Tour de Free State delivers great excitement

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Lotto-Belisol)’s victory in Sunday’s last stage of the Tour de Free State, might just mean that South Africa will be able to send three riders to the Olympic Games in London.

Before the start of the tour South Africa needed about 57 points to move up to the 13th place on the UCI rankings – which would mean three riders can go to the Games.

Moolman-Pasio accumulated 64 points with her 9th (1st stage), 4th (2nd stage), 2nd (3rd stage) and 1st (4th stage) place finishes.

These results might even be good enough for Moolman-Pasio to move in to the top thirty on the UCI rankings.

As far as the Olympic Games are concerned, Moolman-Pasio is quick to point out that nothing is set in stone yet.

“We will only know how many riders we will be able to send to the Games after the Exergy Tour in the USA. A lot can still happen.”

Moolman-Pasio won the last stage by outsprinting Emma Johansson (HiTec) in the stage from Kestell to Clarens (72 km). Her winning time was 2 hours 10 minutes and 50 seconds. Hanka Kupfernagel (RusVelo), a former world time trial champion and cyclocross world champion, finished third.

Johansson, silver medalist at the 2008 Olympic Games in London, proved during the four days of racing why she is currently the world’s third best women’s rider.

She could be called “Miss Consistency” because she was second in three stages and won Saturday’s third stage. Needless to say Johansson won overall. Kupfernagel finished second overall (5 seconds adrift) and Moolman-Pasio third (26 seconds adrift).

Moolman-Pasio and Johansson’s battle in the Maloti-mountains, in and around Clarens, was definitely the tour’s highlight.

It was like a chess game being played on two wheels over two days with constant attacks and counter attacks.

The battle in the mountains eventually ended in stalemate as neither the South African nor the Swede could manage to open a substantial gap. “Things might have been different if I had one more day in the mountains,” Moolman-Pasio said.

Moolman-Pasio is going to be busy in the next three weeks. She flew out on Sunday night to Spain where she will be competing in a tough one day race as well as a tour.

She is also going to compete in the women’s version of the Giro d’Italia.

The exciting news for South African’s women’s cycling is that next year the Tour de Free State might be combined with a UCI World Cup-race. “If UCI gives us permission to hold a World Cup in South Africa it will mean that the top 100 riders will be racing in the Free State,” said Barry Austin.