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Former Cape Town Cycle Tour champion, the first winner of the UCI Cycling Esports World Championships and South Africa’s leading international female cyclist Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio is returning to where it all began – the Cape Town Cycle Tour. She’s also bringing 30 new “teammates” with her.
Moolman-Pasio, a week after competing in the Strade Bianche in Italy for her team AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step, will line up at the start of the 79km women’s elite race at the 2023 Cape Town Cycle Tour. It will be Moolman-Pasio’s first time racing in the event since 2013, where she finished fifth. She won the 2012 edition of the women’s race.
On top of racing against South Africa’s elite female cyclists, Moolman-Pasio is also making a brief return to South Africa to ride the Cycle Tour with 30 new and upcoming cyclists from Khayelitsha in Cape Town.
Through her Rocacorba Collective, a virtual community for cycling, Moolman-Pasio has partnered with Khaltsha Cycles, a cycling shop based in Khayelitsha, with the aim of getting more women on bikes and giving young girls an opportunity to become cyclists.
After Khaltsha Cycles identified the 30 girls to participate in the Cycle Tour, Rocacorba and Moolman-Pasio were able to raise funds for bikes, kit, helmets and other items that the girls will need to get through the event.
Moolman-Pasio will start the Cycle Tour, an event she first rode in 2001, by racing the women’s elite race, then returning to the start to begin riding the traditional 109km route in the last batch of the day with the team from Khaltsha Cycles.
“The aim here is to empower the girls through the bicycle,” says Moolman-Pasio. “So we are using bicycles to firstly, give the new riders a sense of belonging, and to help them grow in their confidence.”
“Normally I wouldn’t be coming back to South Africa at this time of year because it’s peak Classics season, but our partnership with Khaltsha Cycles is such a great initiative that I wanted to be here to ride with the girls,” says Moolman-Pasio. “So I’m coming to Cycle Tour to meet the girls in person, to hand over the bikes to them and to ride the Cape Town Cycle Tour with them.
The partnership between Rocacorba and Khaltsha Cycles is the start of a longer-term initiative, where Moolman-Pasio hopes to continue to empower the girls through cycling.
“We’d like to arrange weekly training rides,” she says. “We hope to create an indoor cycling facility in Khayelitsha together with a learning centre where we would aim to incentivise the girls to complete their homework and to do well at school and then afterwards to have the opportunity to ride either on Zwift or outdoors, with the goal to integrate them into the Rocacorba Collective community and to race with our community race teams on Zwift and learn from the other members from all around the world.”
Moolman-Pasio has fond memories of the Cycle Tour. She rode her first tour as a teenager because she was following in her mom’s footsteps and her victory in 2012, in the very early stages of her career, gave her the belief that the life of a professional cyclist was a reality. “It’s such an important event in South Africa and so many people have been touched by it. This is where it all started for me. It’s wonderful that Cycle Tour is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year.”