Defending champion, Sharon Laws and 2011 winner and Ashleigh Moolman Pasio will spearhead the six-rider outfit’s quest for a third successive victory at South Africa’s traditional season-closing road race – 94.7 Cycle Challenge.
This will be Laws’ first road race back on South African soil following her near career-ending crash at the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour in Cape Town in March. The 2012 British road race champion has spent most of the year in recovery mode, but showed glimpses of her best form when she finished third at the Wines2Whales three-day mountain bike stage race last weekend.
“This recovery has been a long haul. I got back on the bike quicker than expected, but have struggled to reach my best form again,” said Laws, who sustained multiple rib, vertebra and collarbone fractures as well as lung trauma in her crash.
“I was in a lot of pain until mid July and then tried to do too much training without a good base and got ill. Only now am I starting to feel close to my former self,” added the 39-year-old.
In contrast to Laws, Moolman Pasio has had the best racing year of her career, setting a string of pioneering milestones for South African female road cycling abroad, winning both national titles (road race and time trial) and reaching the top 15 in the world rankings.
Moolman Pasio won the OFM Classic in Bloemfontein last weekend confirming her good form and goes into Sunday’s race as the favourite. Joining Moolman Pasio and Laws on the start line will be former African and South African road champion, Lynette Burger, who won the Engen Cycle Challenge in Stellenbosch last weekend and a trio of rising young stars, Heidi Dalton, Andri Coetzee and Leandri du Toit.
“I’m really excited for Sunday’s race. I’m grateful to be able to defend my title, but to be honest, I really don’t mind which of our Momentum Toyota team members wins. There are a lot of talented riders in the team and our primary aim is to ensure one of us wins.”
With more than 25 000 entrants, the 94.7 Cycle Challenge is the second largest cycle race in the world and sees the streets of Johannesburg, Africa’s busiest city, closed for the day. The 95km race includes 1200 metres of vertical ascent and usually takes place in hot, breezy conditions.
The team members will attend the event’s official twitter ride on Saturday morning, alongside the likes of 2013 Tour de France Yellow Jersey wearer, Daryl Impey and other high profile cyclists. The team members will be using the twitter ride to raise awareness of Toyota’s Safe Cycling campaign.
The campaign, which is pushing for a 1.5-metre safe-passing distance between motorists and cyclists to become law in an effort to make cycling in South Africa safer, will get a significant boost at the Cycle Challenge through the use of specially designed fluorescent armbands. The armbands will be given out free with prizes on offer for wearers spotted during the race.