Adding a second Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge title to her Pick n Pay Cape Argus Cycle Tour win would be the cherry on top of an already successful season for Cherise Taylor of Team USN.
The defending champion, who started her run with the elite time-trial title in Port Elizabeth in February, has her sights sets on taking South Africa’s second biggest national classic on November 20 to add to her pair of Argus titles.
“It’s always been my dream to win a national title, the Argus and the 94.7 in one season. It’s quite a difficult task to be on form for all three, so we’ll see.”
Taylor, who won last year’s race in a sprint, is looking forward to having the support of teammates such as national road champion Marissa van der Merwe and SA marathon mountain bike champion Karien van Jaarsveld.
“Last year I rode on my own, so I didn’t think I had a good chance of winning, which just took all the stress off me.”
The classics rider said last year’s strategy had been to focus on both the queen of the mountains and sprint primes “. . . in case my legs gave in, then I’d have something to show for it.”
This year however the pressure will be on the reigning champ to perform, but the 22-year-old remains unfazed.
“It’s not always about winning. If I can go to the finish and say I’ve given everything and done all I could, then that’s a successful day.
“There’s nothing worse than ending off the race and feeling like you still had something left in the tank.”
Taylor said she enjoyed the route because it offered a little bit of everything.
“It’s an all-rounder’s course and therefore anything can happen. We’ve seen breaks go and we’ve seen bunch sprints.”
She said the four hotspots on the route made the racing very aggressive, as there was always something to work for.
“I’m hoping that the girls will pick up the pace. We’ve been accused of having tea parties on the road before, but the last few races have just been attack, attack, attack.
“The biggest difference for us is that in the Argus we race with the men, whereas in the 94.7 we race on our own.”
Tactically, she said, this made it difficult for smaller outfits like hers to compete against the larger teams. “But we do have the strength and we’ve proved that we can do it.”
The Port Shepstone-based cyclist said her biggest challenger would be Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio of Biogen Toyota, who has shown good form on the European racing circuit.
“I’m sure she’s got something to prove and would want to end her season off with a South African win.”
Taylor herself has had good international results, placing eighth in a stage at the Giro d’Italia Femminile and fifth in the third stage of the Tour of Holland.
“Internationally speaking, next year’s Olympics is big for us and I don’t think we’ve reached our potential yet.”
To this end, she has enlisted the help of Dr Jeroen Swart at the Sports Science Institute of SA.
“I’ve never really looked into the scientific aspects of cycling. If I want to go to the Olympics and get a good result there, I really need to start focusing on that.”
In order to increase her qualifying chances, Taylor will be taking part in the African Continental Championships in Eritrea later this month.
“I’m only getting back three days before the 94.7, so that’s obviously going to be factor on race day. But there are a lot of UCI points at stake, so it’s something I can’t afford to skip.”
Taylor said she was really looking forward to riding through the deserted streets of Johannesburg.
“Riding on the highway with full road closure is phenomenal. I think the traffic department and race organisers do an incredible job.”
Her fiancé, former U/23 world cross-country mountain bike champion Burry Stander, will once again be supporting her from the team car.
“We actually had an argument on the route last year,” laughed Taylor, “but he’s an amazing mentor and always helps me, especially at this time of year when you do get tired.”
The petite champ said she had come a long way with the race, having first ridden it as an eight-year-old, and intended to take a balanced approach on the day.
“I always try to look at the people on the side of the road and remember to wave back and have fun along the route.”
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