Nashua-Toyota’s Ashleigh Moolman Pasio listed the defence of her title in The Herald VW Cycle Tour in Port Elizabeth on Sunday as one of her three goals before jetting off to Italy in March for the European season.

She said this week’s national championships in the Friendly City – where she has entered the time-trial and road race – would be her first objective after having to settle for silver behind team-mate Lynette Burger in Oudtshoorn two years ago.

Her focus then shifts to the season’s first national classic, which starts from the same venue on the PE beachfront the following day. “After that, it’s on to the Cape Argus,” said the 25-year-old, who has only one top-10 finish to show for her three attempts.

“I have recovered fully from my injuries and have been able to build a very good base,” said Moolman, referring to her collarbone that was shattered thrice in less than 12 months, causing her to miss both the world championships in Australia and Commonwealth Games in India last October.

“It was a huge disappointment, but, on the positive side, it has given me ample time to prepare for this season. I’m looking forward to racing again and holding thumbs that it will be a good, injury free year.”

It started off well enough when she was sandwiched by team-mates Anriette Schoeman and Robyn de Groot for a podium lock-out in a Cape Town league race two weekends ago.

Moolman said she believed The Herald VW Cycle Tour would be a very “interesting” and “wide open” affair one day after the nationals, which take place on a course closely resembling classics in the Belgian Ardennes.

The Capetonian, who is used to racing tours in Europe, said two hard days in a row might give her an edge over some of the locally-based girls. “It’s going to be a matter of who recovers the best.”

She said the course of The Herald VW Cycle Tour – the second oldest national classic – suited her strengths. “The combination of steep climbs and undulating roads makes it a tough race. It requires power riding.”

It will be Moolman’s third tour. Two years ago she was involved in a race-long breakaway – with Cashandra Slingerland and Joanna van de Winkel – that failed within sight of the finish.

“Apart from the harsh course, it is a beautiful ride – especially when you hit the coast at Maitlands. The finish on the wide open boulevard along the beachfront is also something special.”

The champion said she had good memories of PE and was amped for the week of racing, but added that it would be sad not to have Carla Swart in the peloton. “In my book, she would have been one of the big favourites.”

The Herald VW Cycle Tour possibly attracted its strongest field ever when it doubled as the first leg of the now defunct Alpha Pharm Series and Moolman expected the SAs to have a similar effect. “It’s a coup for the event, that’s for sure.”

She said it was difficult to name favourites this early in the season, but that current champion Cherise Taylor would definitely have a target on her back.

“She is a great classics style rider. She is such a clever racer with loads of big-match temperament.”

The national championships take place from Wednesday to Saturday with The Herald VW Cycle Tour’s 105km feature event on Sunday.

The Boardwalk will host the tour’s registration – at the Tsitsikamma Conference Centre from 9am to 7pm on Friday and from 9am to 5pm on Saturday – as well as the pre-race expo.
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 Nashua-Toyota’s Ashleigh Moolman Pasio will be defending her title in The Herald VW Cycle Tour national classic in Port Elizabeth on Sunday. Photo: Dominic Barnardt







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