Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio blog: An African can podium at a Grand Tour in 2018

South African gets ready to mount a challenge at the Giro Rosa

An African will podium at the Tour de France in 2020. Team Dimension Data announced their “Vision 2020” and it was so big and bold I could feel it under my skin. I like bold statements. There is something powerful about proclaiming a goal for everyone to see. It creates a sense of accountability, encourages bravery, and welcomes anyone into the journey. It also inspires others to be bold so here it goes:

An African could podium at a Grand Tour in 2018.

Yes, 2018.

It can be safe to say that not a lot of people know that Africa has a rider currently ranked fourth in the world. With 13 top 10 finishes this season, including three race wins, second at Flèche Wallonne, fourth in Liege, fourth in Flanders, and the mountains jersey in Valencia, a Grand Tour win is not out of reach. It’s a palmares that proves that there is the capability and class for an African rider to be a contender at the biggest race on the calendar.

Maybe you’re wondering who I’m talking about. Maybe you already know. Maybe you know I’m not talking about the Tour de France or a man. Those are my results and my vision for 2018 is to podium at the Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile. And that’s a statement as bold as they come.

I’ve never podiumed at a Grand Tour before, and just thinking about it gives me prickles of nervous excitement. For any rider to podium at a race, let alone a Grand Tour, so many things have to go right, but so many more things can go wrong. I will have to pull off the best performance of my career, so will my teammates, and have good luck on top of it. Basically, it’s a long shot but it’s a shot nonetheless and one I’m ready to take.

The Giro is the one and only Grand Tour on the UCI women’s calendar. It’s 10 days of back-to-back racing and this year the course is a game changer. With big mountaintop finishes, including the penultimate stage finishing on the summit of the famous Zoncolan, the race is going to inspire aggressive and tactical racing throughout the ten days with nowhere to hide.

The race will demand the best from every rider and that’s exactly why my vision for 2018 sees farther than the podium I hope to step on. The promising course is an opportunity to showcase (unfortunately, just on social media) how incredible women’s cycling is. There will be aggressive attacks, tactical manoeuvres, heart-breaking mechanicals, exhilarating break-always, inspiring summit finishes, painful crashes and, just maybe, the first time an African will podium at a Grand Tour.

While it may fall short on media coverage, big busses, prize money, doping scandals, and, yes, overall race days, it’s not a comparison I’m trying to make; I want an awakening. I want the world to wake up to see that Africa already has someone capable of podiuming at a Grand Tour. I want people to widen their gaze and take in all that our sport has to offer from both men and women. In the world of cycling, perhaps that’s the boldest statement I can make.

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