All Africa Games time trial champion Lise Olivier is in Europe with a handful of other South African cyclists as they bid to reap more valuable UCI ranking points and qualify more riders for the Olympic Games in London later this year.
Lise and five other South Africans are sharing a house in their base in Belgium and she took time out to share some of her experiences in Europe with Road to London’s Mark Etheridge.
While in Europe she races in the colours of the Lotto-Belisol team. When she’s at home in Pretoria it’s the MTN-Qhubeka team she represents. She celebrates her 29th birthday at the end of May.
So just how is the racing over there?
I am extremely fortunate to have the backing of my team, Team MTN Qhubeka, in pursuit of my dream.┬áLast year I did some local Belgium races and two smaller UCI tours but no racing at the World Cup level.┬áI did not know what to expect when I got to Europe some six weeks ago but still set some big goals for myself to achieve this year.┬áThese goals include the Tour of Free State back in SA and the tours and more hilly races in Europe during the months on June-August.┬áThe racing is at a completely different level than what we are used to locally. We train with our coach, Dr. Carol Austin, not for local racing but for the goals we dream to achieve, so physically we are well prepared for the task at hand.┬áWith a little bit more experience I think we could do something special as a country this year.
How tough it is?
From what I hear from the more experienced riders this year has been particularly hard being an Olympic year.┬áThere are more teams and more riders eager to fight for a spot in the Olympics which has increased the bunch sizes of the races and the determination of the riders in these races.┬áCycling is tough since it is not just about being strong.┬áThe skills of moving through a bunch, knowing the roads you race on, knowing when to conserve and when to exert energy, understanding the tactics and team dynamics are just as important as being in good physical condition.┬áAs a beginner in terms of international racing it is not easy lining up with 180 of the world’s best riders, most of whom have been riding in this environment for years. I have quickly realised this year that it takes the right combination of strength and crazy to be really successful in Europe. The strength is there and I am working on the ‘crazy’.
How are you learning from each race?
In every race if I can do one thing that I was not able to do in the previous race it is a step in the right direction.┬áI have taken some advice from Ashleigh [Moolman Pasio] and have been making minor goals for myself before each race.┬áThis includes small things like finishing in the main bunch, being able to get to the front of the bunch, be in the front part of the bunch on the climbs, being in a position to attack and then attacking when the opportunity is right.┬áIf I finish a race and have achieved some of my minor goals but maybe not my big goal for the race I still have to be happy.┬áThe learning curve is steep so celebrating the minor victories at this point is just as important to me as the big ones.
How to get more points for the Olympics?
We are lucky that we have the Tour of Free State to get some more points to qualify another rider for the Olympics.┬áI am returning from Europe and will focus on preparing for this race.┬áKnowing the roads and training where you will be racing gives you a big advantage.┬áWe did this with Team MTN Qhubeka prior to the National Championships in Nelspruit and it paid huge dividends for our team.┬áWe had a training camp there so when race day came we knew exactly what to expect.┬áI am going to take the same approach for Tour of Free State.┬áIf we all prepare for this race and be the best that we can be during those four days of racing I cannot see any reason why we could not add a good number of points for South Africa.
How many races have you done so far?
My first race was the Trofeo Alfredo Binda in Cittiglio, Italy.┬áThis race is part of the UCI Road Women World Cup calendar which is the highest level of racing for women in the world.┬áStarting your European campaign with a race like this was no easy task but an opportunity I was very happy to have had.┬áI have also done the La Fl├¿che Wallonne F├®minine World Cup race in Huy, Belgium, two UCI 1.2 races and one local Belgium race.┬áI am looking forward to the much busier race calendar after Tour of Free State.
Are you getting more confident?
Confidence does take time but achieving a small goal in a race and being able to do something you have not done in the previous race does build your confidence.┬á Knowing that we are strong enough to compete at this level keeps me motivated to learn and get more confident with every race that I do.┬áHaving the support of a team like Team MTN Qhubeka behind you with people that believe in you makes the task at hand much easier.
Your favourite race so far?
I have really enjoyed both the UCI World Cup races that I competed in. The first one was the Trofeo Alfredo Binda and the second one was the La Fl├¿che Wallonne F├®minine in Huy, Belgium.┬áIt seems that I am attracted to the suffer fests! Even if it is much harder than the other races and your finishing position is not completely what you had hoped for there is something special about lining up next to 180 of the best ladies in the world.┬á A 62th or 72th in one of these races means more to me personally than winning a small race.