Ashley, Lynette ride for SA | SASCOC - SASCOC

Ashley, Lynette ride for SA

Lynette Burger and Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, two of South Africa’s top professional female road cyclists, begin two battles simultaneously when the Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile starts in Trieste, Italy on Friday.

The first battle is for respect. Respect from their international teammates, respect from the other competitors in the event; and respect for women’s road racing in South Africa. The second battle is for team and individual success in the event. Success in the latter battle will obviously lead to success in the first. Neither battle will be easy.

The 10-day race, the women’s edition of the Giro d’Italia, is regarded as the toughest stage race in women’s cycling. With no rest day during the race, Stages Eight and Nine to be contested on the slopes of Alpine mountains, will be especially tough.

The South African pair, who race for the Biogen Toyota professional team, are part of an exchange programme which secures them each a place on the top-rated (current ranked fourth in the world), Belgian-based Lotto team at the peak of the northern hemisphere racing season. This exchange arrangement, facilitated by Cycle Lab, is currently the most cost-effective way to expose South Africa’s top female road racers to international racing, which is faster, harder and more demanding on all levels than the still-developing, much-criticised domestic women’s racing scene.

Burger, the 2009 South African and African road race champion, appears to have fully recovered physically from the serious facial wound she sustained at the 2010 South African road championships in mid-February. But by her own admission, she’s still on the mend emotionally.

ÔÇ£I still struggle with the bunch riding as I am really scared of crashing again but since I am racing so often here, my confidence is coming back slowly and I feel a bit more relaxed in the bunch. Still some work to be done but its all getting better,ÔÇØ she said on Tuesday.

Buoyed by her fourth-placed finish at last Sunday’s Chasse Patat 109km race in Belgium, Burger will be devoting herself to the protection and support of Australian teammate, Rochelle Gilmore; one of the world’s top sprinters who will be searching for stage wins on the flatter terrain in the first half of the tour.

For Moolman Pasio, this could be her breakthrough race. She impressed with her 11th place overall at the four-stage Iurreta-Emakumeen Bira in Spain in early June, including a seventh place on the hillclimb time trial stage. Dogged by crash-related injuries for most of 2010 (she broke the same collarbone twice in six months), the 23-year-old climber should relish the gruelling climbing stages in the later half of the tour.

Moolman Pasio has already done a recce of the Passo Stelvio, one of cycling’s most legendary ascents and, at 18km in length, peaking at 2725m above sea level, with gradients of up to 14%, the toughest climb of the race, which comes on the penultimate stage.

ÔÇ£Wow, wow, wow, what a climb! I have never before climbed something so awesome and so big! Stelvio Pass is by far the biggest and toughest climb of the Giro. There is absolutely no doubt that the tour will be won or lost on this climb. It was an invaluable experience riding the pass, getting to know every detail of the climb,ÔÇØ wrote Pasio on her blog this week.

Along with another Australian, Vicky Whitelaw, Moolman Passio is one of Lotto’s favoured riders for a high placing in the general classification. A top 20 position isn’t an unreasonable expectation for Moolman Pasio after the 25th place finish by her Biogen Toyota teammate, Anriette Schoeman, at the 10-stage Tour de Laude in the colours of Lotto last month.

But in road racing, with its many variables, nothing is a given. Burger and Moolman Pasio, both on the injury comeback trail are well aware of this. For them, simply gaining respect over the next 10 days could be the biggest battle they’ve ever fought. But should they succeed, they’ll put South African women’s road cycling in a far better place.

Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile stages:
Stage 1:
July 2: MuggiaÔÇôTrieste 59km
Stage 2: July 3: SacileÔÇôRiese Pio X 130km
Stage 3: July 4: Caerone S. MarcoÔÇôBiadene 16.9km
Stage 4: July 5: FicaroloÔÇôLendinera 90km
Stage 5: July 6: Orta S. GiulioÔÇôPettenasco 122km
Stage 6: July 7: GallarateÔÇôArcisate 116.7km
Stage 7: July 8: ComoÔÇôAlbese con Cassano 110.8km
Stage 8: July 9: ChiavennaÔÇôLivigno 93km
Stage 9: July 10: LivignoÔÇôStelvio 68.5km
Stage 10: July 11: Autodromo di MonzaÔÇôMonza 115km

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