Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio: Eyes off the Prize

Some people think I've had a hard season; some people think I've had a great season. Actually, both opinions are true. It's been difficult coming back from injury but, with nine UCI race wins, it's also been my most successful year.

Progress is always my guiding arrow but I never imagined it would look like it did this past season. I gave up so many goals, changed so many decisions, and made so many alternative plans but what all seemed liked a necessary evil at first became my preference. Taking my "eye off the prize" let me see that there were so many unexpected possibilities for progress.

There was a sense of loss at the beginning of the year as I went into the early season races. Normally, I would be riding to win but that just wasn't reality. From the bunch instead of the front, I had to be a team leader from the position of a support rider but, whatever I thought I had lost, I gained so much more as a leader. I opened myself up more and more to a mentorship role on the team which not only helped me as a leader but as a rider and a person too. I experienced a different path of growth and it was more fulfilling than I expected.

I was energized by my new role on the team and how we were racing but my injury did continue to hold me back from the goals I had set myself. The Ardennes classics came and went and with them missed goals. I decided to rethink my race calendar and then, 1-2-3, I won back-to-back races and jumped to third in the world rankings.

My three-peat was like rocket fuel for my brain and I couldn't help but make plans for my next race, the Giro. I was going in ranked #3 in the world. If I won… I went in, injury pretty much behind me, goals set, eyes locked on the prize but I felt off. A few stages in and I was sent home with a virus. I spent the rest of the Giro on the couch while other women raced toward my goals.

At that point, however, I knew it was time for flexibility. If my original plans weren't working, I knew there were other opportunities I could find. Again, I had to reshuffle my training, shift a few races, and forget about the goals I had set and decide on new ones. I could still progress, still find success, it just wasn't at the Giro.

I kept repeating this process over and over and over. As my season came to a crashing end at the World Championships, I realised it wasn't just out of necessity, I was now choosing to make decisions this way. I hadn't achieved what I originally set out to do at the beginning of the year but I had progressed, achieved new goals, and found success with whatever I had available along the way.

In the past I was often blinded by focusing too much on one goal and one version of how that had to be achieved. Being more flexible this season opened me up to so many more possibilities that I never saw before. There isn't one way, there's only your way. 

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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.