Rio de Janeiro – Fresh off the back of confidence-boosting performances, South Africa’s top riders are feeling bullish about their chances of challenging for top spots in the road cycling at the Rio Olympic Games.
Going into her second Olympic Games, leading female rider Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio is possibly the country’s biggest hope for a medal in Rio on Sunday.
Her overall victory in the three-stage Auensteiner Radsporttage at the beginning of June signalled her return to form after an early-season run dogged by injury and crashes.
“Being at my second Olympics makes a huge difference, London was an overwhelming experience, I was actually quite new to cycling at the time,” Moolman-Pasio said yesterday.
“I only represented South African once before at the world championships (in 2011), so London was a mind-blowing experience and it completely overwhelmed me.
“Crossing the line in London I made the decision I would use the four-year period (to Rio) to really build up my chances of coming here and standing a chance of going for a medal.”
Moolman-Pasio will spearhead the women’s race while An-Li Kachelhoffer’s primary role will be to work as a domestique or back-up rider.
If Moolman-Pasio was looking for unwavering support, she need not look any further than Kachelhoffer, who is willing to bet good money on her teammate challenging for a medal.
“You can’t be selfish in a sport like this, and I really think Ashleigh has a proper, proper shot at this, and the course suits her to perfection,” Kachelhoffer said.
“Her form is the best I’ve seen her in which is really great and it puts it at the back of your mind that you are racing for the right cause here. “It makes me want to race better, to go out harder and perform better just for her.”
Meanwhile, Louis Meintjes and Daryl Impey will go into Saturday’s men’s road race with heaps of confidence following their success in the Tour de France.
Meintjes finished as the best-placed South African yet in the Tour when he finished the General Classification in eighth place.
“The preparation has been good, Tour de France has been good and I can take some confidence from there,” said Meintjes.
“I haven’t had any real problems in the build-up to Rio so I am really fortunate, and hopefully it can go like that until race day.”
It was an equally fruitful Tour for Impey of Orica-BikeExchange, who finished second in the seventh stage.
Impey was clear about his intentions at the Games – He will ride to aid Meintjes, who is better suited to the hilly Rio course.
“All of us know there are horses for courses and this is definitely a course that suits Louis, and it would only make sense,” Impey said.
– The Star