Cape Town - Fresh off a double victory at the SA Road Cycling Championships, after winning gold in the time trial and the elite women’s race, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio says she is fired up for another title defence this weekend.
The 36th edition of the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour gets underway in Cape Town on Sunday, and around 35 000 cyclists will line up for the annual race.
Wearing her green and gold national stripes, Moolman-Pasio, who has been a dominant force on the SA road circuit this year, hoped to defend her Argus crown before jetting off to Europe later this month.
“I always look forward to the Argus, it’s a very special race," Moolman-Pasio said.
"The route is spectacular; it really does showcase the best of our country to the rest of the world.
“The Argus comes just before my departure for Europe, so I expect to be on top form. I'm feeling fit, healthy and strong and I can't wait to race.”
Moolman-Pasio hoped to have a safer ride this year after an unfortunate incident at the 2012 event, with more than 20 women crashing just before the finish line.
The defending champion called on the elite field to break up the peloton and avoid a sprint finish.
“My victory was bitter sweet last year. It was a real honour to win my first Argus, but it was very unfortunate that this special moment was somewhat overshadowed by the big crash,” she said.
“I hope this year we will all have a safe ride and that there will be no crashes.
“To prevent this from happening again, I encourage all the women to actively take part in the race, rather than to sit back and wait for the sprint. Sprints are always dangerous, no matter who is racing.”
While she was well prepared and motivated, Moolman-Pasio anticipated a tough, unpredictable race.
“I'm expecting girls like An-Li Pretorius, Lise Olivier, Cherise Stander and Catherine Williamson to be strong,” she said.
“As I said, I'm feeling fit, healthy and strong. I have done the preparation, but in cycling, anything can happen on the day. I will do my best and hope that it is enough.”
In the absence of last year's winner, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, who is tied up in Europe with his new Argos-Shimano team, the men's race should be wide open.