Nineteen-year old Heidi Dalton (centre) is currently out of the country racing with the Belgian Lotto Belisol ladies team. In a highly competitive sport, she’s racing as an elite cyclist, daily, against some of the best in the world.
“It is the most intimidating, yet exciting feeling to be standing alongside your heroes, riders such as Marianne Vos, and being able to race with our current South African champ, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio.
“My European experience this year is about learning the cycling trade at a professional level. The quality of racing in Europe is unbelievably tough – harder, faster, huge bunches and often bleak weather conditions. It is making me stronger both physically and mentally,” Dalton says.
Cycling is a family passion. Her parents own two bike shops and she rode her first race at age eight – the Spar to Spar Richards Bay, which she won.
“My dad has been the most influential person in my career to date. As I became more competitive, he assisted with my training programmes, taught me how to listen to what my body was telling me, and how to analyse my heart rates, power measurements and more, to improve my performance,” she says.
Dalton won double gold in the South African Time Trial and Road Race events as a junior and was awarded the National Champion’s jersey.
Her short-term plan is to work hard for the Lotto Belisol Team and says she hopes to earn a position in the team to start the elite women’s road event, the Giro Rosa in Italy.
“I am honoured to be able to represent South Africa at the Commonwealth Games and hopefully World Champs in Spain in September,” she adds. “Olympics 2016 is my long-term goal.” — Samantha Perry