I am so excited at the privilege of being able to make my passion - cycling - my focus for the next few years!
To me, competing in SA was never a good enough reason to give up getting a degree and pursuing a top-end career. After starting to ride with my husband in 2008, I joined the 'pro-ladies' CycleLab team on a no-pay basis in 2009. I was determined that waking up at 4am to train in the dark and often extreme cold before work was not going to be for nothing. During that year I won both the 94.7 cycle race and received the 'Woman of the year' award at Accenture Consulting (where I was working as an IT consultant). During 2010, I opted out of racing overseas as I wished to pursue my career further and I did not believe I was strong enough to complete at an international level - sure I could finish in the bunch at an overseas race but to give up my career I wanted to know I could compete for a podium position at that level and I did not yet believe this was possible.
I have come a long way since then. At the beginning of 2011 I can honestly say I did not believe I was good enough to become a 'pro', but after winning the Clover Tour in 2010 and finishing 2nd, after teammate Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, in the Boland tour in 2011 I was given the opportunity to race in the EU for the Lotto Honda ladies team thanks to Roy Gershow and Barry & Hendrik who believed in my ability. So I saved up and took unpaid leave for 3 months to race in Europe and experience being a 'pro' for the first time in my life. I loved it!
I only found out a week before that I would be competing in the 10-day Ladies Giro d'Italia (Donne) as my first EU race for the Lotto Ladies team - the Giro is the hardest road race on the International calendar. I had a lot to learn. Bunch skills, descending skills, my 1st time on a TT bike, riding in the heat (which 4am rides before work don't prepare you for), positioning on the climbs, getting back to the bunch through the car convoy after a crash or mechanical, feeding from the side of the road, recovery on tours, learning about the riders and who to watch out for and so much more. It probably took the first two months for me to adjust to the different level of racing there.
Ash and her husband Carl were an inspiration to me and my turn-around really came in the 6-day Tour of d'Ardeche in France where Ash and I raced as part of a mixed international team. After feeling a bit depressed after missing the break on the first day and leaving Ash out to fend for herself against the likes of Emma Pooley, Ash gave me one of her motivational speeches (which she is really good at). She needed my help in the front and she believed I could be there if only I believed in myself a bit more. So I decided to give it a go and from that day on I didn't miss any of the breaks riding myself into a top 10 with Ash finishing 2nd on GC behind Emma Pooley. Carrying this confidence over into the next race I finished 8th on GC at the UCI 2.1 Toscana race in Italy. I was very happy to be selected to race for South Africa at the World Championships in Denmark, an achievement that I never would have thought possible a year ago.
In September 2011 I returned to my full time job in SA and after taking a short break, managed to maintain some of my cycling fitness to finish off the season in SA. After getting a 2nd after teammate Ash in the Amashova, 1st in the Jacaranda Satellite, 3rd after working with Ash for the win in 94.7, improving my FTP (functional threshold power) by 20watts and feeling really strong for the whole 206km Double Century race this past weekend to take the Mixed category win with CycleLab Cape Town I have ended off the season with the confidence that I can improve even more next year.
I want to give it my best shot to improve as much as possible and be able to compete on an international level. I have set myself aggressive goals for 2012 with one of my dreams being to represent SA at the London Olympic Games. No dream comes without sacrifice and I have decided to give up my well paying job to pursue my passion in cycling in Europe. Not to mention my husband & dogs who I will also miss while racing in Europe. I am determined that the extra 9hrs per day I am dedicating to cycling will be put to good use and will be working closely with my coach Kim Rose-Gershow to gradually increase my training load and all-round ability, skills and strength as a cyclist. I believe the added recovery time will also make a significant difference.
I will also focus on using some of the extra time to work with Ash on promoting woman's cycling and encouraging young women to take up the sport.