Like. A. Boss.
Actually, 'bosses'. No dust, no rain, no mud, gravel, cramp, mechanical, attack, climb, or team could overpower us, and our reward came in a double helping. From kilometre zero of La Classique Morbihan to the finish line of Grand Prix de Plumelec-Morbihan Dames, the two back-to-back races were a benchmark team performance for us.
Morbihan on Friday had it all. The course had six gravel sections. I say 'gravel' because that’s how the technical guide defines them but that doesn’t really capture reality. Despite the inclement weather and the deteriorating road conditions, I kept my focus on the race and the team but, after the hail storm, amid pouring rain and echoes of thunder, a piece of mud flew into my eye and attached itself to my contact lens. As I squinted through my one good eye and navigated a 90-degree corner in the mud, I did have a moment where I was very aware we had crossed into crazy.
The crazy didn’t stop with the volatile weather or the worsening 'road' conditions. The race actually went off-course and we all had to stop and return to the circuit. I had a mechanical and the bunch had a chaotic feel. Even when we were on the tar, it was like riding in the Wild West.
There were opportunistic riders trying to push into our team train, brazen attempts to steal my wheels, and cheeky bunch behaviour that made it necessary for Lotta [Lepisto] to be my bodyguard. She would make sure I always had the right wheels, bounce anyone who was encroaching, and school anyone who attempted to disagree. If there was an actual boss in the bunch, it was Lotta.
At the end of the third to last muddy gravel section, Alice Arzuffi capitalised on her cyclo-cross skills to force the pace. A group of seven, including myself and Ann-Sophie Duyck, got free. With two of us, Ann-Sophie worked to keep the pace high and the bunch at bay to set me up perfectly for the finale. At 300m to go, I launched my sprint and won with a convincing gap.
Oh man, did that feel good. I couldn’t imagine anything more satisfying, especially after the epic conditions.
Except the next day when we did it again.
We lined up the next morning for Plumelec with gloomy skies and already-raced legs. The weather held up for us so it was different type of battle, but not one that we weren’t ready for. Lotta got straight to work bossing the crazy peloton into shape while Cille [Uttrup Ludwig] stayed at the front. Nicole [Hanselmann], Clara [Koppenburg], and Ann-Sophie put in major efforts and even after getting dropped they managed to claw back and ride straight to the front. We controlled the race exactly as we had planned and on the tenth and final ascent of the climb, Cille led me out at the base of the climb, and I laid it down. Just like the day before, at 300m to go I flicked the gears and sprinted into victory.
Oh man, did that feel good. Again. That’s how it’s done, I thought. That’s how we get it done.
As I welcomed my teammates at the finish line, especially Ann-Sophie who had gone so deep she had completely cramped, there was an electric sense of accomplishment and pride among us. Back-to-back wins? I’m just going to say it: our team dominated. Like six strong, go-for-broke, get-out-of-our-way women bosses. I’m so proud of my team and our victories!
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio is a professional bike racer for the Cervelo Bigla team. You can follow her adventures of racing the Women's WorldTour circuit right here on Cyclingnews and at her website Rocacorba Cycling.
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Ashleigh-Moolman-Pasio is a world-class climber and the newest member of CCC-Liv (formerly Waowdeals). She has written a regular blog for Cyclingnews since 2016, touching on topics of gender equality in women’s and men’s professional cycling.
From South Africa, Moolman-Pasio turned professional with Lotto Ladies Team in 2010, spent one season with Hitec Products in 2014 and the last four seasons with Cervelo-Bigla. She made a move to CCC-Liv in 2019 and will race alongside her long-time mentor Marianne Vos.
She’s a versatile rider who was second at Flèche Wallonne, fourth at the Tour of Flanders and Liège-Bastonge-Liège, and second behind Annemiek van Vleuten at the Giro Rosa in 2018. This year, look for Moolman-Pasio at the front end of the peloton, and on the podium, during the Spring Classics and at the most mountainous stage races on the Women’s WorldTour.