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Women’s cycling gets big boost with European programme
- Updated: August 11, 2015
After the celebrating of Women’s Day this weekend and in keeping in line with the recent discussions at the 2015 CAC Forum about lifting the profile of women’s cycling on the continent and at a global level, Cycling South Africa’s Women’s Commission has announced the re-establishment and roll-out of the Women’s European Racing Programme.
The programme will provide some of South Africa’s top women cyclists a chance to compete against international riders in selected European races in order to accumulate valuable UCI points so that South Africa can qualify more women riders for the road race at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
‘This is a new start to what we are hoping will be an annual programme,’ said Cycling SA Women’s Commission Director, Lise Olivier. ‘Every top nation in women’s cycling has an active National Team programme. This is a crucial part of rider development that has been missing in South Africa for way too long and is a great step forward to bolster our women’s cycling.’
The team selected for the Women’s European Racing Programme is: Cherise Stander [Team RECM], An-Li Kachelhoffer [Activate/Demacon], Charlene du Preez [Team Clover], Carla Oberholzer [Team Clover], Candice Neethling [Pam Golding Group/Freewheel Cycology/Specialized South Africa], Heidi Dalton [Activate/Demacon].
‘We have seasoned campaigners like Cherise Stander and An-Li Kachelhoffer as well as some well deserving newcomers to the team. Over the past year Carla Oberholzer (van der Merwe) and Charlene du Preez (Roux) have established themselves as some of the top riders in the country finishing not only on or near the podium at almost every big race but also positively and actively racing the whole race.
‘The inclusion of Candice Neethling, Olympic Cross Country Mountain Biker, might come as a surprise to some but at the recent UCI races in KwaZulu-Natal and other local races such as the Cape Town Cycle Tour she has shown her bunch riding abilities. This together with her strength from mountain biking makes her an ideal rider for the European racing conditions,’ said Olivier.
Planning the trip to receive the maximum benefit in terms of balancing the need for UCI points and rider development has been challenging. The African Games, for which the team has already been selected, takes place during the same time as the European Racing Programme and with the road race at African Games being a UCI 1.1 category race it was important for Cycling SA to send a strong team to compete there. ’
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio is committed to her trade team, Bigla Pro Cycling and the World Championships later this year,’ continued Olivier. ‘She has already gained massive UCI points for South Africa over the past few months by racing in Europe.’
Stander is anticipating the international road racing scene. ‘It will be tough racing and it will take a while to get comfortable in the bunch again but I am very thankful that Cycling South Africa is giving us this opportunity. I am hoping that this will be the first of many.’
Oberholzer said the chance to get experience to race in Europe and to learn from the best South African and international female riders was immense. ‘I feel extremely privileged and blessed!’
Du Preez is also relishing the opportunity to race in Europe. ‘I am very excited to be part of this amazing programme. Thank you to everyone involved in making a part of my dream a reality. Live your dreams!’
And Neethling is keen to learn from the experience. ‘I have no doubt that the racing will be tough but there will be plenty of laughter and fun I am sure.’
The Women’s European Racing Programme will encompass events such as Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l’ArArche (UCI 2.2 stage race in France from 2-7.09.2015) and Premondiale Giro Toscana Int. Femminile – Memorial Michela Fanini (UCI 2.2 stage race in Italy from 11-13.09.2015), with the possible inclusion of the UCI World Cup GP de Plouay-Bretagne in France on 29.08.2015.
Cycling SA President, William Newman, said: ‘We have placed a strong focus on women’s cycling in Africa and this programme is another way in which we can lift exposure and provide our women with opportunities to grow in cycling. The experience to be gained by competing in Europe at these high-status races will go a long way in developing our riders for prestigious competitions like World Cups and Championships.
Photo of Stander courtesy of Andrew McFadden/BOOGS Photography