Final ascent up the Mur de Huy

Flèche Wallonne Femmes 2013: My First World Cup Podium

by Ashleigh Moolman Pasio

All things are possible to those who believe!

 

The first time I set my eyes on the Mur de Huy, I imeditately knew it was a climb for me. Flèche Wallonne Femmes, which finishes up the infamous Mur, is my most favourite one-day race on the UCI calendar. And for three years, I have always believed that one day I could ride onto the podium!

Fleche Wallonne World Cup Podium

Three years ago when I hit the Mur de Huy for the final ascent to the finish line, I found myself alone, chasing back after being caught up in a crash 5km from the finish. Last year I made it to the bottom of the climb, out of trouble, in the zone, and I rode my way to a 5th place finish. This year, when I hit the bottom of the Mur for the last time, on the wheels of Marianne Vos, Emma Johansson and Elisa Longo Borghini, reality hit me like a ton of bricks: I wasn’t just riding for the podium, I was racing for the win!

The race wasn’t just different for me this year; it was a new route that included more climbing, an extra 20km, and the first climb up the Mur de Huy came half way through the race, much sooner than before. However, what hadn’t changed at all was the hard, steep climb to the finish line; at the top of the my favourite climb, the Mur de Huy.

Final ascent up the Mur de Huy

From the word go the race was more aggressive than it was in the past and it continued to be aggressive the whole day. It was difficult to sit back, not follow every attack, and save my legs for the right moment. Thankfully, my team believed in me 100% and gave everything to get me to the final climb in one piece and as fresh as possible. Every one of my teammates gave their best on the day. Carlee Taylor was particularly active, doing her best to take the pressure off me. I just had to do my part and keep a lid on my nerves and excitement until the time was right.

The GreenEdge leadout train were driving hard on the front for Johansson as we hit the bottom of the Mur for the last time and, like years past, reality hit hard and fast. My team had done their job and it was now up to me to believe in my legs as much as they did.

At the bottom of the climb, the noise from the crowd was overwhelming, but as we ascended the steep slopes it got quiet. I could hear myself think again. The plan was to use the steep parts to my advantage, since the road levels out before the finish line. I got excited and found myself on the front with everyone on my wheel, feeling unsure of what I was capable of.

Nervous of going too hard and blowing completely, I held back a bit on the last steep part and suddenly I found myself on the back foot. Vos attacked with Borghini not far behind her, as the road levelled out. I had to use everything to come back and, as Vos took the win, I drove it to a photo finish with Borghini for 2nd. As my teammates finished, it was still undecided whether I was 2nd or 3rd but the whole team was so excited to be on the podium, it didn’t even matter.

A happy team :-)

Inexperience and the hugeness of the moment may have caught me out a little on that fateful steep part, but it also caught me out for prize giving. Unsure of the procedure, I felt a little overwhelmed. I was so thankful to see Sarah Connolly, Miss @_Pigeons_ herself, and although we have only “met” on social media, I was so relieved and happy to see a familiar face.

I was eventually called up to claim 3rd and standing on the podium I felt strange, but incredibly proud! My podium position at Flèche Wallonne World Cup represents a milestone for South African and African cycling, and I was happy to stand on the podium a very proud South African and African ambassador.

As I said to Sean Badenhorst when he interviewed me on Thursday, as the first South African woman to podium at a World Cup, I dedicate this achievement to all the young aspring cyclists, particularly the young women at home in South Africa, to remind them to keep believing in themselves and in there dreams! With hard work, commitment, passion and a little bit of faith, anything is possible!

Don’t stop believing!

It was very special having my Dad, Johan Moolman, there to witness it all! I am completely overwhelmed by the support I have received from my team, my family, my fellow South Africans and from people all around the world. I truly feel very blessed to have so many people who believe in me and my abilities. Thank you :-)