Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, the South African female road cyclist that’s been on a steep upward curve for the past year, claimed the gold medal in the Elite women’s race at the 2012 South African Road Championships in Nelspruit in the Mpumalanga province on Saturday.
The 26-year-old, who races for the Momentum Toyota team and was one of the pre-race favourites, outsprinted two breakaway companions to win the 110km race in a time of 03 hours 20 minutes 44 seconds. Lise Olivier (MTN Qhubeka) claimed the silver medal and Joanna van de Winkel (Momentum Toyota) secured the bronze.
Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, pictured here during training, claimed her first South African road race title on Saturday.
Photo: Dominic Barnardt
The trio were in a long break that went clear following an early attack by Olivier on the climb from Nelspruit to White River, less than 40 minutes after the start. From the outset, all four Momentum Toyota riders set a fierce pace on the front in an effort to separate the pretenders from the contenders, in the process, splintering the field.
Olivier’s attack was marked by Moolman Pasio and Van de Winkel and the trio wasted no time in working together to build up a solid lead over the rest of the field. The bizhub FCF team of the defending champion, Marissa Stander, tried in vain to chase the leaders and within minutes, Cherise Taylor (Momentum Toyota) and An-Li Pretorius (MTN Qhubeka) attacked the bunch and set off in pursuit of the leading trio.
That was the status quo for most of the race with Van de Winkel and Moolman Pasio using the bigger climbs to attack and try and shake off Olivier. But they were unsuccessful in shedding the climbing specialist who responded to every onslaught. At one stage, Taylor and Pretorius were just over a minute behind the leaders, but ultimately they failed to bridge the gap.
It was a curious scene as all five riders out front were wearing the racing jerseys of Belgian-based professional team, Lotto Belisol. Along with Momentum Toyota’s Robyn de Groot, the six riders have been registered with Lotto Belisol, a professional continental team based in Belgium for 2012. They will head to Europe in mid March to begin their international racing campaign, aimed at earning qualifying points for the London Olympic Games. International Cycling Union rules stipulate that at their national championships, the riders must wear the jersey of their professional continental team and the shorts of their club.
In the final kilometres both Van de Winkel and Olivier had a few digs off the front. Being outnumbered, Olivier was always at a disadvantage, but her steely determination kept her in contention right to the finish.
As the trio tackled the rise with 3km remaining, Van de Winkel surged clear with an emphatic all-or-nothing effort. But Olivier slowly reeled her in and the slight downhill sprint to the finish line saw Moolman Pasio, a passenger for the final couple of kilometres, unleash a well-timed burst, which sent her across the line first.
“It’s a fantastic title to finally own,” beamed Moolman Pasio. “The national championships is always a hard race to win and this year was no different. We worked really well as a team, setting a fast pace from the start. It wasn’t our plan to get a move away so early, but we stuck with it and it paid off.”
Moolman Pasio was quick to praise her teammate and complement her rival.
“Jo was amazing. She was so strong and she really set up the finale perfectly for me. Lise was impressive. She put up a good fight, but we had the numerical advantage and that always makes a difference in a road race. Having been quite successful already this year, our Momentum Toyota team was under a lot of pressure coming to the national champs. I’m very proud of the team in that we delivered the best results.”
It was the second gold medal for Momentum Toyota at the championships following Taylor’s victory in the individual time trial on Thursday.
Elite women road race, 110km – leading results:
1 Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (Momentum Toyota) 03hr 20min 44sec
2 Lise Olivier (MTN Qhubeka)
3 Joanna van de Winkel (Momentum Toyota) both same time
4 Robyn de Groot (Momentum Toyota) 03:23:18
5 An-Li Pretorius (MTN Qhubeka)
6 Karien van Jaarsveld (MTN Qhubeka)
7 Lylani Lauwrens
8 Cherise Taylor (Momentum Toyota)
9 Anriette Schoeman (bizhub FCF)
10 Ashleigh Blackwell all same time
For full results, visit www.cyclingsa.com