Former professional rider Rochelle Gilmore has returned to Cyclingnews to write an exclusive blog for the season ahead. Gilmore, who set up and runs the Wiggle Honda team, has become a leading light for Australian and women’s international cycling. Follow Gilmore as she builds on the success at Wiggle Honda and helps transform women’s cycling in 2016.
I’m finally able to refer to myself as a retired ‘ex’ professional athlete. It was not easy for me to become comfortable with using the word ‘retired’. The life transition from being a pro athlete to no longer being a pro athlete was extremely tough, however I’ve done it. 2015…. I’m now comfortable with being a retired athlete.
Clear cut goals; winning, losing and the definition of success…. There’s no longer a finish line. This is something I’m still trying to cope with. How can you win in business? You can only succeed or tick a box but you can’t exactly win or be the best. Just like retirement, I hope to achieve being comfortable in life without having a finish line.
I had an ambition in 2012 to create the most professional women’s cycling team in the world, increase salaries for athletes and become the world number one UCI team within 3 years. We’ve ticked the box but did we win? We were successful but the race is not over.
After creating Wiggle Honda at the end of 2012 I had to work extremely hard and around the clock to put things in place however by the end of 2014 I started to feel a little empty…. My staff had finally settled into their roles and the team was functioning super efficiently. I had sponsors and rider contracts all sorted and whilst I still knew we had some work to do to become world number one, I was feeling a little insignificant. I needed to be as busy as I was when I started…. I needed more pressure. So….. I created the High5 Dream Team which kept me on the rivet again from October 2014 to January 2015…. 8 new athletes, some more staff to get motivated and more sponsors to satisfy…. What happened? By January that was all in place and my staff (mainly the head DS/Manager, Donna Rae Szalinski) had everything running smoothly. Again, my heavy workload and pressure was easing.
What next? The announcement in January 2015 of the Australian National Development Team losing funding and possibly coming to an end opened a new opportunity and challenge. I decided I would do whatever it takes to ensure the very program that gave me the opportunity to be a professional athlete would continue. I went to work and secured some funding to ensure that Cycling Australia could continue providing a pathway for women to become professional cyclists.
What have I learnt about myself? I need tough challenges and high pressure in order to perform and deliver.
With my selfish professional career as an athlete in the past, it seems now that I need to be providing athletes with the possibility to be the best they can be - in order to feel a sense of satisfaction and success.
I’ve had some immense overwhelming feelings after creating Wiggle Honda, the High5 Dream Team and reviving the National Development Program. It’s the athletes’ appreciation that drives me to continue fighting the odds in our beautiful sport.
All of the above activities or businesses are driven by pure passion, however I’ve always had pressure from my family to go into real business so, I’ve also started some other projects during the last 12 months that are not driven by passion. However, they present a new, different challenge and I can tell you one thing, without having pure passion it’s certainly a challenge. I’m sure I will succeed because I’m committed to the projects now and if I don’t, I’ll be letting some people down. The process has been similar in selecting staff, motivating them and developing structures, setting goals, making mistakes etc…
The companies are both in the early stages of development and I’ll be taking things slowly to ensure they don’t fail.
The most difficult thing for me in a real business is that the goal of a targeted monetary balance/figure doesn’t motivate me like crossing the line first or proving athletes the opportunity to do so. I’m curious to see if I can develop a healthy desire to continue increasing the figures/profit of these companies.
So, where am I at now? I enjoyed my professional career as an athlete and believe (even though Gary Sutton might disagree) that I achieved my maximum potential during the period when I was competing. I look back now and see myself as an athlete who didn’t have loads of natural talent and to spite what people might think, I worked hard. I left no stone unturned, I did everything I possibly could do, to be the best I could be. I watch my athletes now and at times get frustrated because I know that there is so much more they can do to reach their maximum potential. It’s for this reason that I’m happy with my athletic career, I gave it my maximum. No rainbows (2nd twice) but the box has been ticked.
Wiggle Honda: I’ve created a team full of wonderful athletes and staff. They’re all happy and achieving their maximum. In January 2016 we will be announced as World No.1. Box ticked.
The High5 Dream Team: What an amazing group of athletes. This team has exceeded my expectations. We wanted to create a National level team that would function and operate at the level of a European Pro team in regards to professionalism. We’re preparing athletes for the next step. In their first year (2015) they won the National Road Series team’s classification. Box Ticked.
The Australian National Development Team continues. Box ticked. Athletes continue to gain exposure to European racing and this year they really stepped up by winning a UCI tour! I feel the commercialisation of this program gave the athletes a subconscious sense of pressure - resulting in victory.
Two new ‘real’ businesses registered and operating. Box ticked.
Future goals: I feel blessed to have the intense pressure of continuing to develop all the above projects – many people have expectations and that provides me with motivation!
My real focus and passion will now shift to assisting women’s cycling in the fight for more TV coverage. Everyone in my world will benefit from and appreciate what I hope to achieve with this project over the next 10 years.
Stay tuned. Mission activated.
Thanks to all my athletes, staff, sponsors & federations.