Shara Gillow
Shara Gillow John Mccutcheon

Following in dad's tracks

IT SHOULD be no surprise that the progeny of someone who "lived and breathed" cycling would one day do the same.

When Belli Park's Shara Gillow lines up for the 140km women's road race at the London Olympics next Sunday, she will become the second member of her family to compete in a Games road race.

At the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Gillow's father, David, represented Zimbabwe in the men's road race.

Gillow, 24, described by national women's coach Martin Barras as one of the most physically gifted cyclists he had seen, decided to pursue cycling at a relatively late age in an attempt to duplicate her father's achievement.

He had told her how he used to sleep with his bikes and wheels in his room, the walls covered with articles and photos of perhaps the greatest ever cyclist, Belgium's Eddy Merckx.

"It is pretty surreal to think that 32 years ago my dad was competing at the Olympics in the same sport I have chosen. Very cool," Gillow said this week.

"When I said to my dad a few years ago I was going to take up a sport and that it was going to be cycling, at first he said, 'You don't want to do that. You know it's a hard sport'.

"I said, 'If you could do it, so can I.' I had not done any serious sport up until then, so I was very determined to do cycling.

"My dad saw that I was really determined, so he helped me so much when I first started and because he hadn't been on his bike for years, I think he really enjoyed getting a new bike and going for rides with me.

"He has always loved the sport and everything about it."

Gillow's best medal chance at London is not the road race but the 29km time trial, which will be held on August 1.

The two-time reigning Oceania and Australian time trial champion is Australia's sole representative in that event. She will, however, have to beat the odds to win.

Gillow, who made her biggest statement internationally when she won a stage of last year's prestigious Giro d'Italia, finished 12th in the time trial at the last world championships.

She is considered a 50-1 shot to win gold at London.

Barras told the Daily recently that he had been pushing Gillow harder than ever to improve her medal chances.

To do that, he said, she had to unshackle herself of conservatism when competing.

"There's a 50-50 chance of getting a really good result and she gets a medal, or there's a 50-50 chance there will be a catastrophic outcome," he said.

"Always the biggest danger is we push the envelope too far and it cracks her."

Eleventh overall at the recent Giro d'Italia after placing ninth overall in that event last year, Gillow knows the bookies rate her a long shot to win gold - but gold is her goal, regardless.

"I think if you aim for the stars, you'll probably shoot the top of the power pole, but if you aim for the power pole you'll shoot yourself in the foot," she said.

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