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Shara Gillow (Rabo-Liv) earned her fourth national title in the individual time trial at the Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships. She bested her minute-man Bridie O’Donnell (Total Rush) by just over a minute, covering the 29.3 kilometre course in Buninyong in 44:21. The four titles in five years puts Gillow within striking distance of Kathy Watts, with five national titles, as the most successful Australian women in the race against the clock.
“I’ve ridden [the time trial national championships] since 2009,” said Gillow. “I’ve medalled six times. This is my fourth national title. I missed it last year. To wear the green and gold again – I had won it three times before but to lose it for a year and win it again for my fourth national title, I’ve just realized how special it is to wear the colours over in Europe.”
Defending champion Felicity Wardlaw (Bicycle Superstore) finished two spots off the podium, 1:34 off the pace of Gillow’s title-winning time. Finishing one second ahead of Wardlaw, in fourth place overall, Rebecca Mackey (WA) earned the U23 women’s title.
The new individual time trial course proved exciting. Lumpy roads, with one significant hill on the return to the finish, favoured the slighter power riders. Intermittent winds and light rains were factors to consider when determining pacing strategy out on the road.
“They were awful climbs on the way back,” said O’Donnell. “It doesn’t look like a challenging course, but it’s just relentless without a flat section.”
The event was not without controversy. Gillow powered past O’Donnell in the final 50 metres of the race, and the silver medallist noted that the newly crowned national champion sat within passing distance over the entire second half of the course. O’Donnell had strong words for Gillow in her post race interview.
“I was in front, so she was probably benefitting from having me in front,” said O’Donnell. “She did all the damage on the way out. It’s very helpful to have someone to sit on on the way back. She should be ashamed of herself, that full time professional athlete sitting on an old woman with a job like me.”
“She obviously had a better first 14.5 kilometres than I did,” O’Donnell added. “It’s hard to know if she would have ridden exactly the same time and the same pace if she had ridden five minutes before me. You never know, but it’s absolutely a benefit to have someone just sitting there that she can chase. It’s something she can work on relentlessly. Well done to her. She took the opportunity to do that, and she wasn’t pulled aside.”
Gillow dismissed O’Donnell’s claims and seemed unbothered by the fuss. While she admitted that she and O’Donnell rode relatively close to one another following the turn-around point mid-race, Gillow stressed that she did nothing to intentionally maintain the small gap.
“I was sort of on one side of the road just trying to pass at one stage and only got that bit of opportunity at the end,” said Gillow. “I was riding my own race and just concentrating on my own race.”
“I tried to pass her at one stage, but I was spinning out with my 53 on the downhill,” Gillow continued. “It was a bit of a cat and mouse at one stage and toward the end, I started to come back stronger and stronger and then passed her on the finish line.”
MARCHE Shara MARCHE Shara Rabobank-Liv Woman Cycling Team
|Rabobank-Liv Woman Cycling Team||44:21|
O'DONNELL Bridie O'DONNELL Bridie
HEATHER Taryn HEATHER Taryn