Last chance for cyclists | SASCOC - SASCOC

Last chance for cyclists

By Mark Etheridge

The Tour de Free State rolls into action on Wednesday and for many prospective women’s Olympian cyclists, the five-day event may well be called the Tour de Last Chance.

That’s because the tour represents the last chance for teams and individuals to qualify for the London Olympic Games later this year.

Cycling’s international governing body, the UCI, stipulates participants to the women’s road race are allocated according to national rankings by the cut-off date. National teams ranked from No1 to No5 can enter a full compliment of four team members, countries ranked from six to 13 can enter three riders and numbers 14-23 can enter two cyclists.

As matters stand South Africa has provisionally qualified two slots for the women’s road race.

Now our top road cyclists will be sweating it out over the next few days to qualify a third slot. They’ll need 120 UCI points during the tour to move up four places from their current ranking of 17th to 13th. But it’s going to be no easy task as countries from around the world will be having the exact same idea!

Top-ranked cyclist making the trip to South Africa is Team HiTech’s Emma Johansson, the Swede being ranked third in the UCI rankings.

Next highest ranked is our own Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, SA’s No1 and No35 on the UCI world rankings list. Other South Africans fighting for that spot will be Joanne van de Winkel (No129), Lise Olivier (No326) and Robyn de Groot (No370).

Our second ranked cyclist, Cherise Taylor, would have been in the thick of things too but her wedding to fellow Olympian cyclist Burry Stander, takes place on Saturday.

The South Africans will be turning out in the Lotto-Belisol team outfit.

The Swedish side will be out to move up from sixth to fifth spot and take four riders to the Games while Russia are looking to also move up to fifth from their seventh spot right now.

Four countries ÔÇô Norway, Poland, Finland and Thailand ÔÇô are within 25 points of each other which should make for some cut-throat racing through the Free State.

Of the entries received 18 individuals rank among the world’s top 100 cyclists.

There four stages of the event range form 112 to 120km in distance.

Says Moolman Pasio, who has campaigned with great success in Europe over the last few months: “The Tour de Free State is particularly significant to me as an individual, as I grew up in Bloemfontein… I completed my schooling career at Eunice High School for girls in 2003. I am proud of my Eunice heritage and the role my schooling career played in forming me as an individual and professional athlete, and I am proud to be able to share that with the girls. Eunice girls will be supporting along the route on Thursday when Stage Two finishes on top of Naval Hill in the city of Bloemfontein.

“The tour also plays a very important part in the South African national team’s Olympic campaign and objective to qualify three riders to represent the country at the London Olympics.”