Guest Blog: Shara Gillow shares her Oceania Championships experience

On Thursday night before bed I did my usual social media check; Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. It’s like the modern day ‘bed tuck’.

One of the last tweets I saw was one saying that the Women’s Oceania Time Trial was due to get under way in ten minutes.

I had almost forgotten the Oceania Championships were on. In December I had briefly entertained the idea of flying back to Australia after The Ladies Tour of Qatar to contest the event but a combination of money and the thought of jet lag ended that faster than I finish a cupcake. Instead, I decided to resign myself to stalking the results from afar.

So when I woke up on Friday morning I did my usual social media check again; Facebook. Instagram. Twitter.  Then I went training.

Mid ride I realised I had no idea who won the Time Trial. I had an inkling that since it had been nine hours since I saw the tweet about ’10 minutes to go’ and it was only a 25kilometre time trial the race was probably over. But I hand’t seen anything.

I have a vested interest in the results of all women’s races, but in particularly the Oceania Championships.

Firstly because they’re my competitors and I like to stalk results. But secondly, because of the weight the event carries. The winner of both the Time Trial and Road Race earn an automatic spot on the Australian team for the World Championships (although this spot is not always used).

The catch is that the rider doesn’t actually take the place of anyone else.

In normal circumstances Australia could field six women at the World Championships plus the continental champion (providing they’re Australian of course).

It could be argued that, on paper, this race is actually more important than the National Championships; winning the National Championships doesn’t automatically qualify you for anything, it only gets you on the long team for Worlds. What’s more there is now an Oceania Champion jersey; the same concept of the National Champion or World Champion jersey.

So why then does the event receive such little attention? I got into a twitter conversation with one journalist about the coverage (or lack there of) and what needs to be done. He said the event was ‘largely irrelevant’ and ‘needs an overhaul’. I agree that it needs an overhaul, but it is anything but irrelevant.

I dream of the event being as coveted as the European Championships; a race many riders circle on their ‘goals’  list at the beginning of each season. And while the ‘Europeans’ are limited to the U23 category it shows just how important this race could be to riders, teams and the public if the right mentality  and attitude is attached to it.

How do we go about doing this? Well that’s not my job, but a start could be to change the date so it coincides with when the majority of Australian professionals are home.

But for now, because I wanted to know how the race was run and won I contacted the women who did just that and asked if they would be interested in helping get some information out about the event. Both obliged.

After trolling through twitter when I got back from my training ride on Friday I discovered that Shara Gillow had claimed an amazing fourth Oceania time trial title. Current Australian National time trial Champion Felicity Wardlaw finished second and New Zealand’s Rita Trotman third.

Shara has been Australia’s dominant time trialist since 2010. She represented Australia at the London Olympics and has finish in the top ten at the World Championships in the ITT. She was going for her fourth National Title this year but fell short.

However, the welcome competition brought by Bicycle Super Store’s Wardlaw obviously spurred Shara on and she came out firing on Thursday to win by 26 seconds.

I asked Shara about the race and the coverage. Here’s her blog:

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It was great having the Oceania Champs three and a half hours from where I live in Queensland. 

 I had some local reporters from WIN news doing some stuff before the Individual Time Trial (ITT) and the day of the ITT, and some sunny coast reporters doing some write ups

 On Thursday cyclingnews did a little bit of a thing too. 

Since I did my very first Oceania’s in 2011/2012 this years event would have been the best and well run, with police and officials. 

As far as I know Lucy from Cycling Australia was doing some reports here. But Oceania could bring more reporters, the more the better too!! 

And for people to being doing reports away from the event, you don’t need to be necessarily there at the event, you could be doing reports from Europe getting it straight from the horses mouth or from a good source. 

I think it is pretty cool that for the first time ever the UCI have recognised the Oceania Winner in that they can wear the Oceania Jersey in UCI races all over the world now. Big step! 

It was pretty cool to win in ITT, and to have my Mum and Dad watching. The last time they watched me race was at the 2012 London Olympics. 

For the road race the Australian National team and I were working together. We had two up the road in the break. Those two ended up getting dropped and by the time we tried to get across it was only 8km to go. 

I soloed to try and catch the leaders but needed some extra kilometres I think to pull it off. 

We were racing for the jersey as a team, not silver or bronze. That was our whole objective in the road race. But it was a good two days of racing! 

A big congrats to Jessica Allen the New Oceania Champion!

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