’t really understand the concept of riding for 2hrs before sprinting for 30 seconds to the line, it felt like a waste of 2hrs.
I rode a BMX bike on a BMX track a few years ago and dreamt of a return to BMX but I had spent too many years building my endurance for 4hr races to truly believe it would be a successful decision.
2. I see that you also have a background in surf life saving. Would you ever consider racing triathlons?
I did compete in a few triathlons back in 2000, also internationally. I was amongst the best in Australia and considered a career change but at the time, I had received a lot of financial support from the NSW and Australian Institute of Sport, and felt a commitment to continue down that road – cycling. I enjoyed triathlons and showed potential but I do feel that road cycling was a great career choice. It’s salary based, low impact (regarding stress on the body and injuries) it’s an extremely social sport and it can provide a long career and healthy lifestyle.
3. What do you see as being the greatest challenge facing elite female athletes?
In many cases, the answer is financial stress. Most women’s sports are not as developed or popular as the men’s equivalent. I’ve seen many women return to a day job before reaching their potential in their chosen sport, purely because they’ve gone into debt and can not continually rely on family, friend and partners for financial support. Of course men also experience this challenge but I’m referring to Women ranked in the top 10-20 in the world who can’t financially support themselves. It’s sad but true. I personally feel very fortunate to have achieved financial stability in the past years through my underdeveloped professional sport. I endeavour to share my experiences with other women to educate them on how this can be achieved.
(Lisa: I could not agree more with this. It really is a shame that there is not more funding behind women in sport!)
4. Do you have a sporting idol? If so, who is it and why? Nicole Livingstone. Nicole has made a successful career after Sport and I truly respect and admire this.
5. Cycling has allowed you to travel the world! What would be your favourite city / country to (a) cycle (b) eat and (c) compete? My favourite place to ride is in Northern Italy, in the heart of the dolomites. The traffic is calm (actually, non existent where I live) and the scenery is amazing! The air is also very fresh and thin. I recently raced in Philadelphia and I can say that even though I live in Italy and love an Italian pizza, I was absolutely loving the fact that I could order a chicken wrap/tortilla in every restaurant! I’m not a very fancy eater. I enjoy racing in Belgium, it’s my preferred type or terrain and the fans and spectators are crazy about cycling and us cyclists! We’re all famous in Belgium J
6. I’ve read that you are also quite handy when it comes to bike maintenance. Ever had any embarrassing bike maintenance moments that you would care to share with us? Um yes, I wasn’t responsible for it but I was embarrassed. It was the first World Cup of the season a couple of years ago in Italy. It was freezing cold (minus 4) and raining. The race was about 130km and the first 1km was neutralised (controlled pace). There was a round-about after 500m and as I accelerated, my right foot slipped and hit the ground hard, I swerved and lost control of my bike and nearly caused a huge accident in the first 500m of the first race of the season. My pedal had fallen off the crank (it wasn’t done up) and the pedal was attached to the bottom of my shoe. My mechanics couldn’t get the pedal off my shoe as no one had any strength in their completely numb hands! We eventually got the pedal off my shoe with a screwdriver but the race had ridden away. Game over.
7. You have certainly had a lot of racing success over the years, and there is so much to look forward to this year, is there a race / win that you have a particularly fond memory of, and why?
Winning the Commonwealth Games. It was so satisfying because I had won silver at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, then again silver at the 2006 Commonwealth Games and then 9 years after my first attempt, I won Gold in 2010.
8. You were involved in a significant crash in 2011, but have come back stronger than ever. How did you handle the recovery period, and how did you stay motivated?
Yes, I had a heavy crash at the 2011 Giro d’Italia on stage five, in the final 200m. I fell on large cobble stones sprinting into the centre of Verona with 50-100 women at 60km/hr. The fall resulted in a severe concussion, a fractured pelvis (two places) fractured vertebra and three broken ribs. I was completely immobilised for 40 days, and had to learn to walk again, in a pool first and then on dry land. Less than one year later, I am competing competitively again at world level.
Winning and competing was my motivation. It never crossed my mind that I might not compete again. I’m sure it was in the back of my doctors’ minds but I’m always very optimistic! The negativity or conservative expectations from my doctors went in one ear and out the other. I listened and then readjusted my goals in my own mind, spending every second of every day working towards my first step, then my first pedal revolution.
I met all deadlines and exceeded the expectations of my doctors. Less than one year later, I am competing competitively again at world level.
9. We all have our days where motivation to train is lacking. What keeps you pedalling when those days strike?
I visualise success. There are more than 200 full time professional female cyclists in Europe – all of us want to win races. The only way to achieve that is to do the hours. There are no short cuts and at this level, natural ability will only get you so far.
The training comes easy to me though, I just love it. I could ride for six-eight hours a day if it was the best thing for me. Train more and train harder than your competitors – that’s the way I see it.
10. Aside from time on the bike, do you have any other cross training that you do?
I train in the gym during the Australian summer - as we do not have any important UCI (world ranked races) between October and February. During the season I randomly participate in some extreme sports but not as specific cross training. I also continue core stability exercises throughout the racing season in Europe.
11. I see that in addition to your own racing pursuits, you have studied various tertiary courses, speak fluent Italian, manage two cycling teams and own your own cycling label! Any tips you can offer for keeping the ‘work / life ‘ balance in check?
Planning is the key to balancing work/training and living life… then, the commitment to the plan must be executed in order to make time for other important aspects of life.
Use every minute of every day efficiently. Effective time management can be achieved by putting time limits on everything. Try to accomplish and complete each task within your planned time limit. I allow myself 2 hours a day to respond to emails and work on my computer and I stick to a strict rule of relaxing from 8.30pm every night with a movie while stretching and winding down.
I try to attend family functions, BBQ’s etc during the summer in Australia; otherwise my social life consists of catching up with friends and team mates on tour, and the occasional function with sponsors. I enjoy going to the movies or relaxing at home watching a DVD but I also try to do some kind of extreme activity after a substantial training block of two-three weeks, just to break things up and get the adrenalin pumping. This could be track driving, surfing, go-karting, sky-diving, water-skiing, snow-skiing jet-skiing or motoX riding. These are all sports that I’ve grown up doing so I consider them no more dangerous than my profession.
12. What importance do you place on nutrition when training? What is your favourite food for fuel?
Nutrition is very important for performance and for recovery. I eat for performance, not for pleasure. I enjoy sweets only when I think my body needs it. During training I eat a diet higher in protein, and then during tours or before big one-day races, I include high carb meals.
My favourite pre race meal is definitely cereal. I love cereal! Each day I also enjoy steak or chicken, vegetables and eggs.
13. But ‘training’ food aside, do you have a weakness for sweets or other ‘treats’?
I like ice cream and chocolate but stay away from it - I remind myself that it’s not required to enhance my performance! I do enjoy an Italian pizza every now and then when I’m at home enduring a heavy workload. I also like to indulge with a sweet hot chocolate!
14. What can we expect to see from you in 2012?
I have many goals for the future. My priority for now is to win as much as possible. I will focus on achieving a lot more on the bike during the next four years - I hope to win more World Cups, more Grand Tour stages, another Commonwealth Games gold medal, a World Championships and, the ultimate, Olympic Gold.
I also have a huge desire to develop women’s cycling at a social level through to the professional level. It’s a long-term goal but I’m working towards it daily. I would also love to move into a TV presenting role in the future.
15. Finally, any tips for new cyclists or people starting out in the sport?
As the profile of cycling is rising in Australia, the motorists are starting to respect cyclists and they’re much more content to “share the road”. More and more drivers are actually cyclists too. On the other hand, cyclists are also becoming more considerate, educated and aware on the roads. Give it a go, it’s not so scary – choose a quiet time or a quiet road and enjoy the adrenalin and feeling of breaking the wind.
Don’t be afraid of that first fall when coming to a stop with your feet clipped, it happens to nearly everyone starting out. No need to be embarrassed, just be careful how you land with your hand out… I’ve never heard of anyone breaking anything from a standstill fall. Just be prepared for it to happen, it normally only happens during the first few rides, then the movement and action of clipping out happens subconsciously.
(Lisa: haha I have totally done this on more than one occasion….embarrassing when you do it, but not too painful!)
Lastly, don’t under estimate the beauty of this sport. You really need to give it a go to understand the sensations and quality of life that cycling can generate.
I really enjoyed this opportunity to learn more about Rochelle, and competing in sport at an elite level in general. Head on over to Rochelle’s site if you would like to learn more about her impressive list of achievements!
What about you? If you could compete in a sport at an elite level – what sport would you choose?