Anriette Schoeman can count her lucky stars that she is alive today.
Two weeks ago, while preparing for the defence of her Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour title, the Proline cyclist was knocked down by a car and she broke her wrist.
But that’s not going to stop the 29-year-old from racing and she is determined that she will participate in the Tour.
Having won nearly every major national cycling title over the years, Anriette Schoeman knows all about endurance and she is aware that, with the injury, mentally she will need to be at the top of her game to compete with the top riders.
But she has experience on her side having been involved with cycling for 15 years and just completing the Tour on March 11 will be a victory in itself.
gsport spoke to the defending Argus Champion about her love for cycling, how the accident has affected her career, and about the role endurance plays in her life.
How are you handling training for the Argus with a broken wrist?
There’s nothing I can do about it so I’m going to give the Argus a try this year but obviously I can’t put n the proper training as would have liked to.
I just want to give it a go. At least I can ride and just keep my sanity because if I can be on the start line of the Argus I will actually go insane.
Is it mentally difficult to readjust having to ride the Argus with a broken wrist?
I can’t even get out of my saddle and I can’t stand up and ride because my wrist is in a cast. I can’t manoeuvre my bike the way I would like to. Its going to be really, really difficult.
I just want to see if I can stick with the girls because I think the climbs might be a bit of an issue for me at this stage.
It’s a different kind of ride you really have to just grit your teeth and go for it and not be scared. I’ve already had an incident with a car two weeks ago so I’m a bit shaken after that.
At this stage, I’m just trying to be able to stick with the girls to the finish and then we’ll take it from there.
How can we educate South Africans more about cycling safety?
Broadcast it on national TV and make motorist and cyclists more aware of how things should be done.
The day we were riding, we were doing everything absolutely textbook correct, we were riding inside the yellow line and were riding one behind each other, not even next to each other.
But the driver of the car didn’t even have a licence so we if we can educate the general public just to look out for cyclists and your cyclists just to ride properly; it’s a responsibility of both sides.
I am really concerned about the accidents that have been happening lately.
Do you think you’re going to need to draw on extra strength to ride the Argus this year?
I’m a tough contender so I won’t settle for second best within my self, and I will really have to dig deep on March 11 to stick with the girls.
But if I could pull it off, even if don’t win the race, I’ll feel a lot bigger. I think it will be for me just like winning the Argus if I can just stick with them because at this stage that is my main concern.
Who are some of the top women’s contenders you will be looking out for?
The girls from the Konica-Minolta team are always strong, but riding amongst men makes it quite a different race, which favours someone like Anke Erlank-Moore, she’s a brilliant rider.
She always comes up with unexpected tricks. I’d rate her one of the biggest contenders of the race. She’s always up there, although she can’t even sprint.
She’s always managed to be up on the podium, it’s unbelievable how she manages to pull it off every year.
It’s been an amazing couple of years for you, you’ve won most of the top races in South Africa, how are you enjoying your cycling, injuries aside, your love for cycling, how does it stand at the moment?
After this accident, especially, I’ve realised how much I love cycling. It’s my absolute passion, you know, I can’t stay off the bike!
Four days after the incident, I actually rode a race, and I was in absolute agony, but I enjoyed it because I’ve still alive, and as long as I can ride my bike, I’ll be so happy.
I’m the strongest I’ve been for years, and it’s a set-back for me, but I will be back, because the fire’s still burning strong inside me, to do cycling.
The theme for gsport’s March edition is Endurance, the role endurance plays in our lives. As a cyclist, you know more about endurance than most of us. What influence has this played in your life?
You know, it’s mental endurance and physical endurance when you talk about cycling, and sometimes when your body starts dropping you, when you think you can’t go anymore, I promise you: You still can go on.
That’s the point when mental endurance plays the more important role. That’s what keeps you going, when you think you’ve had enough.
Aside from the Argus, what other races are you considering, or will you take a break to heal?
I might have to go for an operation just after the Cycle Tour, to put a screw in my wrist. If they put the screw in, I’ll have to stay off the bike completely for at least three- to four weeks.
But if I don’t need it, I won’t have to take off another six weeks. I’d like to do the Tour D’urban, which is basically the first big race after the Argus, at the end of April.
I’m crossing my fingers and holding my thumbs that they don’t have to put the screw in, because the way I’m training now, the chances that my bones are actually seizing in my wrist is very small.
The other option is to put the screw in, just after the Argus. I asked the doctor really nicely if I could do the Argus, and he said it’s OK (laughs).
What is the state of growth of women’s cycling in South Africa?
It’s definitely growing. I’ve been cycling for 15 years, and promise you, if I show you where we’ve come from… We have improved with leaps and bounds.
Even when we started out with this team-setup things, at this stage we’ve got the same amount of women’s teams racing as the guys, although the teams are smaller, because we haven’t got the amount of women’s riders yet.
It shows you there’s even improvement in the team cycling. In individual performances, I mean you look at young riders like Sherise Taylor- she’s unbelievable! You got to watch out for that girl in future.
Irene Tortius, and they’ll get exposed to international competition as well, which is good, because it teaches them big-match temperament, and eventually that’s what you need to compete in the World Champs and Olympic Games.