30-year-old cyclist Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio got into the sport thanks to the encouragement of her boyfriend, now husband, while she was studying. She still recalls clearly the moment she realised that becoming a professional cyclist was her passion.
“It was December 2009 and I was sitting in the graduation ceremony at Stellenbosch University for my chemical engineering degree when the dean said we should find our passion and pursue it. I am sure most of the students and the dean himself were referring to finding a passion in the engineering field, but it was being on my bike that awoke those feelings in me,” she says.
“With risk comes reward. For many, it would be too risky giving up engineering for a less stable, uncertain career in cycling. For me, it was worth it to pursue my true passion.”
And she has not looked back since.
Now firmly busy with preparations for the Olympics in Rio later this year, Moolman-Pasio had a stellar year in 2015, when she won the South African National Time Trial as well as the National Road Championships. She was also first in the African Continental Team and Individual Time Trial Championships, and achieved a number of great results for her UCI professional team Cervélo-Bigla Pro Cycling.
Despite these accomplishments, she was bitterly disappointed with her failure at the World Championships last year, where she had a mechanical problem.
“As a professional cyclist you learn quickly that everything is not sunshine and roses. Fortunately, I have a very supportive husband who is with me and gave up his own cycling aspirations to be with me. This bit of gender reversal (society believes it is the man who is the athlete) challenges the status quo, but he is doing what his heart is telling him to do.”
With the Summer Olympics just a few months away, she is focused on being at her peak, but understands that there needs to be a balance in life.
“To relax I love to take a bit of quiet time, especially because we travel so much. I love being in the mountains as it refreshes the body, mind, and soul.” — Iwan Pienaar
Photo: Luc Claessen/Belga Photo