The Nashua Toyota women’s professional cycling team confirmed the benefits of their European racing programme when their riders dominated the Amashova Durban Classic road cycling race in South Africa on Sunday.
Ashleigh Moolman Pasio claimed the women’s title in the 106km race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban after a 48km-long solo breakaway. She was followed across the finish line by her Nashua Toyota teammate, Joanna van de Winkel, with MTN Qhubeka’s Lise Olivier completing the podium places in one of South Africa’s most prestigious events.
Further cementing Nashua Toyota’s dominance were Leandri du Toit, a rising Under-23 star from the Nashua Toyota Academy squad, taking fourth place, with Lynette Burger and Anriëtte Schoeman in fifth and sixth respectively.
“It was my first solo break victory in ages and I really enjoyed it,” said Moolman Pasio. “Our team was proactive from the start and we were determined to make the racing as hard as possible and put the other teams under pressure, especially with the rainy conditions early on.”
The nine-kilometre climb up Fox Hill out of Pietermaritzburg saw numerous attacks, but none succeeded in staying clear. Olivier won the Queen of the Mountain prime near the summit and shortly after that Du Toit (Nashua Toyota Academy) and Charlotte van der Merwe (MTN Qhubeka) moved clear. The duo stayed out front for the next 10km, but began to lose their lead as the pace of the peloton picked up on the slopes of Inchanga, the second major climb of the day.
“The rain made conditions a bit dangerous and I followed my teammate, Lynette Burger, a daring descender, down the twisty descent on the other side of Inchanga and we got a bit of a gap on the bunch. I’ve become a much better descender since racing in Europe and I didn’t expect to gain a potential race-winning advantage on a downhill. As we started to climb again, I realised we had a good gap and I set off on my own to catch the break.”
Moolman Pasio caught and passed the two leaders on the climb to Alverstone and then settled into a steady pace for the final 45km of the race, which included a high percentage of descents and flat roads.
“I felt quite relaxed and in control because I was getting time gap updates from David Pieterse, my team manager and realised that I was putting time into the others. That motivated me to keep going on my own. I actually felt strong all the way to the finish and I’m convinced that living and racing in Europe for six months has made me a far better rider.”
Realising Moolman Pasio had made a solo commitment for the win just after halfway, Olivier responded by trying to ride across to her, but Nashua Toyota’s Van de Winkel matched her and then followed her in a ‘policeman’ role so that the team could have a second option should Moolman Pasio get caught. But she never did and the 25-year-old from Stellenbosch crossed the line in time of two hours, 49 minutes and six seconds to claim her first Amashova title.
With relatively fresh legs compared to Olivier, Van de Winkel had little trouble in jumping clear near the finish to claim second place ahead of Olivier.
“With Jo and I taking the first two places, it’s further proof that racing in Europe during the quieter South African winter is the key to improving the standard of women’s racing here. Hopefully we can get more SA women racing in Europe next year to raise the standard even further.”
Leading Women’s Results at the Amashova Durban Classic, on Sunday, 16 October, 2011:1. Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (Nashua Toyota) 02hr 49min 06 sec 2. Joanna van de Winkel (Nashua Toyota) 2:52:36 3. Lise Olivier (MTN Qhubeka) same time 4. Leandri du Toit (Nashua Toyota Academy) 2:55:15 5. Lynette Burger (Nashua Toyota) 6. Anriëtte Schoeman (Nashua Toyota) 7. Sarah Chemaly (MTN Qhubeka) all same time 8. Isabel Moolman 3:02:19 9. Cherise Taylor (Team USN) 3:02:54 10. Danni Dalton (Team USN) same time
For full results, visit www.racetec.co.za