Smit, Moolman Pasio in Cycle Challenge wins

19 November 2013

Willie Smit captured the men’s honours and Ashleigh Moolman Pasio was the women’s winner in the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge, the world’s second-largest individually timed cycle race, in Johannesburg on Sunday.

Smit hauled in JC Nel of the UCI World Cycling Centre squad, a feeder team for Team MTN-Qhubeka, on the final climb, and went on to his first victory in the race in 2:08:42.

His team-mate Herman Fouche made it a Team Bonitas one-two, with NuWater’s Johann Rabie taking third place.

‘Special’

“The team has worked hard this year and we wanted to finish 2013 in a special way,” Smit said after the race.

“It’s a great feeling to be standing on the podium and the victory tastes that much sweeter with a teammate next to you.”

There were two telling moves in the men’s race. The first occurred when the leading cyclists left the highway and headed up Joe Slovo Drive, which resulted in a splintering of the riders, with a group of 40 then moving to the front and upping the pace.

With less than 10 kilometres to go, Smit, concerned about the sprinting prowess of Team Abantu’s Nolan Hoffman, made a second move, which was matched by HB Kruger and Dan Craven, while JC Nel was about 20 seconds ahead of the chasers. Hoffman failed to follow.

Second win

National road race champion Ashleigh Moolman Pasio lifted the women’s title for a second time, having previously won in 2011, with defending champion Sharon Laws coming home in second place, and Anriette Schoeman in third.

The victory brought the curtain down on the Momentum Toyota Team, which Moolman Pasio had joined when it started five years ago. During those five years, the team succeeded admirably as it sought to develop world class female South African road cyclists.

Moolman Pasio proved to be the best of the lot and this year moved into the top 15 of the world rankings. Many other leading South African riders were also members of the team during its half-decade existence, including Lynette Burger, Lizanne Naude (Van der Merwe), Anriette Schoeman, Leandri du Toit, Andri Coetzee, Heidi Dalton, Cherise Taylor (Stander), Robyn de Groot and Joanna Hotchkiss (Van de Winkel).

Overseas partnership

The team management also developed an overseas partnership with the Belgian- based Lotto Belisol team to ensure the riders had access to international races during South Africa’s quieter winter months. The relationship strengthened to the point that some Momentum Toyota riders were offered full contracts with the European squad.

“This is such a wonderful event. It’s great to win it again, but more amazing to have two Momentum Toyota riders on the podium. Our objective was to win today and that objective was achieved,” Moolman Pasio said during a post-race TV interview.

“I’m grateful for the time with Momentum Toyota. It’s been great for my career and I’m looking forward to the next chapter.”

“While we are ending the professional racing team as such, we will continue in our capacity as the Toyota Supercycling Club to support the three young riders that shone on the team this year – Heidi Dalton, Andri Coetzee and Leandri du Toit,” confirmed Burger, who has fulfilled a role of manager, rider and mentor on the team for the past two years.