Shara Gillow will be racing in the new team colours of FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope in 2017 after two years with Rabobank, but the Australian will start by chasing the familiar goal of the national time trial title to start off her season early next month in Ballarat. In 2015, Gillow won her fourth time trial crown in her first Rabobank outing and is hoping she can be again successful on debut for a new team.
"I am really looking to racing it and going for my fifth national title. Kathy Watt has been the only women to do that so far and by winning it would tie with her," the soon to be 29-year-old Gillow told Cyclingnews. With four top-ten's in the road race, Gillow is also aiming to do the double and claim a debut road national title.
Gillow won her national titles in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015 to suggest that 2017 could see her continue her run of winning on odd number years. During her two years with Rabobank, the time trial wasn't so much a focus for Gillow compared to previous years but the Queenslander is keen to re-focus on the discipline starting with the nationals.
"Over the last two years, it has been something I haven't really worked on. We have done some team time trial stuff but my individual time trial I am really wanting to do some more of that next year. Time trials in stage races is also something I would like to get back into it again," said Gillow whose sole with Rabobank was her 2015 time trial title.
With FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, Gillow is also looking forward to having greater opportunity to pursue her own personal ambitions in one-day races and riding GC in stage races as she explained.
"I was looking for a new opportunity. It was great while it was with Rabobank, stepping out from the Australian set up which I had been with for six years. Three years with the national team and three years with Orica-AIS so coming out of that and doing two years with Rabobank, I think it is good to step out of that," she said of what attracted her to the new team.
Second overall at the Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen, fourth at the Giro Rosa, and second overall at the Gracia Orlova in 2016 hint at Gillow's stage racing potential and she is excited to test her capabilities with support from her team as she added.
"I have always been a domestique rider and I have never had anybody working for me. In races, you get your opportunity but a lot of races you don't go in as a protected rider. Also, a complete change of environment. One of the things I was looking for was what races they would do and how big the team will be, what the resources will be, the sponsor, and all those things which are really important to making a team good."
Gillow is also committed to her teammates' personal chances and is more than happy to ride as a domestique when required, particularly with the experience she gathered while riding with the likes of Marianne Vos, Anna van der Breggen and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot at Rabobank.
"I love being a domestique and I will keep on being a domestique but to be a protected rider in races and a team leader is really something I am looking forward to. I have won some races before, I have been in the leaders jersey in the giro rosa, one of the biggest women's races in Europe, and that was without being the protected rider," she said of the first race she ever did in Europe back in 2009. "I have been in races and won race in which I haven't been the protected rider so it will be the first time. There are also younger girls on the team and to be a mentor to them as well is something I am really looking forward to."
Gillow missed the Rio Games in August having been a London 2012 Olympian and explained that rather than dwell on the disappointment, she using the experience as motivation for future success and a return to winning with her new team.
"I feel really stronger for it having missed out on the Olympic Games. I have been before so I know what it is like and I know what it is to race at that level so it was hard but I think it has really helped me in the long run," said Gillow who is focused on "winning some races and doing the best that I can with my new team" in 2017 with the Worlds team time trial a major goal for the new season.