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Women’s Champ 2013
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Dryland: Ariane and Amy, we’re looking forward to hosting you at the Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen. What was the deciding factor in each of your choice to race the event?
Amy: Ariane asked me if I’d be keen and I said yes without hesitation. It was my first stage race in 2011 at the beginning of my career and I absolutely loved it. Racing with Ariane is an honour for me because she is so experienced and has such a high pedigree. She is also a lovely person and we get along really well.
Ariane: I felt that I still had something left in me this late in the season and the Cape Pioneer seemed like the right challenge. It’s a tough race, through beautiful terrain, with a relaxed atmosphere – perfect. Also the fact that the race has some UCI points to offer was attractive with the UCI World Cup in Stellenbosch in mind, where I would like to start as far in front as possible of course.
D: Tell us a bit about your seasons so far?
Amy: I have had the season of my life so far. Although there is still much room for improvement, things came together really well this year and all the hard work over the years is paying off. Highlights would be winning the National marathon in Drakensburg, 2nd at the national XCO at Cascades, 15th at World XCM Champs, and ladies winners of La Leyenda in Colombia with Sonya Looney.
Ariane: I didn’t have my best season. Not getting onto the podium at the Absa Cape Epic was a huge disappointment, which I took some time to recover from. The depression I felt, affected my build up to Marathon World Champs as well, where I rode to another failing result. Luckily I sought for help and found great support in mental coach Simon Marshall. I got back on my feet and am really happy about the progression I’ve made afterwards. I was in great shape for Swiss Champs which was my next big goal end of August. But a good result wasn’t meant to be there either. I took a wrong turn and destroyed my chances early on. How I dealt with the disappointment of that, was a huge success for me though. It didn’t keep me down this time. Instead, I managed to race to second at the UCI Marathon 3 Epic in Italy and at the Perskindol Swiss Epic, with Alice Pirard. And most importantly, I managed to get my smile back.
D: Ariane, you’ve spent the South African winter in Europe again, how does the racing differ from there to here in SA and at the Pioneer in particular?
Ariane: I’ve just finished the Swiss Epic stage race. In terms of terrain, the Alps are obviously very different. A 1 000m climb is a regular feature there and almost all the trails are actually made for hiking and are pretty steep going downhill. The most important tactic in an Alpine race is to pace yourself well and to not go into the red otherwise you won’t make it to the top of the climb. In a race like the Pioneer it’s very different. It may be well worth to push very hard for a short time just to hang onto a wheel and get some slip stream over the next flattish section. It feels a bit more like road racing in comparison which is very interesting to me. I love the tactical aspect of racing as it gives the mind a bit more to play around with.
D: Amy, you’ve done a number of Dryland races this year, what are you looking forward to aside from the racing and the routes?
Amy: Aside from the racing and routes (which I am very excited about let me say) I am most looking forward to the vibe, the adventure and the Ostrich!
D: You are a new combination, how do you approach a seven day stage race as your first long event together?
Amy: We have both done enough stage races to know what it means to communicate, work as a team, and manage our bodies. Most importantly we enjoy each other’s company and got to know each other quite well in our trip to Europe where we competed in XCM World Champs and 2 x XCO World Cups and stayed together for the 3 weeks between.
Ariane: We cover the basics of getting along with each other very well and already connect in a good way since we’ve traveled together to the World Cups in Europe. That’s where the idea of racing together came up. We also ride on a similar level technically, which is crucial for a harmonic racing-partnership, I think. Once we get closer to the event and know, how our form really is, we will have a chat and prepare that first stage with each other. Then we take it day by day. If we feel that we can improve something, we will not hold back in telling each other so.
D: The elite women’s race is shaping up to be a cracker, with Sabine Spitz and Robyn de Groot also in the line-up. How do you feel about the standard of women’s racing in South Africa and what more can events do to promote women’s racing?
Amy: Our women’s racing gets a bad rap sometimes because of the small numbers in the elite field. But if we look at standard, let’s compare results at a world class level. If we count Carmen Buchachar, who lives in SA, and Ariane who sometimes does then it was Robyn, me, and them who were in the top 16 at the World XCM Champs. Robyn has come 2nd at the ABSA Cape Epic last year and 3rd this year, and we had 8 women SA Citizens in the top 10 teams. Her best result was 5th at XCM Worlds and she is very decorated on an international level. We have Mariska and Cherie who compete in the World Cups and me who is starting out, Sam Sanders finished in the leading bunch in Road World Champs last year, I’ve won a couple of international stage races (Iron Bike and La Leyenda). Candice is an Olympian and came 6th at Epic with Vera Adriane from Namibia. The standard has definitely raised and will continue to. As far as numbers are concerned, many events are going the right way by equalling the prize money but not making it go as deep into the field as the men’s. More coverage is slowly being given to women, but I’d like to see much more. If this these trends continue I believe it will bring more women for sure.
Ariane: I look forward to racing against Robyn and Sabine. They are not just world class bike riders but also great sportswomen who I respect highly and they are a pleasure to race against.
The standard in women’s racing in South Africa, but also all over the world, has grown exponentially since I came into the sport in 2010. In my first years as a professional here in SA I won a lot of races and it was just one or two women who challenged me. If I line up for a big race these days, it is a lot harder to win. Against what some people might believe, it is not me who got weaker, but the competition that’s got stronger. My power data has improved steadily over the past years. It just really has become much more difficult to win.
Also when I look at the girls who come through the ranks of the Spur Schools MTB League then South Africa can be super excited for the future. Really, there are some amazingly talented girls riding around on the South African trails!
As for growing the sport, it starts with treating us equally to the men. Equal racing conditions (separate start for example), equal media coverage and equal prize money (yes, in that order) must be the standard. Even though we will always be slower than the men due to our biological disadvantage, we work just as hard to be at the top level, our racing is as exciting as the men’s and we have just as many interesting personalities in our field which the media can portray. Yes, the numbers of participants are still fewer, but give us time! Remember, it was only in 1984 when women were allowed to race an Olympic cycling event for the first time. We started almost 90 years behind in those terms. We are catching up very quickly!