Ashleigh aces World Cup | SASCOC - SASCOC

Ashleigh aces World Cup

By Mark Etheridge

Top South African cyclist Ashleigh Moolman Pasio stamped her mark on the top echelons of international women’s cycling on Wednesday when she raced to a top five finish in the La Fl├¿che Wallonne women’s race in Belgium.

Moolman Pasio, current South African road champion and Pick ‘n Pay Argus cycle tour winner, took fifth spot in the prestigious World Cup event.

Racing for the Lotto Belisol Ladies team in Europe with a group of fellow South Africans, Moolman took fifth spot overall.

The 26-year-old ended just 41 seconds down on winner Evelyn Stevens of Team Spelicilized-lululemon, the United States rider covering the 132-kilometre race in the city of Huy in a time of 3hr 26min 32sec.

Runner-up was Marianne Vos of the Netherlands, four seconds adrift.

The other South Africans in action on Wednesday were Jo van de Winkel in 43rd spot, 5:12 off the pace and All Africa Games time trial champion Lise Olivier (72nd, +5:53)

A total of 128 riders finished the race with 29 unable to complete the event, including defending Olympic champion Nicole Cooke of Great Britain.

Moolman now lies 13th in the World Cup individual standings with 38 points, Netherlands’ Marianne Vos streets ahead at this stage with 200 points. In her previous World Cup race, the Trofeo Binda World Cup in Cittiglio, Italy a few weeks back, Moolman Pasio placed 10th.

One of Moolman Pasio’s scalps was 2004 Olympic road race silver medallist and this year’s Tour of Flanders champion Judith Arndt.

Cycling SA’s national road manager and Olympic code manager Barry Austin told Road to London 2012 on Thursday. “Her result is fantastic. It is not just the fifth spot, but the fact that she has only ridden two Word Cups and ended both of them as top 10 and in both right close to the winner. This means that theoretically at least at the Olympics she could be in that first select group of riders going to the line and in with a surefire change of a medal.

“We currently qualify two women for the road race in London. To be able to send three riders would need to qualify in the top 13 countries by the end of May, which would help Ash out a lot in the race. Ash’s fifth place moved us up from 16th to 15th ranked nation on virtual points. So now we need roughly another 120 points to move into 13th. That is why the Tour de Free State [23-27 May] is vital. Winning the event and some stages would give us around 100 points. Add a few more good placings in Europe and we would maybe just be able to get that 13th ranking.”

Veteran cycling journalist and TREAD magazine editor Sean Badenhorst echoed Austin’s praise: “An amazing performance by Ashleigh. For perspective, a top five in a World Cup race is on par with a South African woman reaching a semi-final of a tennis Grand Slam tournament.

“Ashleigh is a strong climber and the Fleche Wallone course has some short steep climbs, which she used to her advantage. She’s even better on very long climbs and will be a genuine podium contender in the mountainous stage races this year.

“It’s great to see South African women reaping the rewards of the concerted efforts and investments made by South African team owners and cycling administrators to put them into the international racing scene with the appropriate support and conditioning.”