Games dream a reality for Gillow
SHARA Gillow's goal of competing in the time trial at the London Olympics is set to become a reality, after the Belli Park champion was named in Australia's star-studded road team.
In a move that national women's coach Martin Barras admits could prove catastrophic, the reigning Oceania and Australian time trial champion has been pushed harder than ever before in a make-or-break bid to turn her into a medal contender.
In securing selection for her debut Olympics, the 24-year-old will follow in the footsteps of her Sunshine Coast-based father David, who represented Zimbabwe in the road race at the 1980 Moscow Games.
Gillow will be Australia's sole women's time trial competitor in London.
She will also ride the road race as part of Australia's four-member team.
But Barras made it clear her main focus was the time trial, which will be held on August 1.
He said Gillow was one of the most physically gifted cyclists he had seen, but tended to be too conservative and protective when competing.
He has been trying to correct that by pushing her to the limit.
"There's a 50-50 chance of getting a really good result and she gets a medal, or there's a 50-50 chance there will be a catastrophic outcome," he said.
"Always the biggest danger is we push the envelope too far and it cracks her."
Gillow is in Europe with the Green EDGE-AIS team preparing for Italy's prestigious Giro Donne, which starts on Friday.
When that event concludes, she will train at altitude in preparation for the Olympics.
Last year's Australian Female Road Cyclist of the Year and Giro Donne stage winner aims to win gold in London.
"I always ride to win," she said.
"I have high expectations. I love riding time trials and this one is one I would love to win gold for Australia in.
"In the road race, I will be working hard to achieve our team goal and follow the plan we go in with," she said.
Gillow said selection was an honour and a wonderful goal to have achieved.
"I think every cyclist would have the Olympics as one of their major career goals."
The eight-member Australian team includes five of the world's best male riders.
They are reigning Tour de France champion Cadel Evans, 2004 Olympic madison gold medallist and multiple Tour de France stage winner Stuart O'Grady, this year's Milan-San Remo Classic winner Simon Gerrans, sprint star Matt Goss and triple individual time trial world champion Michael Rogers.
It will be O'Grady's sixth Olympics.
The other women on the team are Chloe Hosking and Amanda Spratt.
Athens Olympian Matt White, the professional men's road coordinator, said it was one of the most difficult team selections in Australian cycling history.
"Because we really have enough talent to field two teams of Olympic standard," he said.
"We have more than 30 Aussie riders in the Pro Tour and they're major contributors to their respective teams.
"It's a great position to be in and we're really pleased with the riders we'll be putting on the start line.
"The team has a lot of experience with Stuey, Cadel, Mick and Simon all having raced at Olympics, or five Olympics in the case of Stuey."
White said that while Goss was an Olympic debutant, he had solid big-race experience.
"The selectors have chosen a team based on our race strategies for London.
"However, we won't be going into detail about what those strategies are for obvious reasons," he said.