Wiggle-High5 team manager Rochelle Gilmore has spoken in support of Dani King's efforts to gain selection for the Great Britain team at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Gilmore also revealed to Cyclingnews that King would leave Wiggle-High5 at the end of the 2016 season.
"I have been Dani's team manager since she won gold in London nearly four years ago," Gilmore said. "I truly believe she did everything she could to earn selection, and it has been extremely difficult to see her endure another shocking career setback.
"There is nothing more Dani could have done to gain this Olympic selection. She sacrificed home life and [personal] sponsor income to ensure she would be doing everything right during the selection period. Dani raced every targeted race fit and healthy and with good morale. She was always positive."
While the official announcement from the British Olympic Association is expected on Friday, The Telegraph listed King among the riders not selected for the Olympics in an article on Wednesday. King, who was quoted in The Telegraph story, took to Twitter on Wednesday evening to confirm that she had received the news of her non-selection last week.
"Dani received the news confidentially on the 13th of June, and she was devastated," said Gilmore. "Luckily she was with her Wiggle-High5 teammates and could be comforted ahead of the Aviva Women's Tour where she raced with some seriously strong and confusing emotions. Still, she was a great asset to the team."
Great Britain's Rio Olympic Games road racing trio
The UCI announced nations and numbers for the women's cycling road events at the Rio Olympic Games last month. Great Britain secured three riders for the road race and one for the time trial. The rider who races the time trial must also race the road race.
World champion Lizzie Armitstead was awarded an automatic berth on the team thanks to her world title last September. Armitstead's teammate, Nikki Harris, has reportedly secured the second road-only spot based on a strong Classics campaign. While not reported, it is widely assumed that the third spot has gone to Emma Pooley.
Pooley time trialled to an Olympic silver medal in Beijing in 2008 and was the 2010 time trial world champion. A climber, Pooley twice finished second overall at the Giro Rosa before she retired in 2014 to focus on triathlon. She announced her comeback to the sport this spring and has since raced two road races – the Women's Tour de Yorkshire and the Aviva Women's Tour.
While the hilly courses in Rio de Janeiro suit Pooly's strengths, her performances on home roads were troubling. She placed 66th in Yorkshire, and at the Aviva Women's Tour, where she finished 45th overall, she spent much of the race off the back of the bunch.
By contrast, King had a strong spring, securing personal results while playing a crucial support role for her teammates. She started her season in Australia where she finished fourth overall and won the mountains classification at the Santos Women's Tour – while supporting her teammates to a 1-2 finish on the second stage of the race. King was third at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, 14th at Strade Bianche,12th at Pajot Hills Classic, 7th at the Philadelphia Cycling Classic and 11th overall at both the Aviva Women's Tour and the Amgen Tour of California.
"Dani really values these top results and was hoping they'd help with the final selection," said Gilmore. "She often helped her team leaders during races and was still able to sprint into the top ten."
King's Transition from Track to Road
King joined Wiggle-Honda in 2013 alongside Laura Trott, Joanna Rowsell and Elinor Barker. King, Trott and Roswell were fresh off team pursuit gold at the 2012 London Olympics, and the quartet was meant to remain firmly focused on the track while racing on the road.
Two years later, Trott, Rowsell and Barker left the team as planned, downscaling their road programmes to return to the track. King, who was cut from the track programme, remained on the road team.
"My observation was that the track programme had found some new talent in Katie Archibald," noted Gilmore. "Dani slid out of the track programme while Katie was sliding in. Dani also had a serious road accident in late 2014 that saw her off the bike for a while and then officially cut from the GB-funded track squad.
"Our team kicked off back in 2013 with support from Shane Sutton and British Cycling in order to give their Olympic champion team pursuit squad two years of hard road racing before they'd be swept back up on the track for the last two years of specific pre-Grames track prep. Dani had now officially been excluded from this track programme."
King made it clear that she wanted to focus on making the Rio Olympics on the road. For Gilmore, it wasn't so simple. King's contract was up for renewal ahead of the 2016 season, and Gilmore needed to know the commitment extended beyond the individual and to the team.
"The transition into a full-time road position was challenging for Dani on many levels," said Gilmore. "Dani needed to become a full-time roadie not only physically but also mentally. Her track mentality was a special one. She was conditioned to demanding special needs and felt that she could pick and choose her races. Her agent also wanted to pick out a few categories where Dani could use product in direct competition with product used by the team to gain additional income, ultimately limiting the team's sponsorship and income."
Contract details were negotiated. Dotted lines were signed.
"From the start of the season, it became very clear that Dani wanted to do everything she possibly could to make the Olympic road team," said Gilmore. "My staff was 100 percent behind Dani's goal to go to the Olympics again.
"Dani was demonstrating all the attributes required to reach the level of fitness, skill and strength needed to assist Lizzie in winning a gold medal in Rio. Her life was all about this selection, and she had the full support from her professional team staff, teammates, parents, partner Matt [Rowe] and agent Steve [Fry]. She had a wonderful support crew who allowed her to be the best she could be – and she was. Dani's performances in 2016 have exceeded everyone's expectations.
"I know how hard Dani fought for this selection and how much she wanted it," said Gilmore. "I'm sharing her hurt and pain right now. My heart is with her."
Gilmore has revealed exclusively to Cyclingnews that King will leave Wiggle High5 at the end of the season. The day King learned of her non-selection, she informed Gilmore that she would not be renewing her contract for 2017.
"I initially thought that she was going to retire," said Gilmore. "Fortunately, that's not the case. Dani will search for a new team where she can be the leader in order to reach her full potential.
"Dani will be dearly missed by all of us at Wiggle High5," Gilmore added. "I wish her the very best with her new team and career."