Sydney-sider Rochelle Gilmore is expected to be very much to the forefront among a powerful Australian contingent in the NZCT Women's Cycling Tour of New Zealand from February 24 to 28.Sandoval certainly expects the Australians to provide many of the tour fireworks given January is a busy month in their cycling season. "They will arrive race-fit, and with the course a hilly one they will be well prepared for what lies ahead," he said.
Gilmore, a winner of the first two stages, and the sprint classification in last year's New Zealand tour, will come to this month's event in good shape, having competed well in events across the Tasman through January and finishing in fourth place overall in this week Ladies Tour of Qatar in the Middle East. Her international successes have included winning two World Cup rounds and being a silver medallist at the world track championships.
Gilmore will be coming with her Italian Lotto professional team, alongside fellow Australians Josephine Tomic, Vicki Whitelaw, and Rachel Neylan, and South Africans Lynette Burger and Ashleigh Moolman, which should provide formidable opposition to the NZCT New Zealand national team. At least 29 Australian riders are expected to participate, most of them in four all-Australian teams, a national squad, another from the Australian Institute of Sport, and trade teams, RACE and Prime State. Tour director Jorge Sandoval believes this is the largest number of Australians he has had in his women's tour.
While cycling is very much her business, the attractive Gilmore still likes to look good, which she happily reveals on her website www.rochellegilmore.com
The NZCT tour plays a key role in women's cycling. It is the only international race catering for them in Oceania this year, and it carries a UCI rating of 2.2.
This year's tour will be even more demanding than previously with the riders required to twice traverse the Pahiatua Track as the event ventures to the Manawatu for the first time, in addition to having to climb the Te Wharau hill in the Wairarapa. It starts with a stage from Martinborough to Masterton before spending two days in the Palmerston North area, and returning to Masterton before finishing on Wellington's Lambton Quay with a circuit race on closed streets.
NZCT regional advisory committee chairman, Paul Elenio, is impressed with the race organisation, and the level of international interest it has generated.
"NZCT is thrilled to be part of this exciting event, and although the Australians are going to be tough competition we're supporting the Kiwi competitors every step of the way," Elenio said.