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16 Nov, 2015

Crashed but still takes the win

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South African champion Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio overcame a crash and severe mechanical problems to hold off a strong European challenge to win the first women’s UCI 1.1 race at the Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge on Sunday.


Moolman-Pasio, riding for Team Bigla, beat the Dutch pair of Sabrina Stultiens and Floortjie Mackaij, who were second and third for Team Liv-Plantur respectively, after breaking away a few kilometres before the finish.


“I had a rocky start,” said Moolman-Pasio, who last won the Cycle Challenge two years ago. “The bike has been perfect all week and at the Twitter ride. This morning I realised I couldn’t change it and we decided I had to ride in the big ring all race, which made things a lot more difficult, particularly on the climbs. And then I crashed, and it felt like everything was against me.”


She had been in a four-rider break that had built up a small gap over the chasing bunch when she crashed. She thought her race was all over then.


“We were going down a descent into the suburbs in Joburg when I think I hit a hole or something and my hands came off the bars. I crashed heavily. I saw the bike slide for a long time and worried it was damaged and my race was over. I was quite shocked.
“One of the motorbike riders came past and asked me if I was going to continue, and the cameraman said ‘of course she is going to continue’.”


Anriette Schoeman, a former winner of the race and the most successful rider in South Africa, gave her encouragement after the crash: “Anriette was incredibly supportive today. She asked me if I was okay and asked if I needed anything. That was special to me and shows the camaraderie in the women’s peloton.”

Moolman-Pasio had animated the racing all day, and after she crashed was set up by teammate and former winner Sharon Laws, the Kenyan-born Brit, on Cedar hill near the end of the race. “I saw she had ridden away and I jumped across to her. I tried to encourage her to come with me, but I think she had done so much work for me by then. All of my teammates had worked so hard for me and given up so much.”


Moolman-Pasio said that the first UCI 1.1 ranked race in South Africa was “incredible” for African women’s cycling. “I want to say thank you to all of those who made it happen, to the organisers, to Cycling South Africa and to Momentum, who have supported me for a long time. Great to have the first women’s UCI 1.1 race in South Africa, and I am sure it will be a great fixture for years to come. It gives the sport such an incredible boost in this country and enables African riders to test themselves against top European riders.


“It was a tough race this late in the season for the Europeans. They don’t usually race so early, so a 3am wakeup was a bit crazy for them. For them to come out here and race so well was great for us. I was impressed to see how the South Africans rode, and the riders from Ethiopia and Eritrea. The sport in this country has a great future with this event.”


The official results for the top three are:
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio – 2h34m58s
Sabrina Stultiens – 2h35m04s
Tsega Gebre – 2h35m05s