By Mark Etheridge
Our top women’s road cyclists are up in the saddle for the local racing season and the European season rolls ever closer.
And the Momentum Toyota team have come out firing, spreading their talents far and wide to claim victory in the three big road races of the season thus far.
The racing foursome is made up of Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, Cherise Taylor, Jo van der Winkel and Robyn de Groot. The last-mentioned kicked off the year with victory in the New Fast One in Midvaal (106 kilometres), south of Johannesburg.
Then it was Moolman-Pasio’s turn to win the Herald Tour in Port Elizabeth (105km) and the most recent, the Ride for Sight (116km) in Boksburg, was won by Taylor.
The team heads for the Berge and Dale 97km race in Mogale City, Gauteng and then its national road championships in March followed by the Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour in Cape Town.
“So far the year has really been a great start for us as a team, as individuals and for our sponsors Momentum Toyota, ” said De Groot this week. Cherise also went racing in Qatar for a week early in February.”
“All four of us are going to be riding for the Lotto-Belisol Ladies team in Europe. We will all be there by the 17th of March in order to kick-off with a training camp and then some of the much needed racing in Europe when the team’s aim is going to be to collect UCI points for South Africa. In so doing we’ll be improving our ranking and with that attempting to qualify as many riders as possible for the Olympic games.
“We’ll be joined by two riders who ride for MTN Qhubeka locally [Lise Olivier and An-Li Pretorius], and will obviously be working together as a cohesive unit to achieve the same collective goals.”
The team are not exactly sure which races they’ll be contesting on the European calendar but will find out once they go into their training camp in Pisa on 17 March.
One of their main goals is to increase the┬ánumber of slots for women’s road cycling at this year’s Olympic Games in London. Currently Team South Africa has qualified for one women’s slot.
Points are only up for grabs in UCI specific races with points differing from race to race as each race is ranked according to difficulty. The more difficult the race as in a 1.1 ranked race, up to roughly the first 15 riders can score UCI points and the lower the race is ranked, the fewer the points on offer.
“So basically we need to aim towards podiums because the point allocations drop drastically within the top five positions,” says De Groot. “So for us to really make ground and gain points, we need some top performances. This will then improve our country ranking, which will allow us to qualify more riders to start at the Olympics.”