• Shara Gillow in action at the 2017 Strade Bianche (FDJ NAquitaine Futuroscope Instagram)
Aussie Shara Gillow (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) appeared as if from nowhere to animate last Saturday's Strade Bianche, ultimately finishing sixth. It was the perfect illustration for Gillow's career and where she wants it to go.
By
Rachel de Bear

Source:
Cycling Central
10 Mar - 9:48 AM  UPDATED 10 Mar - 9:49 AM

It's no exaggeration the women's Strade Bianche last Saturday was so good, it must be a contender for one of 2017's best cycling races. Shara Gillow's performance had a large bit to do with that.  

In just five kilometres, Gillow came from the back of the main bunch, 30 seconds in arrears and at seven kilometres to go, to catch and then attack the race leaders with just two kilometres left to race.

She and Lucinda Brand (Sunweb) looked set to fight for the win alone with just the final steep cobbled ramp to the finish in Siena's Piazza del Campo left before them. But that ramp's a killer and it took its toll, the five race favourites returning to bludgeon past Brand and Gillow.

Longo Borghini victorious in vintage Strade Bianche
In just its third edition, the women's 2017 Strade Bianche bore all the hallmarks of a monument raced for over 100 years, Italian Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) proving the victor in a highly animated finale.

Ask Gillow though, she barely noticed. 

"The atmosphere was amazing... the crowds,' she said. "I was with Lucinda, she's a good mate of mine, to be up there with her... it was pretty funny going up that hill with her and hearing the crowds roar."

"It took away the pain." 

In the closing kilometres, her team had no idea where she was or that she had attacked because of poor time checks and radio coverage.

"I could only hear my DS in the radio in the last 700 metres. This is when they came in contact again and realised I was up the road and in the lead.

"Everyone that was in the team car was ecstatic and going crazy. And all I could hear in the radio was "go Shara, go Shara, go Shara, go Shara, ,allez, allez, allez "!

"Just the atmosphere in my new team, it's really special." 

The conversation then turned naturally to her move to FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, a deal she'd tied up by September last year. Gillow heard talk of her then team evolving into what is now WM3 Pro Cycling based around Marianne Vos and a bunch of other star riders post-Rabobank. It was the perfect catalyst for Gillow's next step. 

"For the last seven years, especially the last two at Rabobank and three at Orica, I was never the leader, or the protected rider," she said.

"I thought this was the time."

"And FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope - they've been amazing. I'm really happy."

 

Her main goals, at least for the first half of the season, centre around two hilly races that suit her. "I'm leader for the (Italian race) Trofeo Alfredo Binda and La Flèche Wallonne Féminine (in Belgium)," she said. 

But the Noosa native will ride all the major Classics and Women's World Tour races and no doubt be an option if she's still in the mix at the pointy end of these races.  

And she didn't think it was too early to start talking World Championships. 

"I'm always looking for an opportunity to ride the worlds. Especially in the time trial and the team time trial."

For now though, Gillow's description of last Saturday's Strade Bianche finale could easily be a metaphor for so many things. 

"It's a race of attrition. Girls falling off the back, girls crashing. All day I sat in. 

"I was at the back of the second group. I saw them up the road. I was going off feeling. I had to go.

"I had nothing to lose."

But it's hard not to shake the idea it's the perfect illustration for her career thus far and now where she wants it to go.  

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Gillow's next in action at Ronde Van Drenthe (11 March 2017) and the major Classics including Ronde Van Vlaanderen (2 April 2017) and Amstel Gold (16 April 2017). 

The two main races she's targeting are Trofeo Alfredo Binda (19 March 2017) and La Fleche Wallone Feminine (19 April 2017).

Find more details on the UCI Women's WorldTour website here. You can find Shara Gillow's procycling stats page here