High5 Dream Team nurtures talented Australian female cyclists

Members of the team in action in the TDU women's series
Members of the team in action in the TDU women’s series

A couple of weeks ago word got out via a few media outlets that Cycling Australia has suspended its European based women’s development program with budgetary pressures cited as the reason for the decision. Within a week, an announcement came out that a new Australian women’s team will grace the domestic circuit with the creation of the High5 Dream Team. It seemed like a lucky coincidence at the time but it now seems that two are actually inter-related.

The High5 Dream Team is the brainchild of Australian cyclist Rochelle Gilmore as a way to offer more professional support, guidance and direction for talented Australian female cyclists. Last year Rochelle met with the high performance coach of Cycling Australia and discovered that the high performance program would be ‘paused’ due to financial pressures on the organisation.

Rochelle got on the phone to some of the riders that would be affected and was appalled to learn that many of them would actually be forced to leave the sport because there was no where to go for them. Spurred on by a desire to help these women stay with cycling, in two months she pulled together the NRS team.

“I couldn’t have got this team off the ground without the full commitment of all the team members. They are all 100 per cent behind the team and with that sort of dedication I know we can’t fail,” said Rochelle over lunch last week in Cronulla, her Australian base over summer.

Rochelle Gilmore has proven herself over the past couple of years as the owner of women’s UCI pro team Wiggle Honda which is British registered and for this reason, the number of Australian athletes who that team can cater for, is limited to three.

Eight athletes have been selected through Cycling Australia’s State Institute network programs to form the High5 Dream Team. These riders have been identified as having potential to represent their nation at Commonwealth, World or Olympic level during the next few years.

“All the team members have development potential, and to me that doesn’t mean they have to be young. Some of the team members like Kimberley Wells will be on a two year development program, while the younger members might be on a seven year program. Kimberley has also been chosen as a leader within the team. The younger ones will learn about sacrificing their own chances in a race to work for a leader. It’s all part of their development,” said Rochelle.

The High5 Dream Team will be managed and directed by Donna Rae-Szalinski, of the Victorian Institute of Sport with the aim of acting as a pathway to Europe for the riders.

Rochelle says she took two weeks to draft up the contract that each High5 Dream Team member is required to sign. “It’s more focused on what is expected of them as a team member like promoting the sport of women’s cycling, giving back to fans and followers, and how to work with sponsors and their products.” “I will personally educate our athletes on how to promote themselves, their sponsors and their sport. I’m really looking forward to working with our enthusiastic & motivated athletes. “It’s our ambition to assist these athletes in gaining elite national team selections and also, when ready, placing them into European based UCI professional cycling teams,” added Rochelle.

The High5 Dream Team will participate in the women’s national road series located across the nation throughout 2015.

To compliment this initiative, Rochelle has also announced that she will provide five to six Australian based athletes the opportunity to be selected and sent to Europe for six weeks of international UCI racing experience in a professional team environment during August 2015. They won’t necessarily be High5 Dream Team members but they could be. High5 Dream Team: Kimberley Wells, Georgia Baker, Jess Mundy, Tessa Fabry, Kendelle Hodges, Ellen Skerritt, Sam de Riter, Rebecca Wiasak and Lauren Perry.