Reigning national champion, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, became the first South African to finish in the top 10 at the Giro d'Italia Internazionale Femminile, women’s road cycling’s toughest stage race. The 26-year-old, who rides for the Momentum Toyota team in South Africa, claimed 10th place in the final classification after nine tough days of racing in Italy.

Moolman Pasio competed in the prestigious tour for the Belgian-based Lotto Belisol team and was joined by four compatriots – Robyn de Groot, Cherise Stander, Joanna van de Winkel and Lise Olivier, a sign that women’s road racing in South Africa is at an all-time high.

This was Moolman Pasio’s third participation in the Giro Donne, having finished 17th in 2010 and 13th in 2011. Moolman Pasio has proved herself as an all-rounder but has always thrived on mountainous stage races. As a noted climber and stage race specialist, the team’s goal therefore, was to ensure she was always protected and in a position to go with the important moves when it mattered.

The race-deciding moves happened on Stages 3 and 4, the stages with the highest percentage of climbing in this year's Giro. Moolman Pasio found herself climbing with the world’s leading stage racers on Stage 3 and her eighth place on the day saw her move into ninth overall. She was ninth on Stage 4 and ninth again on Stage 7, a stage with shorter, power climbs. The tour was generally marked by aggressive racing, particularly in the final four days, which saw her lose a small amount of time, giving her an eventual 10th place overall.


Ashleigh Moolman Pasio became the first South African to finish in the top 10 at the Giro d'Italia Internazionale Femminile.

Photo: Dominic Barnardt

All of the world’s top riders competed in the event. World No. 1 Marianne Vos of The Netherlands won the race overall ahead of Great Britain’s Emma Pooley with the USA’s Evelyn Stevens rounding out the podium positions.

“I’m very happy with my result. My goal was a top 10 finish and I achieved that. I must say that although it does not appear to be a significant improvement, the difference between a 13th place finish and a top 10 finish is huge in terms of effort, commitment and mental strength – you spend the full nine days racing against the world’s best. It was a tough event, but a great challenge. I don’t like to make excuses, but I did have some back trouble, which certainly influenced my performance to an extent,” said Moolman Pasio.

“It’s very encouraging for South African women’s cycling to have five riders in this race. I have to say though that we do lack the experience in this kind of stage race, but the team is showing great potential. We all learnt from the experience and I am convinced that great things are to come for SA women’s cycling,” she added.

Van de Winkel and Olivier, both strong climbers finished 15th and 25th in the General Classification, while Stander (50th) and De Groot (61st) completed the South African contingent’s final placings. There were 130 starters.

In addition to Moolman Pasio’s three top 10 stage finishes, Stander, also a member of the Momentum Toyota team, secured two top 10 finishes, with 10th place on Stage 5 and ninth on Stage 6, both bunch sprints on flatter stages.

“The race route this year had less climbing than in the past, which, being a climber, didn’t suit me as much. I think with the Olympic Games coming up, the organisers didn’t want any of the top riders to skip the Giro, had it been too strenuous, so they designed a course for a more open type of race. It definitely favoured experience and riders with a strong team. We still have a lot to learn as a team,” said Moolman Pasio.

The Momentum Toyota trio of Moolman Pasio, Van de Winkel and De Groot, head to London Tuesday for two days to familiarise themselves with the Olympic Games road race course on which they will be competing at the end of the month. Moolman Pasio, South Africa’s top hope for success in the London showpiece, will not contest any more races before the Games.

“My back is already feeling better, so I’m sure it will be fine very soon. All my focus is now on the Olympics. I need a mental break from racing and I’m the kind of rider than can prepare well for races by doing some good training blocks.”

2012 Giro d'Italia Internazionale Femminile

Final General Classification:

1 Marianne Vos (NED) Stichtin Rabo Women Cycling Team 24hrs50min43sec

2 Emma Pooley (GBR) AA Drink – Cycling Team @3min27sec

3 Evelyn Stevens (USA) Team Specialized – Lululemon @6:32

4 Faibiana Luperini (ITA) Faren Honda Team @7:39

5 Emma Johansson (SWE) Hitec Products – Mistral Home Cycling Team @7:50

6 Judith Arndt (GER) Orica-AIS @8:30

7 Tatiana Guderzo (ITA) MCipollini Giambenini @9:00

8 Claudia Hausler (GER) Orica-AIS @9:13

9 Elisa Longo Borghini (ITA) Hitec Products – Mistral Home Cycling Team @10:07

10 Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (RSA) Lotto Belisol Ladies @10:12

15 Joanna Van de Winkel (RSA) Lotto Belisol Ladies @29:32

25 Lise Olivier (RSA) Lotto Belisol Ladies @44:43

50 Cherise Taylor (RSA) Lotto Belisol Ladies @1:14:02

61 Robyn de Groot (RSA) Lotto Belisol Ladies @1:23:24