SA aces in Europe | SASCOC - SASCOC

SA aces in Europe

By Mark Etheridge

Our top women’s road cyclists are traveling the length and breadth of Europe in search of valuable UCI ranking points ahead of this year’s Olympic Games in London and they got their international campaign underway with a solid showing at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Comune di Cittiglio event in Italy last week.

This was after a training camp with the Lotto-Belisol outfit in Tuscany.

The Italian race, was the second event on the UCI Road Women World Cup calendar and there were no prisoners taken. Of the 174 starters for the 131.2 kilometre race a whopping 90 failed to finish.

Among the non-finishers were Jo van de Winkel and An-Li Pretorius.

As expected Argus Tour winner Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio was our top finisher, ending up a fine 10th and All Africa Games time trial champion Lise Olivier was 62nd in her first World Cup event.

The race was won by Dutch rider Marianne Vos, the Rabobank rider powering away to win in 3hr 16min 28sec. Moolman Pasio ended 37 seconds adrift of the former world champion but wasn’t overly impressed with the result, despite the fact that she’d been involved in a crash.

“It was a respectable finish for my first World Cup of 2012, but I found myself feeling very disappointed,” she said. “I messed up my sprint, my last chance of a higher finishing position and more valuable points for South Africa! On reflection, I learnt a lot about myself during the race and after finishing 57th last year, I am happy with my result! Trofeo Binda was my first race back in Europe for 2012 and not feeling my best, I’m hoping that things can only get better from here!

“I held a good position near the front of the peloton from the start. But despite my good position, I still managed to get taken down in a crash on the first small descent of the race, at about 15km. This rattled me a bit, having crashed twice in last year’s race, which completely ruined any chances of a good result, I found myself hoping and praying last year’s misfortune would not repeat itself. Luckily enough, my fall was not very hard and I managed to get myself up, and going quite quickly.”

Moolman Pasio hadn’t been herself in recent days, struggling with a head cold and allergies and this may have sapped her strength in the final stages. “With a few last attempt attacks approaching the finish line and with a fast approaching chasing peloton, I found myself on the front of our chase group of 10 taking the final corner with about 500m to go. In hindsight, not the best place to be, but not thinking very clearly at the time, I thought I could launch my sprint early and last!”

As for Olivier, who ended 6:34 off the pace, she was nervous but happy to have got through in one piece. “At the team presentation the night before the race I got an idea of the magnitude of the occasion. Each team were properly introduced and the names of all the top cyclists in the world were announced one after the other. I finally got to put a face to the names that in the past I have only read or heard about and felt very lucky to have an opportunity to line up against 174 of the best riders in the world.

“To start your European racing campaign with a World Cup was never going to be easy. More than half of the riders that started did not finish. I set out to just finish the race but was disappointed coming so close to finishing with the front group. It has by far been the hardest race I have ever done. Welcome to world class European racing!”

Olivier was also chosen for dope-testing after the race, making for a true baptism of fire for the Pretoria cyclist.