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Ups and downs in France

Rochelle Gilmore wins

Rochelle Gilmore wins (Image credit: Rochelle Gilmore)

August 21, 2007

The Route de France was meant to be a long, profitable tour, but in the end it turned out to be a rather short and painful race.

I finished 10th in the prologue on the first day and then picked up a victory in stage one. My tour finished at the end of stage two when I crashed hard 70 metres from the line.

My 10th place in the 2.2-kilometre prologue, five seconds down from the winner, was an indicator that I had good form. I rarely take prologues or time trials very seriously, but this course started with a rather technical section for the first 500 metres which I was excited about. Even though all the strong riders were on their fancy TT bikes, I decided to ride my standard bike - without aero bar extensions. The aero bars might have helped me gain those two seconds I needed to finish second! The last kilometre was straight and windy and that's where I 'hit the wall' and lost time.

I remember lying on the massage table that night after the prologue and saying "I can't wait to sprint tomorrow."

Stage one was 130 kilometres from Fecamp to Elbeuf with two GPM climbs in the last 40 kilometres. I was able to stay at the front of the group on the climbs and remain fresh for the sprint. My Menikini Selle Italia Gysco team-mates knew I was pumped for a sprint; they did a great job at keeping the race together in the final kilometres. It was a young Australian - Peta Mullens - who started a strong, impressive lead-out with 500 metres to go. We hit an uphill, cobbled section with just over 200 metres to go and I kicked for the line to take the first stage of the 2007 Route de France. I won comfortably ahead of Australian National Team rider Belinda Goss and Russian Svetlana Bubnenkova (Fenxis - HPB).

Stage two is still playing over and over in my mind. The stage was 103 kilometres from Neufchatel en Bray to Gournay en Bray with one GPM at 10 kilometres and another closer to the finish at 85 kilometres. Once again I climbed towards the front of the group; this time I received/required a little assistance from my Spanish team-mate Eneritz Iturriaga in order to crest the climb with the leaders.

The sprint was to be as simple as the day before. I was taken all the way to the 200-metre to go post by my team-mate Sigrid Corneo. We had taken some fast technical corners in the last 600 metres and managed to put a gap between myself and the riders behind. When Sigrid swung off to the left I rolled past and she yelled out "alley alley alley." I turned back to look at her as I thought we'd just missed a left turn at 200 metres to go (where the car deviation might have been). I grabbed my brakes for a split second while another rider rolled up alongside my back wheel (Belinda Goss). I started to kick again with less then 100 metres to go when I was hit from behind on the left… I can't explain exactly what happened, I was drifting slightly to the left but I was well aware of the rider (who was Belinda Goss) at my left rear wheel and I thought/knew that there was room for her on the left. Just as I was about to put my head up and charge for the line I felt Belinda's front wheel hit my back wheel and maybe her spokes caught my rear skewer? We both came down hard. I asked the commissaries for an explanation of what they saw, they said that we collided and that was that. I wish Belinda the fastest possible recovery.

My tour from that moment has been extremely painful. I raced the following day, stage three from Beauvais to Argenteuil, 101 kilometres. I did not yet know the extent of my injury and thought that there was a chance it could get better day by day. I had skin off both shoulders and a badly bruised hip. However, the most uncomfortable pain that I was experiencing was deep inside my shoulder and around my previously broken collarbone. I endured the stage until 10 kilometres to go before sitting up and pretty much riding with one arm to the finish.

My team-mate Dorte Rasmussen won the stage in a two person breakaway and also took the leader's jersey!

After the finish I went with the race ambulance to the hospital for x-rays. Nothing was broken so I felt like a bit of a wuzz. I went to bed thinking about starting the following day. Stage four was dead flat and if I could have just got to the finish… I'd have enjoyed another chance to sprint!

Stage four: 94 kilometres from Saintry Sur Seine to Amilly started at 10am. I spent half an hour before the start with the race doctor who had recommended that I did not start. He sprayed my shoulder with ice freeze spray, and then he strapped my shoulder with some strong tape before I rolled off the line. I only made it one kilometre into the seven kilometres of neutral before calling my director on the race radio to inform him that I could not possibly continue with the pain. When I tried to stand up out of the saddle the pain around the clavicle was too sharp and excruciating to tolerate, I dismounted the bike in tears of pain and disappointment - my tour was over!

My team-mate Dorte Rasmussan won the stage in a big bunch kick- I wasn't needed after all! That's three stage wins for Menikini Selle Italia Gysco - and the leader's jersey!

I could not find an airport closer than 200 kilometres away, or a suitable flight back to Italy so I had no choice but to stay on tour with my team. The following day I found a hospital in Epinal and had an ultrasound and an MRI scan of my shoulder. The doctor said that it was difficult for him to see clearly due to the seven-centimetre metal pin in my right shoulder, apparently the metal interferes with the scans. The report concluded that I had no "serious" damage, although it demonstrated multiple contusions in the front area of the shoulder.

It has now been five days since the accident and I'm still experiencing pain with the slightest movements of my right arm. Still, I'm hoping to be back on the bike on Monday, a week after the accident.

I anticipate that my next race should be in France on September 1st at the next round of the World Cup, the GP de Plouay.

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Rochelle Gilmore...