Thumbs Up For Women’s Cycling

by | Mar 1, 2008

20080301ThumbsUp1.jpgThere’s been
great excitement in the world of cycling since MTN announced its sponsorship of
South Africa’s
first-ever fully-professional women’s road cycling outfit. This significant
move is widely expected to revolutionize top-flight women’s cycling in the
country, and there is already talk of entering a MTN team in the women’s Tour
de France in the near future.

Team MTN is
led by Cherise Taylor and also includes Marissa van der Merwe, Chrissie
Viljoen, Altie Clark and Cashandra Slingerland, who have won six out of seven
races, since the team came together, and they’re expected to provide a stiff
challenge at the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour taking place in Cape Town on 9 March.

MTN, whose sponsorship
commitment runs until the end of 2010, plans to support women’s cycling on all
levels and not just the top-end racers. While nothing has been finalised yet, a
focus on women-specific cycling activities in August (Women’s Month) is in the
planning phase.

Anthony
Garstang, MTN SA Senior Manager: Sponsorships, told gsport: "MTN is incredibly
proud to be sponsoring a Ladies Cycling Team as is it the first time that we
have sponsored a fully professional ladies team in any discipline. When we were
looking to increase our investment in the sport it became clear to us that
ladies’ cycling in SA was being dominated by a handful of successful
individuals and we saw this as an opportunity to nurture young talent under the
guidance of Douglas Ryder.

"The team
has only been together for two months now but they have gelled incredibly well
and are starting to produce some incredible results which we are delighted
with. We believe that they will only go from strength to strength as they grow
and mature as a unit."

Commenting
on the sponsorship, MTN team owner Douglas Ryder, told gsport: "It is
revolutionary in that the sponsorship by MTN for women’s cycling means that the
riders can ride as full professionals and not have to hold down any other
employment which is unique in cycling for women. This will help raise the level
of the sport and it has already shown in the speeds of the races this year.

"Women’s
cycling is on the up, the women are receiving similar prize money to the men, even
though there are fewer teams and fewer riders per team, but it is definitely
improving. The next step is for there to be more women’s specific 3 to 5 day
stage races."

What’s great
about the MTN sponsorship is that other Corporates are sure to follow in their
footsteps, and women’s cycling can only benefit in the long run.

20080301ThumbsUp3.jpgIts multi-million
rand sponsorship is one of the biggest sponsorships in the history of SA
cycling but it’s not limited to the professional riders. It also includes the
overall sponsorship of BMX racing, the co-sponsorship of the Mazda MTN Mountain
Bike Series, the naming rights sponsorship of the MTN Giro del Capo
international stage race, the MTN Panorama Tour, recreational stage race and
the MTN Zoo Lake Classic, a day of top-level circuit racing in Joburg.

Our March
gSTAR
, Anriette Schoeman, who has been riding for 16 years, and whose main
sponsor is PROLINE Computers, told gsport she believes that if women get
treated equal to men in the sport it would be a real improvement.

 "Women’s cycling has grown from strength to
strength in the past 10 years, but there should be a structure put in place to
develop riders and get them ready for overseas racing. We have incredible
talent in women’s cycling and I think with the right guidance we could feature
in world class events as well."

On a
development level, there are initiatives around the country, aimed at improving
the state of the sport, across all ages and both genders. This March, gsport
has featured the Life
Cycling Academy
in our Star Search feature,
and we’re heartened by the efforts of Glyn Broomberg and his team to contribute
to transformation.

In response
to a question on how women’s cycling can be further improved, Broomberg said:
"The million rand question!! A lot needs to be done all around. There are some
structures out there like Cbist Racing that are dedicated to improving the
level of ladies cycling and individuals like Erica Green that are passionate
about promoting girls and their cycling but they need to be given the support
that they need to achieve their goals and objectives."

20080301ThumbsUp2.jpgOne of the Life Cycling
Academy’s rising stars is
14-year-old Zanele Tshoko, a product of the Pick n Pay Ascends Excellence
Programme. And in addition to winning gold in the Western Province Road
Championships and the Western Province Time Trial Championships, Zanele was
also crowned the Western Province Cycling Association’s Female Cyclist of the
Year in 2007.

"My parents
believe in me and that is all that matters," says Tshoko, who is currently
training to participate in the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour, and hopes to
turn professional within the next two years. 

Cycling 101: Road Riding V Mountain Biking (Info
courtesy Velo Girl)

What are the various cycling disciplines?

BMX (bicycle
motocross), Road riding, Mountain biking, Track cycling, Down hill. Each
discipline has its own subcategories.

What is more popular, road riding or mountain
biking?

Each
discipline seems to take turns as far as growth in the sport is concerned. At
the moment, mountain biking is very popular mainly due to the fact that it is
safer. Road riders have to contend with traffic and mountain bikers with nature
and therefore it is a more social and family orientated sport.

The now
famous ABSA Cape Epic stage event and family mountain bike
weekend festivals such as the Dirtopia Festival & RIDE Crater
Cruise event locally is certainly contributing to the sport’s popularity
as well.

Who are the leading South African road riders?

At the
moment we are fortunate to have quite a few teams with top girls in each of
them. It is really difficult to pin down who the top girls are as it fluctuates
and there are many of them who perform well.

The
girls who prominently feature on the podiums in races at this
moment are still Anriette Schoeman (now a veteran and still winning
races), Cherise Taylor (young upcoming sensation and captain of the
MTN team) & Marissa van der Merwe (former team mate of Anriëtte
& now in the MTN team).

There are
also many other girls who were selected for the squad and for Olympic training
and also feature on the podiums from time to time (e.g Yolandi du Toit,
Cashandra Slingerland (current time trial champ), Lynette Burger, Arien Torsius
etc. The names mentioned above are based on latest results.

Who are South Africa’s mountain biking stars?

We are
fortunate to have quiet a few top mountain bike girls in SA in their age
classes and disciplines, but going according to current top rankings, for cross
country it would be Yolande Speedy, marathon is Yolande de Villiers, and
downhill – Rika Olivier.

What is more difficult, road riding or mountain
biking?

Mountain
biking requires more skills such as jumping over obstacles, riding in
narrow forest or rocky tracks (singletrack) etc and also in
general requires more overall body strength as mountain bikes are
generally heavier than road bikes. In road riding you can get
away with less skill and fitness by riding in bunches and using tactics to
your advantage.

 

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<a href="https://gsport.co.za/members/kass_naidoo/" target="_self">Kass Naidoo</a>

Kass Naidoo

Passionate sports broadcaster and founder of gsport4girls

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