The last time I wrote publicly, I declared that an African would stand on the podium of a Grand Tour for the first time in history. It feels remarkable to deliver on that statement.
Coming second at the Giro Rosa after 10 days of aggressive, exciting, and demanding racing was incredibly satisfying. To back that up with Cille's [Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig] fourth and my third at La Course only 48 hours later shows the depth of capability and dedication at Cervelo Bigla. Never have we gone so deep, pushed so hard, or fought so bravely. At one point during the Giro, I saw Clara Koppenburg in tears while she was still laying down the power.
To declare a massive ambitious goal publicly was equal parts scary and energising (maybe more 60/40), but we weren’t going to the Giro to lose. We went in with the hope of winning, and used that as our 'north arrow'. We were going to make attacks and believe they would be successful; we were going to ride like a big team because we could influence the outcome; we were going to race the Giro Rosa because we could win. We made sure that every choice, as Nelson Mandela scripted, reflected our hopes, not fears.
There were many times during the race when that strategy was challenged – when we lost two riders in the first few kilometres of the opening team time trial due to unforeseen mechanicals, when I crashed 8km before the finish line on stage 4 and almost lost everything, when Clara stood up to cover another attack on stage eight after I thought she couldn’t possibly turn another pedal stroke. Time after time we held onto our hope.
There have also been moments when our gutsy choices guided us to exactly where we had hoped to be, like when Cille attacked at La Course and I got to watch the entire bunch scramble and discuss what the heck they were going to do, or , back at the Giro, when I crested the Zoncolan in second place, chasing the pink jersey solo, and, of course, stepping up onto that final podium for second overall.
We raced with the hope of winning – not the fear of losing. It was an ethos the whole team had to adopt, and we aren’t the only ones. I recognise it in the other women I race with, the teams of people behind each event, every family, fan, and sponsor. I see it when, like at this year's Giro, there are bigger crowds, more community engagement, better media coverage, and challenging courses. I feel it when the women's peloton delivers an exciting show and world-class performances. I feel it when I'm the first African to podium at a Grand Tour.
If there is just one thing the organisers of the Giro Rosa and the incredible teams that raced it proved – that Cervelo Bigla's success proves – it's that, if you choose to let it, hope will guide you to incredible places.
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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.
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