Words: Elisha Bholanath
Whether she wins or loses the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge on Sunday, November 17, the one thing you can be sure of is that Anriette Schoeman, the country’s most successful woman cyclist, will have a smile on her face.
At the age of 36, the Port Elizabeth star can look back on a career that has included eight South African titles, an Olympic Games and numerous victories on the road. The Team Mecer rider has, like many South African road racers recently, made the move into mountain biking, but unlike Robyn de Groot, who won the 2013 Momentum 94.7 MTB Challenge on Sunday, she still has a lot of love for road racing.
“I’ve won the Cycle Challenge four times and it is a race that means a lot to me,” said Schoeman, who finished second in the MTB Challenge behind de Groot. “I’m not expecting much, I’ll take it as it comes, but the mountain biking does make you strong, so let’s see how it goes. Hopefully I’ll have some sprinting legs at the finish. I don’t know what will happen on Sunday. Is anyone betting on me? Sometimes you need to be serious about things in life, but where I am at at the moment, I’m just having fun. I didn’t expect to ride so well at the MTB Challenge, having only decided to enter on Friday, so there’s some form there.”
Schoeman is being modest when she says she is not expecting much. This year she received a Motion of Congratulations in parliament after winning her seventh Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Challenge, a rare feat for any South African cyclist. She was sent a letter of congratulations by parliament, along with the minutes of the proceedings in which she was mentioned. She also won the Pick n Pay Rotary Knysna Challenge this year, showing that at 36, her legs are as strong as ever.
“I must say this season has been very long and juggling road riding with mountain biking,” said Schoeman. “I’ve probably been a bit clumsy on the mountain bike and wanted to spend a lot of time on a mountain bike. You want to go flat out on the mountain bike and you focus a lot of energy and time on that. I’ve just come off the Cape Pioneer with John Lee Augustyn (the former Tour de France rider who has just signed with MTN-Qhubeka for next year) and just keeping up with him was an effort. But I have that distance and training in my legs, and let’s see if that can help me to a fifth Cycle Challenge title. It would be the perfect end to a great year.”
She will be up against a stiff challenge from the last two winners of the Cycle Challenge this Sunday. Briton Sharon Laws, the defending champion, and the 2011 winner, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, will lead a six-rider Momentum Toyota team looking to make it three wins in a row for the squad.
Moolman Pasio has had an outstanding season, one she has been the best of her career thus far. She won her first UCI road race, taking the Holland Hills Classic, was third in the Flèche Wallonne Féminine and eighth overall in the Giro Donne, the most prestigious women’s stage race in the world. She is also the South African road and time trial champion. Recently, she won the OFM Classic in Bloemfontein, showing that the year will only end for her after the Cycle Challenge.
Laws was involved in a massive crash at the Cycle Tour won by Schoeman in March, suffering vertebra and collarbone fractures as well as lung trauma in her crash. Many thought it would put an end to her career, if not her year, but after a year of recovery and training, she has shown form, taking third place in the FNB Wine2Whales stage race this past weekend.
For further information on the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge, go to www.cyclechallenge.co.za