Shara Gillow says that she will let her legs do the talking when it comes to fighting for a World Championships spot in Bergen at the end of this month. Gillow has enjoyed one of her best seasons to date but has suffered selection disappointment too many times to count her chickens just yet.
Gillow missed a spot in Australia's squad for last year's Olympic Games and the World Championships. In fact, the last time she earned selection for the gold and green team was the 2014 Commonwealth Games. She believes that the course is one that suits her capabilities, but the past has taught her not to pin her hopes on it.
"[The course] sounds really cool, and it seems that it would suit me, but the selection for the World Championships hasn't been made. I think that it is something that I never really want to get my hopes up too much for because I missed out on selection for the Olympics," Gillow told Cyclingnews. "There is often a lot of politics involved and red tape that I don't really like. I try to let my legs do the talking. I like to focus on the races with my team and doing really well. Whatever comes with selection is a bonus.
"For the last couple of years I hardly had any UCI points and now I have got quite a few this year. I've been up there with the best in the one-day races, which are very similar to the World Championships course in terms of the terrain and the distance. It's something that I guess I know I can do really well on the course but you have to be selected for it, and I'm not one of the selectors."
If Gillow were to earn selection, it would top off what has been an extremely solid season for the 29-year-old. There have been no wins as yet, but there have been some close calls and a decent spring campaign, which brought top-10 finishes at Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and fifth at La Course in July means that she is in the top 20 in the world rankings. After playing the domestique role more often than not in recent years with teammates such as Marianne Vos, Anna van der Breggen and Kasia Niewiadoma to look after, Gillow believes she has made a step forward in her performances this year.
"I feel like I can be up there and playing for the win. It's really nice because it's the first time with the team," she said. "It's like [the team has] believed that I can do it. I've always believed that I can go for the win in races and to get really good results, but it's really nice to have a team backing you and have trust that you can do this."
Gillow is in her first season with the fledgling FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope team after signing up at the end of last season. After time on an Australian squad and most recently a Dutch outfit, it was a bit of a culture shock, but Gillow has enjoyed it.
"The culture, the racing tactics and everything is really different, but it has all been very positive," said Gillow. "I'm a pretty adaptable person, and when we're on the road together you're living and racing with the same girls on the team so I think you have to get used to it. I come from a really big family, so I'm pretty used to sharing."
The Australian was one of only three non-French riders to join the FDJ squad, with Eri Yonamine and Roxanne Knetemann the other two. Settling into the team has meant the added challenge of learning a new language, one that Gillow was eager to take up.
"The language barrier hasn't been that bad because I'm willing to learn the language and I've been pretty good with that," she said. "Something that I've wanted to do for a while is to learn to speak a different language and French fluently, so it has been fun. Of course it is a little bit challenging sometimes but I'm really keen, and I think that it's really important to learn the language."
Gillow has enjoyed her time with FDJ so much this year that she has penned a three-year extension to her current contract with the team. With four years at least on the French squad, it will be the longest stay at a single team since her three-year spell at Orica-AIS between 2012 and 2014. Her career began with a six-month stint at the Spanish Bizkaia-Durango team and was at Rabobank-Liv for two years before making the switch last winter. After living from season to season, it is a new feeling to tie herself down for such a long period of time, but she is confident in her choice.
"It can be daunting when you think 'oh my gosh, three years what have I done?'" she said. "Obviously, I was really happy with the team, and I have trust that the team will get bigger and better. This is the reason why I've committed with the team for three years. Before, I've only ever signed for one year at a time, so it's a big commitment, but it is something that I think is important to have the confidence in the team and the way that the structure is and I think that it can only get better than this."