Women’s mountain biking in South Africa received a significant boost on Tuesday when Ascendis Health officially launched its professional women’s mountain bike team in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Owned and managed by Lange Sports, Team Ascendis Health will start out with two top professional women’s mountain bikers, current South African marathon champion, Robyn de Groot and current Swedish marathon champion, Jennie Stenerhag.
South Africa hosts many of the world’s premier international marathon and multi-day mountain bike events, which will be the primary focus for Team Ascendis Health for 2015.
De Groot, who is based in Johannesburg, and Stenerhag, who is based in Cape Town when in South Africa, will contest, among many other events, the Ashburton Investments National Marathon Series, which includes two International Cycling Union (UCI) graded races, the ABSA Cape Epic, the world’s highest graded international mountain bike stage race, and the Cape Pioneer Trek, which is also a UCI-graded international stage race.
Both riders started their bicycle racing careers as road cyclists, with De Groot representing South Africa at the London Olympic Games and Stenerhag winning the Swedish national road title, among their highest achievements. But the fast-growing sport of mountain biking saw them convert from tar to dirt over the past couple of years – with distinction.
De Groot finished 2014 as South Africa’s top-ranked marathon mountain bike racer with a number of high profile race wins, including the defence of her national marathon title and a respectable sixth place at the marathon World Championships. Stenerhag, seventh at the 2014 World Championships, partnered De Groot to victory in a number of stage races in 2014, including the Nedbank Sani2c and the Isuzu Trucks PE Plett.
“The focus on women’s professional bicycle racing is growing globally and South Africa is a leading nation when it comes to mountain bike racing. It made sense for us to use our experience at building professional bicycle racing teams to launch a women-only team for 2015,” said Malcolm Lange of Lange Sports.
“For the past six years, Lange Sports has been helping companies build their brands through sponsorship of our professional cycling teams. We’re excited to have Jennie and Robyn, both great ambassadors and athletes, helping grow awareness of the Ascendis Health brands through high value mountain bike racing platform,” added Lange.
“Ascendis Health is a dynamic business that’s focussed on success. The companies we own produce and distribute premium health and wellness brands for humans, plants and animals. Many of our products are women-focussed and we feel a women’s mountain bike racing team is well suited to the objectives in promoting our brands,” said Karsten Wellner, CEO of Ascendis Health.
Team Ascendis Health got their 2015 racing campaign off to a positive start when De Groot and Stenerhag finished second and third respectively at the Fairview Attakwas Extreme Mountain Bike Challenge held in Oudtshoorn at the weekend. Stenerhag was unfortunate to puncture twice while leading the race. Both riders showed their form is good eight weeks from the ABSA Cape Epic, which is one of the team’s biggest objectives for the year.
“Attakwas was a tough race to start the year with, but it showed that both Jennie and I are well on track to be in peak condition come the Cape Epic in March. The fact that we have such supportive new sponsors makes a big difference. It’s very motivating,” said De Groot.
“I’m so used to doing everything myself as a professional racer. The Lange Sports team support at Attakwas was amazing! This kind of support makes it easier for Robyn and I to focus on winning races. I’m very excited to be a part of Team Ascendis Health and Lange Sports,” said Stenerhag.
The Ascendis Health team co-sponsors are: SCOTT bicycles and gear, Compendium Insurance, Craft clothing, UTI transport and logistics, Dischem, Supashape, Coast2Coast and Nike eyewear.