Ashleigh Moolman: Rio, Bigla and the UCIWWT

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So the 2016 Olympics have well and truly drawn to a close. How was Rio for you? Have you recovered well?

Things didn’t work out the way I would’ve liked. There were things that were out of my control that contributed towards not reaching the goal that I have been working towards. Trying to overcome the disappointment of missing a goal that I have been working towards for four years was a really hard time. But I came home, sat down and reflected on the experience to find the positives and move forward.

What’s hardest for me is that I know I had the potential to medal in Rio, but being from a smaller cycling nation like South Africa it was always going to be a gamble. I tried to convince myself that the steps that I had taken in the four year build up to the games, would mean I could handle the disadvantage of being outnumbered. I came to realise that as long as South Africa is in the situation that it is, without the depth in cycling that other nations might, I can’t put too much hope into national team aspirations. Its always going to be somewhat of a gamble.

I was really excited to get back with my trade team because I realised how important they are to me. Cycling is a team sport and it was quite a comforting realisation, I really like my team and I couldn’t wait to get back racing with them.

I did have some health problems coming back from Rio, where I picked up parasite infection. I’m starting to feel better now but unfortunately I had to miss the Sweden World Cup as a result. It was almost like Rio was haunting me a little bit! I just wanted to get back into business with my trade team but that was disturbed by the consequences of travelling to a third world country.

Excellent news on extending your contract through 2017. Are you happy to be staying with Bigla?

The two years that I’ve spent with Bigla have been the biggest steps in my career in terms of moving forward and becoming a better rider. Its great to continue to improve and I still feel that there is a lot of improvement that can be made. I like the environment, I like the team, I like how we all have become a very united unit. We aren’t necessarily the biggest names, but we are a small team with big hearts. I’m really looking forward to new challenges and prospects next year with the team.

Was it an easy decision to make? What is it about the team that made you want to stay?

It was a relatively easy decision to make. There has obviously been interest from other teams but I like the environment and I like the other girls. Also the equipment and the attention to detail is really great. Cervelo is a bike that I absolutely love and have done for many years, so to continue riding on this bike is really great. The team puts a lot of effort into the small details, such as ceramic speed and the little things. All the small things add up! I’m a very loyal person as well, so it makes sense to stay with a team that I know and trust.

Last time we spoke your main focus was Rio. What are your goals for 2017 with Bigla?

Next year my goals are to improve as a cyclist and to consistently perform in the WorldTour. To be able to tick off the big one day events, making sure I get them right would be another focus. I think just to become an all round performer.

Will we see you at the worlds?

We have a big focus on the TTT, I think we surprised a few people with our podium finish in Sweden, our racing at the moment is geared for that. We also have a training camp in the next month. I am competing for South Africa at the worlds in both the road race and the time trial, although I don’t have huge aspirations.

This years course isn’t necessarily suited to me but its more interesting than what I initially thought. I hadn’t looked at the course at all before the Olympics. I imagined it would be straight, long roads with dust and desert but now I see that its more complicated than that, its quite a technical course which I think does mix things up a little bit. Its not necessarily a pure sprinters course. I think it can also be an opportunists race.

We are heading towards the end of the season and the end of the new Women’s World Tour. Do you think the WorldTour has improved things for women’s cycling?

I think we are moving in the right direction, but I do think that structure needs to become more defined. We need to give some attention to the top tier, as well as the other tiers. At the moment I find that even though we have introduced the new Women’s World Tour, it’s just a name and things haven’t really changed much. Maybe it’s added a little more excitement and a little more credibility but there are still a mix of teams taking part in events. Sometimes there are really inexperienced riders that are finding themselves taking part in a Women’s World Tour event. To me this is high risk for established riders because you find yourself in pelotons where the skill levels are so widespread. This does affect the racing because it makes it a bit more risky and stupid crashes happen.

To be honest, I was a little bit disappointed with the Women’s World Tour because I felt that with the World Cup series and the involvement of the UCI we really found a nice momentum. There was consistency in the exposure that races were attracting. Every time there was a World Cup, everyone knew what to expect. There would be a highlights package that would be released and people knew where to find it. Maybe not all the races were live but there was consistency in exposure. There have been so many changeovers too and during the period around Strade Bianche, the exposure was really bad for World Tour races. I think we need to get back to continuity, because fans need to know where to look for the exposure and when to expect it.

Photo Credit: Anton Vos

By Emily Brammeier