By: Sarah Bonner
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio celebrated a double victory this past week at African Continental Championships in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso. Moolman-Pasio showed her prowess in both the road and individual time trial disciplines winning the sprint from a breakaway in the road race and the timetrial by 43 seconds.
Victory wasn’t without it’s challenges, however, as only five of the 21 bicycles sent arrived with Team South Africa. With flights arriving only every second day, riders were left without equipment and forced to abandon some events. “I had both, my time trial and road bike, so I was one of the fortunate ones,” Moolman-Pasio stated, sounding relieved all over again.
The first of two events was a flat, non-technical 21km individual time trial consisting of two 10.5kmlaps. The time trial “went smoothly,” Moolman-Pasio says. “It was well organized and there was good support from the locals,” she continued. Moolman-Pasio won the event taking the gold medal by 43seconds. The second entered South African rider, An-Li Pretorius, took the silver medal.
Two days later, with all the luggage safely delivered, Moolman-Pasio lined up for the flat 100km road race, that was later shortened to 68km, to defend her 2011 title. As a climbing specialist, flat terrain is “not my thing,” claimed Moolman-Pasio, who was more concerned about the weather conditions. Even though it was winter in Burkina Faso, since it’s in the northern hemisphere, accordingto Moolman-Pasio, “everyday the temperature was over 35 degrees.” On the day of the road race, sherecalled, “it was flat, dusty, and hot!”
With three of the eleven girls who participated in the road race representing South Africa, “the plan was for all three of us to breakaway, work together…and then race each other for the title,” says Moolman-Pasio. Moolman-Pasio, along with her two compatriots, Pretorius and Olivier, comprised the winning breakaway and sprinted one another for the victory. “An-Li put up a good fight and it was relatively close. I was happy to take gold,” says Moolman-Pasio. “All credit to Burkina Faso women who didn’t make it easy. They were good at covering attacks and they continued to race,” she says. Inthe end, South Africa dominated the podium and Burkina Faso won 4th, 5th, and 6th.
She isn’t all about the win, however, expressing her concern for the development of women’scycling. “It is important for me to see women’s cycling grow in South Africa,” she says. She further stresses the importance of African Continental Championships, not just for South Africa, but for African women’s cycling as a whole. According to Moolman-Pasio, while certain nations attend annually, notably South Africa and Namibia, lack of funding prevents regular attendance from other nations.
“It’s nice to see the effort of the host country get their women ready to race. They have good attitudes and they are determined,” she says, noting especially the positive competitive attitude and commitment of the Burkina Faso women’s team. “What’s a real shame is not seeing [cycling federations] send their women to more competition,” she says, pointing out the missing Eritrean team of four who competed last year along with a few other missing riders. “It’s a shame more work isn’t being done to give African women a chance to race.”
As the new African Continental Champion, Moolman-Pasio heads to Johannesburg, South Africa to race the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge, looking to defend her title and end her season with a local win.