August 27, 2010

You think you’re tough?

Sharman Parr, 56 years old and has qualified for Kona Hawaii Ironman no less than five times and I haven’t even grazed the surface of her achievements and ability. Parr is leading the SheSpoke Cycle Wear team through the hottest, and hardest mountain bike race in the world; the Crocodile Trophy.

Although Parr is convinced that she has no athletic ability at all, she considers her abilities a mixture of tenacity and persistence. Parr tells me that the Crocodile Trophy is the equivalent of ten Ironman races back to back, there is no doubt that this woman is without fear and she is out to prove it.

It hasn’t all been fun. During the Kona Hawaii Ironman, Parr was blown from her bike in 60km/h winds. During the Ironman Japan, she mistakenly drank her own urine in the bike leg, and she has vomited noodles out her nose at a race commonly knows as Satan’s Velodrome (Simpson Desert 5 Mountain Bike Race) where she was also the first women to start and finish.

Rowena Scott of Bicycles Network Australia (BNA) caught up with Sharman to find out exactly how tough this 56 year old power house really is.

BNA: You qualified for Kona Hawaii Ironman 5 times, it’s an amazing achievement, but it doesn’t even begin to cover all your achievements, what drives you to compete?

Parr: Many reasons really but mostly to prove you can be a fearless femme. I just love any chance to push myself and stretch my personal limits in endurance race events. It’s an addictive self fulfilling thing and it comes down to this amazing ultimate challenge of you against your self. I just thrive on how I have learnt over the past 25 years, or more to ignore the warning signs of exhaustion pain and doubt. I just seem to push myself on into another zone. I just love to be able to test my mind and body. I don’t have any athletic ability but just the tenacity and persistence. The tougher it gets the tougher I get. So I just never give up even if I cry, vomit noodles out my nose, drink my own urine or crash. I try to let people think I am enjoying the journey and always try to smile. Wear perfume, pink lipstick and motivate other woman.

BNA: You rode the Simpson Desert 5 Mountain Bike Race and you where the first ever women to finish, how does it make you feel?

Parr: Pleased to achieve a first for woman in sport. It also convinced me that my mind is the most powerful organ of them all. It was a very tough race nicknamed Satan’s Velodrome as it was so hot 47 degrees with 396 sand dunes on day 2. I always believe girls can do anything if they want to.

BNA: You where with the Jungle Patrol Wilderness Medicine Team at the Crocodile Trophy in 2009 where you had to provide potentially lifesaving first aid to a Dutch rider, who sustained head injuries, are you hoping for a less adventurous race this year?

Parr: I will not be surprised if we give first aid on the course especially as one of my fearless team mates is a Paramedic (one of only two women in Cairns who go in the Rescue Helicopter). I have over the years, a history of finding fellow wounded riders. One of our team mates in the Croc last year Andrew Graham also crashed and he needed 8 sutures. Amazingly, he rode the last 50kms of a stage with only vision in one eye.

BNA: You have done 13 Ironman races, sounds to me like you were born with the ability to suffer, and how brutal is this race?

Parr: Please do not tell my team mates, it’s brutal!!!! If you do not have a couple of male domestiques to tow you… you will be singing; it’s a fine line between pleasure and pain. It’s not called the worlds hardest, longest, hottest and most adventurous mountain bike race in the world for nothing. For me it was like doing 10 Hawaii ironman and was tougher than any of the 10 day XPD adventure races I have done. It’s a race where you are pushing your self to the limit every day trying to go as fast as you can against the elements. Then at the end of each day you are in the middle of no where for the night camping.

BNA: What are the biggest obstacles that you and the team will face on the trails?

Parr: We are in the same race as the world class professional riders with lots of young male riders. As mere amateurs we are racing against the clock to not be last in.

The extreme heat, dust, rocks and dry creek beds! Trying not to succumb to heat stress.

Chaffing is savage due to the rough tracks so good cycle gear and chamois cream will be truly tested.

Mechanical worries for us girls in the middle of know where and no phone coverage.

Not crashing on the technical stages, you just pray you survive some of the descents.

Riding kilometres in the sand and heat, one stage has 80km and sand with hills in the distance looking like a centipede.

BNA: What expectations do you have for yourself this year?

Parr: At 56 years old, none for me. I want to be one of 7 female starters to finish, and I’m old enough to be a mother to some of the pros. It’s about our great SheSpoke Cycle Wear team. Ret is a little dynamo on the hills and Maree is a time trial Queen. As we all work and do not have the luxury of full time training it will be about the journey to the finish line and of course beating a few men. This year is about making history for woman, with the first ever team to finish in the 15 year race history, so, go girl power!

I must also mention though that my husband of 25 years is also racing again in an Aussie men’s team. So it’s always so great to have him as usual waiting for me at the finish

BNA: What was the best moment of last year’s race?

Parr: The finish having a decent shower, receiving my finishers trophy and still able to wear high heels

BNA: Do you have any advice for women who are about to give up?

Parr: Read the book by sport psychologist Terry Orlick called, In Pursuit of Excellence, before they start. Tell them to be a fearless femme and not let the men have all the glory, hop on my wheel and I will get them to the finish line. Otherwise I will give them my two wrists bands- pink for breast cancer and black which says H.T.F.U.
Bicycles Network Australia wishes Sharman Parr and the SheSpoke Cycle Wear Team lots of luck and determination for the savage race that is the 2010 Crocodile Trophy (starts October 19, 2010 in Cairns).

Further information about the Crocodile Trophy can be found at, information about SheSpoke cycle wear and the team can also be found at

August 26, 2010

Rochelle Gilmore: A cut above the rest

"I think about winning and beating the person next to me" – Rochelle Gilmore.

The list of medals alongside Rochelle Gilmore's name is extensive; she has silver medals from the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester and the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006 (Track). Now, she really wants gold.

Rochelle is a focused cyclist and strategically plans each race to achieve goals that most of us would think impossible, she doesn't drink coffee and never touches alcohol, and she admits freely that if she were not a cyclist she would be rich. Gilmore’s attitude, and the way she describes herself is what I would expect from a pure sprinter, she is her own judge, jury and executioner.

Gilmore is the team manager for the Honda Dream Team and the Lotto Ladies Team as well as being a cyclist for both teams. Along with training, racing and leading two successful teams Gilmore has found the time to develop her own clothing label (RMGsport). There are certainly not enough hours in the day for this young woman; there is no sign of her slowing or stopping either and why would she? She’s not even thirty years old.

Rochelle Gilmore discusses racing and crashing in the 2010 Giro d’Italia, the decision to race the 2010 Commonwealth Games over the 2010 World Championships and her desire to win gold with Rowena Scott for Bicycles Network Australia (BNA).

BNA: You’re incredibly good at winning; you’re a three time World Cup medallist, you have two world championship silver medals on the track, your a Commonwealth Games medallist twice, two time stage winner at the Giro d’Italia, a route de France stage winner and you have many other accolades to your name. What’s the next goal?

Gilmore: My next goal is the Commonwealth Games Road Race on the 10th of October- the goal is to win. I have silver medals from Manchester 2002, and Melbourne 2006 (track) and to be honest, I really won’t be happy with another silver medal. It’s a mental game, it’s dangerous to want it too much but as the event draws closer- my desire to win get’s stronger.

Rochelle Gilmore Win

BNA: Do you have one race that stands out as being your best win? Can you describe the emotion for us?

Gilmore: My best win was the Road World Cup in Geelong, 2005. My coach- Warren McDonald and my Step Father- David Dicker were both there, they are two of my biggest supporters and they directly contribute to my success. They really believe in me, sometimes more than I do in myself! It was a feeling of ‘proof’ if that makes sense?

The previous year at the same race I believed that I could win with 500m to go but unfortunately I pulled my foot out of my pedal during the sprint (finishing 5th) and I had to wait one year to prove that I could win on that circuit with that particular finish! I couldn’t make excuses out loud but I knew that it was the perfect race and finish for me, so I endured one year waiting to prove it. Winning in 2005 was a feeling of satisfaction that I’d achieved something I believed I could do, it was a feeling of gratefulness for the time, effort and belief that Wazza and David had put into me. It was a feeling of proof that I had a future as a road rider after years of focusing on the track.

BNA: You’ve chosen the Commonwealth Games over the World Championships, what made you make that choice?

Gilmore: My choice was based on the desire to win. The Commonwealth Games circuit is specifically suited to a road sprinter. I am a pure road sprinter. Winning the Commonwealth Games will require a very particular preparation in order to be powerful on the flat.

The reason I decided to continue with my pure power sprinting preparation is simple; the Commonwealth Games in 2010 are dead flat, the World Championships in 2011 are relatively flat and…. The Olympics in 2012 are also on a sprinters city circuit. I’m excited.  Comm Games, Worlds then Olympics- all circuits are favourable to the sprinters.

Rochelle Gilmore Honda

BNA: You crashed heavily in stage two of the Giro d’Italia, how does it feel to pull out of a race even though you have pushed yourself through more stages than you thought you would, do you feel as though you’re letting the team down?

Gilmore: I can’t say I’ve ever felt like I’ve let the team down because I always give everything I can on the day and they know that’s as much as I can give. It’s very common for athletes to be able to get more out of themselves when they are working for the team, rather than for themselves. It’s a very satisfying feeling because without the fear of personal failure and with the desire to contribute to success- your body can reach new limits. If I could have continued at the Giro I would have. I couldn’t even dress myself or brush my own hair, I could barely walk but for some reason I thought I could finish the Giro d’Italia… it wasn’t possible this time.

BNA: How did you end up managing both the Honda Dream Team and the Lotto Ladies?

RG: It was my desire to offer women including myself a pleasant working environment that saw me get so involved in team management. My motivation to obtain sponsors and funding in order to build these teams resulted in what are now the Honda Dream Team and Lotto Ladies Team- sponsored by Honda. I think/hope all the riders of the HDT and LLT have been satisfied with the treatment and respect they have received as professional female cyclists.

BNA: How did Honda come on board, how supportive have they been?

Gilmore: At the end of 2009 I returned to Australia early to participate in an event which was sponsored by Honda - the Honda Hybrid Women’s Tour in Victoria. On the flight back to Australia I drafted a strategy in order to get Honda interested in starting a woman’s cycling team.

My strategy and approach was very detailed and my motivation to impress Honda was high. My strategy first involved winning the Honda Hybrid Women’s tour with a strong and professional team. I entered this race as Team HP (sponsored by HP) and selected a couple of very talented and promotable women to represent Team HP and win the event. We did a little PR training together before the event- we won and we impressed Honda on and off the bike. It was only days later when I started negotiations with Honda, working towards the launch of the Honda Dream Team in December.

Honda’s support in cycling- specifically women’s cycling has been amazing! It really is what women’s cycling needed. There are a few guys on the board at Honda who put a lot of faith into this somewhat new marketing strategy (for Honda) and we will be forever grateful to those guys! Honda reported that they received over $2million worth of exposure last season so fortunately we’ve proved that it was a profitable decision and it- the Honda Dream Team has been a huge success.

BNA: You’re a world class cyclist who manages two teams and your own clothing label (RMGsports) where do you find the time and the energy?

Gilmore: I don’t find enough time! I’m always trying to get on top of things. I manage to work with energy and enthusiasm because I do get a lot of satisfaction out of finalizing plans, bookings, contracts etc… I thrive on the work until I physically crack, then I close my computer and have a nap or watch a DVD.

Rochelle Gilmore Manager

BNA: How do you reach your goals? Do you plan out the process?

Gilmore: I’m a big planner, in cycling and in business- I like to have a clear goal, make a plan and then work towards it.

BNA: Does confidence come easily to you or is it something that you’ve had to work on over the years?

Gilmore: Confidence on the bike doesn’t come easily to me; confidence in life off the bike comes naturally. Confidence on the bike is my weakness. I’m generally a very confident person in life off the bike but when it comes to the end of a race I will too often doubt myself. It’s something I’ve worked on with the AIS psychologists for years and we’re starting to make real progress… I’ve pulled off some great wins in my career so there are evidently times when my confidence is high- or high enough!

BNA: Any advice out there for women who are wanting to race for the first time?

Gilmore: Don’t be intimidated. I will let you in on a secret; when we pro women are out on a Sunday bunch ride and you casual female cyclists are puffing and panting on the climbs it would appear that we’re not hurting- that’s not the case, we’re just trained to hide our pain and suffering! The difference in our fitness levels is often not that much- so come along and have a race- I’m sure you’ll be surprised.

BNA: You don’t have a lot of down time, when it does happen, how do you handle that time? Do you find it boring? Does it affect your racing?

Gilmore: I’ve never been bored. I’ve always been a VERY busy person. I’m the type of person who will never be satisfied with only 24hrs in a day. There is always something more to do. When I was younger I couldn’t sit still, I never watched television or read books. If I wasn’t eating or sleeping I was on the move. These days I keep myself busy with organizing/running the Lotto Ladies Team and the Honda Dream Team. I’m at the point now, like most business owners where I have to set specific shut down times of an evening and leave the long list of things to do until the next day. I try not to work after dinner and my ambition is to get to bed early (9pm) and watch a movie before falling asleep.

Cycling is still my priority so training, post training naps, nutrition and stretching always comes before opening the computer to start work. I’d be lying if I said the mental stress has never affected my racing- I hate to admit it. I do enjoy having a heavy workload and I want to be able to say it doesn’t affect my racing. As I become more experienced in business and dealing with people, I hope to be more efficient and relaxed, and as a result- perform better on and off the bike.

BNA: You have an interest in mechanics, is it something you enjoy doing and would you consider it a sort of meditation period when you’re not on the bike? Is it a good past time for when you’re injured?

Gilmore: Whether I am injured or not I’m always looking at my bike. As athletes we maintain our bodies with extreme attention to the smallest details- why not do the same with our bikes? I can’t really understand women who race at the highest level and don’t pay attention to their bike, even if only on the morning of an event. Perhaps they have 100% faith in their mechanic but some women I race with won’t even know what tyres they’re racing on, or what pressure they’re at, or what gear ratio they’re running etc… I always check my wheels have been placed straight in my bike so the brakes are not rubbing, I always check the air pressure and I always check my gears before the start. It’s in my blood. I treat my bike like I treat my body… I try to keep them finely tuned.

Rochelle Gilmore Pinarello

BNA: How would your family describe you?

Selfish to my loved ones.
Too generous to my friends and business associates.
Too hard on myself.
Too serious.

BNA: How would you describe your personality?

Gilmore: Serious unless I’m around VERY close family and friends- then I can be quite relaxed and playful. Ambitious and focused. I’m very direct and don’t fear to say what I feel/think. I feel too much for those who are close to me to the point where I let my emotions get out of control, although I can be very insensitive toward those who I don’t know.

BNA: Where does your motivation come from?

Gilmore: Self satisfaction.  The desire to be as successful as those in my family, being surrounded by success and expectations motivates me as well as the slight fear of failure.

Rochelle Gilmore GC Win

Bicycles Network Australia would like to extend its thanks to Rochelle Gilmore for her time, we wish her gold medals for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the World Cup in 2011 and the London Olympics in 2012.

You can follow Rochelle Gilmore on Twitter, on her website and you can find RMGsport at

August 12, 2010

The worlds toughest race; the Crocodile Trophy

It's not straight and it's definitely not an easy ride, there will be ups and downs, sharp turns and outback roads barely visited by car. There's dirt and lots of it. The tyre's are thick and chunky, the bikes are heavier and more high tech than you would believe. It is the Crocodile Trophy; the world's longest, hottest and most adventurous race in the world.

Over 10 days, 1200km and 13000m of climbing, this is survival; this is racing in Australia's Top End.

With no more than 99 competitors allowed the race takes the riders from Cairns to Cape Tribulation, starting on the 19th of October. Joining this challenging adventure for the first time will be an all woman team. If you dig deep into the history of the Crocodile Trophy, you'll find that like any event where there are two wheels, female participation is particularly low and although there are more women getting into mountain biking, the truth is, the Crocodile Trophy is in a league of its own.

The women riding in the SheSpoke Cycle Wear team, are lining up for an adventure of a life time, and includes Maree Roberts (40), Lauretta Howarth (37) and Sharmee Parr (56). The team sponsor fits perfectly, SheSpoke is specialise in cycling clothing for women. This Toowoomba based company has an eye for colour and style. They believe in encouraging women to participate in cycling by providing fashionable, functional, innovative and comfortable cycle wear.

SheSpoke Crocodile Trophy
Lauretta Howarth, Maree Roberts and Sharman Parr of SheSpoke

Another first for the Crocodile Trophy is the final stage which is a time trial from Ayton to Cape Tribulation. This is the final 38km of this brutal torture trip, though assuming the competitors even make it to stage 10.

Past competitor of 2007, Italian, Michela Benzoni, finished high up with the men and as the women's champion commented that the "Crocodile Trophy is very, very hard... impossible." When asked if she would return the following year to compete Benzoni replied, "Impossible, never never never… no no no no."

From the SheSpoke Cycle Wear Team, Lauretta is aiming to finish with minimal road rash and her limbs attached, Maree just wants to cross the line and Sharmee is in it to beat some of the boys.

Bicycle Network Australia will be getting to know Maree, Lauretta and Sharmee in the lead up to the Croc Trophy this October. You can also keep up to date with news about the Crocodile Trophy on their website

Check out SheSpoke online:

August 8, 2010

Lotto Ladies welcome Tiffany Cromwell

The Lotto Ladies Team has welcomed Australian Tiffany Cromwell to its ranks a head of the Sparkassen Giro this weekend in Germany.

The Lotto Ladies team is a professional unit with the likes of Australian Rochelle Gilmore, who won at Sparkassen in 2009; Gilmore will be defending her title with the assistance of Tiffany whose role is to chase down breaks and help in the lead out.

Tiffany started the 2010 season with some dramas after her professional contract with a professional team fell through, she's out to prove herself with the Lotto Ladies Team and finish the season on a high note. Tiffany is excited about the new challenges that she's about to face and the new skills she can learn with such a strong team.

Sparkassen is a one day race with a big atmosphere as it backs onto a men’s race, the Lotto Ladies team race using the Pinarello Dogma 60.1, it’s an amazing bike for looks and performance, Tiffany told Bicycles Network Australia (BNA) that she's looking forward to spending some time on the Pinarello Dogma 60.1.

BNA look forward to speaking with Tiffany when she's back in Australia for the World Championship in September and we wish her the best of luck at Sparkassen this weekend.

August 1, 2010

Review: SCAPE Sunblock for athletes

Most Australians consciously slip, slop, slap - the message is loud and clear, there is a large variety of sunscreen that fills the shelves at your chemist and supermarket. For sports people, the oily sunscreen that runs into your eyes, makes you sweat too much and vanishes in sweat and water; its more of a burden than it should be - particularly for the performance orientated who want to focus on their goals.

Recognising these problems, Athlete and biochemist Dr. Nic Martens created SCAPE Athlete Sunblock. His aim was to develop a sunscreen that would address your needs as an athlete, regardless of how professional (or unprofessional) you are.

Scape have two times World Champion Ironman, Craig Alexander, onboard as a sponsored athlete. It is pretty easy to see why Craig endorses this product,  it won’t run in your eyes plus all of the products in the Scape range are rated at SPF 50+ and contain vitamin E, aloe and antioxidants for extra moisturising.

The Scape range includes;

The Lip balm (vitamin E, aloe, antioxidants) which is perfect for windy days and it’s not shiny or glossy. It was created to protect your lips from the sun and wind. There is a slight note of lemon but it’s very subtle.

The SPF 50+ Sunblock lets the skin breath naturally so the core temperature of the body won’t rise, the theory being that you wouldn’t sweat more than you usually would without sunscreen. I can confirm this, I tested this product by doing interval sessions as hard as possible, the sunscreen felt barely there.

For wet and sweaty skin, the Face Stick is perfect for applying during transitions after the swim leg and before the run. The Face Stick has the same properties as the Lip balm and the Sunblock.

SCAPE is also available in a spray version, plus to keep your hands from getting sticky applying the sun block, there is also a foam applicator version.

I tried the sunscreen on a 10km run in Melbourne, and it doesn’t run when you sweat,. The formula has ‘engineered polymers’ which aim to bond to your skin for longer. So if you like to start your bike ride with a swim and follow that ride with a run, then this is the sunscreen you’ve been looking for.

The SCAPE products aren’t just about health, they are tailored to suit sports men and women who need performance. One of the great advantages is that in addition to protecting your skin against sun and fitting into your sports routine, the sun blocks and lip balm help keep your skin moisturised, so you have better skin and remain hydrated even longer.

For all you internet addicts out there, you can check out this product at, it’s not available in Australia yet, but it is online!