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Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio to lead the charge at the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge

Moolman-Pasio winning the 2015 edition of the race. Image: Stuart Pickering

South African star Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio will once again be the rider to watch in a stellar international field for the UCI 1.1 women’s race at the 21st running of the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge on Sunday, November 19.

After missing last year’s race because of a crash, Moolman-Pasio, the former South African champion who won in 2015, will lead an African Mixed team on the 94.7km circuit around Johannesburg.

Among the international teams who she will be competing with are  the Norwegian-based Hitec Products outfit, who won last year’s race through Germany’s Charlotte Becker, and Canyon-Sram from Germany. There will also be three African teams from the UCI’s World Cycling Centre Africa in Potchefstroom, as well as the South African-based outfits.

“Having Ashleigh riding with an African mixed team is another step in our goal to develop African cycling,” said race director Jenni Green. “When we established the UCI 1.1 race on Cycle Challenge Sunday, we wanted to bring international cycling to Africans as many of them cannot get over to Europe to compete against these world-class riders. Ashleigh will mentor her team in the build-up and during the race.

“She wants to win after her crash kept her out last year. This is her home race. It is special to her, but she will be up against strong international competition.”

Moolman-Pasio will have a fight on her hands, but she will have some exciting talent at her side. Magnifique Manizabayo (20) of Rwanda, Nadeen Alaaeldien Ali Hassan (19) and Donia Mohamed Rashwan Mahmoud (19) of Egypt who have been on an intensive two-month camp at the World Cycling Centre Africa.

Hitec will be led by Vita Heine (33), the current Norwegian national road and time trial champion. Last year she warmed up for the Cycle Challenge by winning two races in the KZN Summer Series, a series Hitec dominated with three wins from three starts. She will be joined by Nina Kessler (29) of the Netherlands and winner of the Spar Flanders Diamond Tour this year, and Norwegian compatriots Susanne Andersen (19), who is regarded as a future star, and Line Marie Gulliksen (27).

Canyon-Sram will be bringing a strong team that has impressed on the women’s world tour this season. Hannah Barnes (24), of Great Britain, has been described as a “future world champion” by compatriot Lizzie Deignan, the 2014 Commonwealth Games champion, 2012 Olympic road race silver medallist and 2015 World Champion. Deignan and Barnes road for Britain at the World Championships in Bergen, Norway, in September, with Barnes getting into the final break of the day and ending 14th overall.

Barnes has had a strong year, winning the third stage of the Giro d’Italia Femminile and just missed out on defending her 2016 British national champion’s jersey with a third place in this year’s race.

Her teammate, two-time Italian champion Elena Cecchini (25) has clocked up 15 top 10 results in 2017, with her best results a 10th place in the road race at the World Championships and second at the World Tour race the Ronde van Drenthe. The German time trial champion, Trixi Worrack (36), will provide the experience for the team, with Christa Riffel (19), a former German junior champion who signed with the team as a trainee this year.

As well as the international stars, Moolman-Pasio will keep an eye out for the ever-green Anriette Schoeman, a past winner of the Cycle Challenge and who, at the age of 40, is still winning races in South Africa riding in the colours of Africa Silk. Team Demacon’s Carla Oberholzer comes into the Cycle Challenge with two wins under her belt in October.

For more information on the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge visit www.cyclechallenge.co.za