• Rebecca Wiasak has been one of the top athletes for the High5 Dreamteam, here pictured winning at Amy's Otway Tour (Cycling Australia)Source: Cycling Australia
Pathways for the development of women road cyclists are looking thin on the ground at the moment, with no national development team for next season and the likelihood of the sport losing one of its best local outfits.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

6 Dec 2017 - 9:49 AM  UPDATED 7 Dec 2017 - 1:03 PM

Team owner, former elite rider and commentator, Rochelle Gilmore, has a close connection with the development of Australian riders. She has been integral to setting up and funding the High5 Dream Team, which races the National Road Series (NRS) and Australian UCI ranked races, the High5 national development team, which has five local riders spend a few months racing in Europe, and Women's WorldTour powerhouse Wiggle High5.

It's now looking like two of those teams won't be running next season, a situation Gilmore outlined in an interview with Cycling Central.

"The decision isn't 100 per cent made yet, maybe 90 per cent," Gilmore said. "But it seems likely that the High5 Dream Team won't be running next year. That's due to the fact that Cycling Australia (CA) are not willing to fund or resource the national development team. I say fund, but in the last few years I've fully funded the national team and they've provided some resourcing.

"I find it difficult to invest in a women's team locally when there's not the infrastructure or pathway for riders to get to Europe. The High5 Dream Team was set up to provide a professional environment for female riders to enable them to take that next step and make a career in cycling.

"It's difficult to justify investing in that structure when there's not that next step (the national team). We also had some help with staffing costs from the combined state institutes within Australia, under the banner of CA, which won't be the case next year."

The funding decision from CA comes in the wake of an increased shift in resources to the track, with the focus on winning Olympic medals in 2020.

Is Cycling Australia's focus the right one?
Cycling Australia (CA) has defined its high performance direction for the next few years. The press release was titled 'Inspiring a nation through Olympic and Paralympic medals', confirming a shift in high performance funding to going all-in with a push for Olympic medals.

The decision doesn't come without personal cost for Gilmore, who as well as money and time, invested a lot of emotion into both of the projects. 

"I'm really hurt. Hurt, frustrated and a bit pissed off. Whilst the riders in the High5 Dream Team didn't necessarily hear from me that often, it gave me a lot of pleasure that I was able to give them the opportunity with some of the best equipment and support that they could have at the NRS level. 

"It's different from the riders who get picked for the track and head off to World Championships and Commonwealth Games. They rightly have expectations about what support they should get, whereas the High5 girls are always appreciative of every little thing. I'm obviously very sad that I can't continue to do that."

In September, CA announced that it wouldn't be continuing its support for the women's national development team, the decision which prompted concerns in relation to the NRS team.

The national development team has been the building block for almost all the current crop of female elite stars of the road. Indeed, it's difficult to find many that made their way to higher levels of the sport without the help of the national team. Gilmore counts herself proudly as one of the graduates of the program and credits it with kick-starting her career. 

"It's really disappointing to hear the national team will end," she said. "It's a program that I've supported for a number of years and was also the way I got over to Europe. At the time my family situation wasn't as strong as it is now and I don't know if I would ever have been able to make it over there and have a career in the sport without that. I've got it to thank for a wonderful 15 years or so in the sport."

With development pathways outside the national team a tenuous proposition, Gilmore expressed her worry at the prospect of the national team being dropped for 2018.

"If the national team stops for a year, like anything, it's going to be very hard to bring back. Especially with so much focus from CA on the Tokyo Olympics. If it is just one year without the team, I'm not sure that it will be a big blow, but if that stretches to three or four years it will be a big issue."

Cycling Australia was contacted for comment and declined to go on the record on short notice but indicated their willingness to discuss the topic in the near future.