Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio reflects on 2017
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio was forced to enter the 2017 season with less form than she's accustomed to, after sustaining a hip fracture at the end of last year. The South African won the national time trial championships in early February and took the result as an indication of successful recovery. Below you will learn how the injury shaped her mindset and how she dealt with the rest of the year that was filled with both setbacks and triumphs.
When you think back to 2017, how do you feel about the year?
I’m actually very happy with the way the year turned out. It was a rough start for me coming from such a big injury. It was a six-month process of coming back from the hip fracture. The first few months were challenging but with the great environment we have in the team, I took it as an opportunity to serve the team. To see the success within those first few months with Lotta winning in Belgium and Cille stepping up was great. It was a switch in mentality for me to go into the races and know I wasn’t able to go for a result but was there to serve the team in another way. In May I could feel I had overcome the injury and could again perform at the highest level.
As someone who is used to being a team leader and the protected rider, how did you find that new support role?
I really enjoyed it. I’ve always loved being a team player. A winner is a winner and it’s hard to know if you were 100% you’d be able to achieve something especially in races that suit you, but the change was nice. Taking a backseat and observing things from a different perspective played a big role in helping me become a better leader and better cyclist. In life, it’s important to see things from different perspectives. If you constantly see things from the same angle, you limit your growth. The team helped me be a better cyclist. It helped me become more relaxed and race more instinctively and develop. I learnt to let go of the responsibility and the pressure and just enjoy the racing.
Can you give me a specific example of your development?
Before coming to the team, no one expected me to be a time trialist and there were times in my career where I was just about to write off my time trial altogether. I had been put in a box of being a climber and I was too small to be good in the time trial. Joining Cervélo Bigla in 2015 and having access to the most amazing equipment through companies like Cervélo, Endura, CeramicSpeed, Rotor etc partnered with the great support from Thomas who is a specialist in that field, I discovered I actually could be good in the discipline. To place in the top 10 in the world championships this year is really special for me. It showed I can be competitive at the highest level. Being a good time trialist in a tour is very different to time trialing in a one-day event like world championships. That result gave me new motivation.
Cycling is a team sport. What are the dynamics of being a team leader and a protected rider versus being a worker?
I’m obviously a rider who goes for results but then there are instances where we all go into work for Lotta in races that are suited to her. It’s always great to have a rider where you know once you’ve done all the hard work, the likelihood of them delivering is very high. In a rider like Lotta, that is the case and we saw it over and over again this year and that is so rewarding when the leader gets on the podium. In a situation like Bira where the team worked incredibly hard for me, there was pressure and a responsibility to deliver after their hard work. You want to pay your teammates back and that is what you remember when you’re leading a race solo and suffering.
What are the things that have happened to you that have helped you grow and get to this new way of thinking and new motivation you’re experiencing?
Going through the challenges and difficult times is what’s helped me. The moment when things changed for me mentally was the Olympic games. I put four years into preparation in the games and I thought I’d taken the right approach by trying to control everything. On the day that very thing - control - is what cost me the result. I wasn’t instinctive and tried to control everything which wasn’t possible.
That’s when I realised things had to change. I believe things happen for a reason and I think it’s clear the hip fracture I sustained last year is part of the journey I needed to be on to continue learning. Having to come into this year and making the decision to race even though I wasn’t on my best form I decided to come and support the team. The time you really learn as a cyclist is when you’re suffering. If you’re on really great form and have amazing legs, that’s the most likely time you’ll make mistakes and be too excited. Being on the back foot and racing when I wasn’t in the best physical condition allowed me to learn to race smarter.