Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (front) won the final stage of the 2012 Tour de Free State, her achievement bringing in additional UCI rankings points which may open the window for a third South African cyclist to participate in the London 2012 Olympic Games. Photo:

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio’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 (Lotto-Belisol) to move in to the top thirty on the UCI rankings, and 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.”

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio celebrates her final Tour de Free State stage win with Emma Johansson (silver medallist, right) and Hanka Kupfernagel (bronze, left). Photo: 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 medallist at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, 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, has been likened to 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, and 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.