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Momentous win as Moolman-Pasio gets up to win
- Updated: November 16, 2015
Despite being battered and bruised, South African champion and 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Bigla Pro Cycling Team) claimed victory in Sunday’s Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge UCI 1.1 women’s race in emphatic style at the Riversands Commercial Park.
The quality women’s field included teams like Bigla Pro Cycling Team, Team Liv Plantur and Team Tibco SVB, as well South Africa’s Activate/Demacon, Time Freight eTeam, BestMed ASG Women’s Cycling and Clover Prestigio, and African invitational teams from South Africa, Botswana, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Israel, Namibia, Rwanda and Mauritius.
Moolman-Pasio’s first blow came when she arrived at the start line with her front derailleur malfunctioning, not shifting out of the small blade. A quick repair job meant that her chain ring was fixed on the big gear, which meant that Ashleigh’s ride was a hard slog from the start.
As multiple World Champion Marianne Vos predicted before the race, the attack would come at the major first climb, and this is where the women’s peloton burst open with attacks on the lead into Joe Slovo Drive off the M1.
Shortly after, when they approached the Nelson Mandela Bridge in Johannesburg, Moolman-Pasio crashed hard when she rode into a pothole and her hands came off the handlebars, causing her to fall hard and slide for several metres on the tarmac. Unsure whether she should continue, and in a lot of pain as she suspected a broken collarbone, Moolman-Pasio still mounted her bike and rejoined the race.
‘It was a real challenge out there today,’ said the South African women’s cycling ambassador. ‘I was quite shocked as it was a high speed crash. I checked if everything was okay and had to settle my nerves but my team was absolutely fantastic today. The Bigla girls did absolutely everything to support me out there. They chased with absolute heart to bring back the breakaway and put the pressure on at the climbs.
‘Sharon Laws set me up beautifully – she attacked and I saw that she was riding away from the other two riders and saw that this was my opportunity to join her. I tried to encourage her to come with me but I think the hard work today had taken its toll on her.’
With no-one on her wheel and with under 10km to go, Moolman-Pasio put her head down and didn’t look back, claiming the victory in front of a big adoring crowd.
Competing for the first time in the second largest timed race in the world, and for the first time in South Africa, Sabrina Stultiens (NED) of Team Liv Plantur finished second with her teammate Floortje Mackaij (NED) rounding out the podium.
Stultiens said: ‘I experienced problems with the heat from yesterday already, when we did the Twitter ride. The altitude was also a struggle and something to get used to. The hills are not very long but there are lots of ups and downs, so it was a hard race today. But we are happy to have two of us on the podium.’ Cycling SA President, William Newman, said: ‘It is a fantastic result for women’s cycling in South Africa to get our champion winning this UCI 1.1 race here on home soil at the Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge. It will add significantly to her points tally for qualification for Olympic Games and therefore we will have more chance of qualifying more riders. Even after her tumble, she showed her mettle against a top-class international field and she came out a winner. We are very proud of Ashleigh.’
Speaking on what an event of this magnitude means to women’s cycling in South Africa, Mr Newman said: ‘It’s a huge opportunity for our women to compete at a higher level. Our women haven’t been exposed to a lot of international competition so by us facilitating this UCI 1.1 event with the help of the Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge event organisers, it means that we can significantly lift the profile of our women’s cycling.
‘We would like to see more of these UCI events attached to our major mass participation events around the country.’