Rochelle Gilmore, 32, is a superwoman of sorts. She is probably the most driven woman I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and proves that anything is possible with hard work and determination. With the creation of the Wiggle Honda team, she is helping to change the face of women’s cycling for the better.
We caught up with her at a recent Wiggle Honda training camp in Italy ahead of the inaugural Women’s Tour to find out more.
When I meet Rochelle she is impeccably presented. Her hair and make-up is finished to perfection and she radiates health and fitness. Something I am completely in awe of when she fills me in on her schedule for the previous couple of weeks. Rochelle Gilmore has been responsible for the logistics of gathering her 16-strong person team in the one place for a training camp. Coordinating flights and transfers with some of world’s most talented riders it seems was no easy task.
In addition to this Gilmore travelled to London from her home in Italy to do the commentary for the UCI, completed a packed schedule of meetings while in London with potential sponsors, who are all chomping at the bit to get a piece of the Wiggle Honda dream team, followed by a last minute meeting into Dubai on the Friday before arriving in Italy to join the team on the Saturday.
“The last week I haven’t had much sleep as I have been preparing the team launch and I have been trying to satisfy all of the athlete’s needs and some other business stuff on the side. Then obviously there is 100 or 200 emails each day that I have to respond to or people get upset. So I haven’t slept much in the past week – maybe three or four hours per night,” says Gilmore.
It is clear though that Gilmore does not begrudge her hectic schedule: “What I do it for is for today. To have all of the athletes together has been amazing with the sponsors, it makes it all worth it. This day is what I have been working on for the past month,” she explains.
With a strong background in professional racing, Gilmore decided about six years ago that one day she would like to set up a team of her own. “I was a pro cyclist in Europe for 10 years. I jumped around different teams gaining experience of what not to do in a professional team and what little things were missing and the things that were letting the athletes down,” she explains.
“I was the most serious athlete, I would do every single thing I could possibly do to win a race and then at times it could be let down by infrastructure, staff, equipment, the shortage of everything and the attitudes of the managers and I felt that not only for me but for the other athletes who put their hearts and souls into being the best they could be,” she continues.
“I needed to wait until the timing was right to set up my own team and that had to do with my own personal ambitions as an athlete. Then after the London Olympics, I felt the time was right as women’s cycling was coming along so much. It was all so exciting, I knew at that point it was now or never,” says Gilmore.
Not one to do things by halves, Gilmore set her mind to putting together a team that would include the biggest names in women’s cycling on the planet. Just one year after setting the team up, Gilmore’s team already has a host of accolades under its belt and 2014 looks set to be even more successful.
One of the most striking things about the team when you spend time with them is how well the girls get along. Despite the fact that they are often competing against each other, the camaraderie shines through: “This time last year, we had a team camp with the same riders. I was wondering if the team would be getting along as well by the end of the year. But by the end of their first year together, the girls could not get enough of each other. They go and stay with each other to do training together, it really is amazing almost to the point where I get frustrated – one girl is sick in hospital and they all want to be together. It is amazing how they care for each other so much and I think that is because I have been very specific about the athletes that I have chosen,” laughs Gilmore.
I am under no illusion that Gilmore is integral to this unique team dynamic. Gilmore is a driven and extremely serious individual, but around her girls, she noticeably softens. She genuinely cares about the girl’s wellbeing and her main concern is ensuring that all of the needs are satisfied in a prompt and understated fashion. How she juggles this kind of commitment with her career as a commentator and business women baffles me.
“The secret is all about hard work,” she explains. “I use every minute of the day to my benefit. I am the type of person that wakes up in the middle of the night with a pen and paper to write down my ideas so I can go back to sleep. I live on the edge that’s for sure,” she says.
Thankfully, she does admit that she does indulge in a little rest and relaxation at the end of a busy day to help her unwind. “I don’t ever watch TV but I always have a hard drive full of TV series because they are only 30 minutes long and I need to escape when I go to bed,” she says. At the moment she is watching hit US series Revenge. “Half the time I fall asleep in the middle of an episode, but that’s what I do and it’s my me time at the end of the day.”
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