I grew up in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal to a loving family with 2 brothers and one sister. I went to Epworth 'all girls' Junior and High school. During my High school we moved to Hillcrest, KwaZulu Natal where my parents still live. My best subjects were Maths/Advanced Maths and Art. My family did not do much sport being more arty, musical and academic. I didn't enjoy team sports that much at school and got exempt from most sport in my final year to focus on my Art. However, I loved the outdoors and canoed, rock-climbed and hiked for fun. We have a family farm in the Drakensberg and timeshare by the coast and since a young age have been hiking up mountains, exploring, camping out, tubing, canoeing, travelling and enjoying the outdoors.
At the age of 16, I joined a group of 15 girls from my school to cycle from Durban to Cape Town for charity. I was sponsored a mountain bike and with hardly any training rode over 3000km to Cape Town. I loved it but unfortunately I had no idea at that age that cycling was a sport/career so once giving my sponsored bike back I did not get on a bike again for several years.
I got a scholarship to study at the University of Cape Town (UCT). After trying out Architecture for my 1st year, I ended up getting my first-class Honours Degree in Electrical Engineering. I also had a scholarship from Denel Aviation which helped fund my University adventures. Some of these included - Touring round the South African coastline, Namibia (including an 8 day hike in the Namib desert and rock-climbing Spitzkop), 3.5 months skiing and snowboarding in Lake Tahoe, America while working at some ski resorts as well as touring California and New York, 3.5 months touring round South America - Argentina, Chili, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil, Ice Climbing and many hiking adventures with the UCT hiking club. I was very involved in rock-climbing in Cape Town and used to train almost every day at UCT's bouldering wall as well as teach beginners who joined the UCT rock-climbing club. I travelled to most popular rock-climbing routes around South Africa, my favorite being Montagu in the Cape.
After qualifying with my Degree, I was offered a position at Accenture Consulting and moved up to Joburg. My first job was working on new applications for vLive!, Vodacom. This involved some Java coding, managing teams and clients. I loved working there and learnt a lot. I had met Tijl (a handsome blond, blue-eyed Belgium boy who had come to SA to study his Master's Degree in Economics and who I had met on some hiking and exploring adventures in the Cape) end of 2006 and he decided to take an intern position in Joburg so that we could be closer. After a fun training trip to Chicago with work, I met up with Tijl in Belgium to meet his family and go exploring Belgium, Sweden and Paris together.
Now, Tijl being an avid cycling supporter from Belgium had decided to take up cycling while in Cape Town due to soccer injuries. I thought cycling took up way too much time and didn't understand why someone would cycle on busy traffic roads so discouraged Tijl from cycling. For the first year he gave up cycling for me then slowly tried to encourage me to cycle socially with him. I hadn't done much sport since moving to Joburg and missed the easy accessibility to rock-climbing routes and outdoor hiking so relented to his request. My first bike was Tijl's old Trek 1000. The first few races he entered me for, he rode with me to pace me back to the group when I dropped and push me up the climbs, always encouraging me and motivating me to do better.
Married Life and Pro Cycling
Mid of 2008, Tijl and I got married and went on a month honeymoon, first to the Drakensberg and then touring round Europe, Prague and South of France. In 2009 I changed jobs to another consultancy company and joined my first Elite Ladies road-cycling team. I had met Jamie Ball while buying his Raleigh bike for Tijl and he offered to coach me. I was super excited. It wasn't easy fitting in a full-time job and cycling but I was determined to do well at both. Half-way through the year though, after our budget had already been spent and many promises not full-filled, I decided that being part of a Pro-team wasn't as great as I'd thought and almost stopped cycling.
Luckily the CycleLab ladies team offered to take me on board halfway through the year on a no-pay trial period. They were organized, efficient, offered good-coaching (by Kim Rose-Gershow), good equipment and created an excellent environment for learning. I started out as a domestique for the team with the year's highlights being the Tour of Ardeche in France and winning Joburg's biggest race, the 94.7 from a breakaway 14km into the race. Tijl and I also enjoyed some more social races, winning the mixed Panarama tour and coming 2nd mixed team in the Sabie Experience mountain bike race.
After a disappointing start in the South African Championships in 2010, I decided not to race overseas but to rather concentrate on my working career - at this stage I was consulting at Medscheme. It was a tough cycling year for me trying to motivate myself to ride in the dark and cold at 4am in winter with most of the other Elite Ladies racing in Europe. Some results include, 5th Argus, 1st Engen Dynamic, winning the GC, QOM and Sprinters Jersey at the Clover Lowveld tour and being selected to race for the SA team in the African Championships.
In 2011, I really wanted to go overseas and race but I was told I had to prove myself first. I did this by coming 2nd after teammate Ashleigh in the Tour of Boland and being selected on the SA Olympic Longlist squad. I saved up enough to take 3 months off work and was extremely excited and a bit nervous to head off to race the Giro d'Italia as my first race for the Lotto Honda Ladies UCI team. The competition was a lot tougher, the bunches much bigger, the courses more technical, the climbs bigger, the descents more hectic, the distances longer but I loved it and learnt quickly. I won't lie that there were a few times I had doubts whether I was really cut out for this 'pro-cycling' life and that I should rather just go back to my office job but luckily the good times were more than the bad. I ended off my 1st European season well with a 10th on GC with Ash 2nd at the tour of Ardeche in France, 8th in the UCI2.1 Tour of Toscana in Italy and 32nd at the World Championships in Denmark. I left Europe happy but not satisfied with our final Worlds result, knowing that we could have done better as a team. Returning to SA and after taking a bit of a break from cycling and settling back into my work routine again, I enjoyed racing with my local team, Nashua Toyota. We (Robyn, Ash and I) brought some of our form back with us from Europe to win all the local races.
2012 - Becoming a 'Real Pro'
I am very excited about next year, 2012. I have decided to become a real 'Pro' and take an extended sabbatical from work to pursue my cycling dreams. I will be racing for the Lotto-Belisol UCI team in Europe for 6 months and locally for the CycleLab ladies team.