1-2 for Ashleigh, Cherise | SASCOC - SASCOC

1-2 for Ashleigh, Cherise

By Mark Etheridge

Team South Africa ended with three more medals on Sunday’s final day of the African Continental Championships in Asmara, Eritrea.

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio improved on her silver medal in the individual time-trial on Friday by winning the women’s 63.7-kilometre road race from team-mate Cherise Taylor and thus reversing the positions in the time trial. Moolman-Pasio clocked 1hr 39min 43sec with Taylor being credited with the same time.

Mauritius rider Aurelie Halbwachs made up the podium finish 5min 34sec down on the leading two while our third rider, Jo van der Winkel, took fourth spot with the same time as Halbwachs.

In the final event of the championships, it was an Eritrean 1-2 with Natnael Berhane covering the 10-lapper 146.3km men’s course in 3hrs 17min 12sec. Team-mate Tesfay Abrhaha Habtemariam was second with in-form South African youngster Reinardt Janse van Rensburg third in the same time.

“It was my first time representing South Africa at the continental championships and I’m happy to be bringing the African title home,” said Moolman-Pasio, who wore the green and gold for SA at the road World Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark a few weeks back.

“Today’s race was a great example of team work. South Africa started racing aggressively from the gun and it just so happened that my attack was the first to stick. I was shortly joined by Cherise and once we realised that Jo was not going to be able to join us, we started working together to extend our lead.

“Once both Cherise and I had gotten away, the racing back in the bunch became very negative. Aurelie and the Eritrean girls marked Jo very closely and made it impossible for her to get away and stay away! This is very unfortunate as it would have been nice to have seen all three of us South Africans on the podium, but none the less, Jo rode a great race and as a team, we are very happy with the results.”

Apart from victory, Moolman-Pasio was happy with the boost the event gave the South African team in their bid to make the team for the London Olympics next year. “The Continental Championships are very important for us as a nation. The UCI points won at the road race and the time trial on Friday help to boost South Africa’s ranking internationally. They also help to boost our personal world rankings, which are important for Olympic qualification.

“The London Olympics 2012 is a big goal for the South African women’s team. The more riders we can qualify, the better. Currently South Africa is in a position to qualify two riders and we are working very hard at qualifying a third before 31 May 2012.”

Back to the men’s race and Janse van Rensburg was well and truly up against it. “Got worked over by the eight Eritreans slowly but surely. A puncture 15km to go didn’t make it any easier either,” said Janse van Rensburg.

“The Eritreans were strong though. They’ve got a good young squad, there’ll be more of them in the top rankings soon.”

Janse van Rensburg also raved about the good support by the locals. “I’ve never seen a crowd like that either. They built a cycling stadium overlooking the road at the finish and it was packed to the rafters.”

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