The Tour de Free State was a magical experience! Being one of the last opportunities to win points for Olympic qualification, it was an important tour for South Africa as a nation.
In reflection, these are some of the words that spring to mind: family, support, heartache, beauty, passion, lessons, teamwork and success!
I am blessed with a very special and supportive family, not only my immediate family, but my extended family as well. I grew up in Bloemfontein very close to my extended family and they played a big role in my upbringing. It was great to have those special members of my family as support at the Tour de Free State.
The support from local South African’s during the tour was amazing! Support goes a long way in motivating one through the suffering on the bike and these people afford a special mention.
Roy Gershow has played an instrumental role in my cycling career and continues to do so. He did a great job of organising the logistics and supporting the Lotto Belisol team whilst in South Africa!
My aunt Erica teaches English at the Akademia High School in Brandfort. We finished stage one just outside the town of Brandfort and Erica did a great job of organising her students to support at the finish line. Her grade 11 students wrote me very touching letters of support, and it is a real honour to act as a role model to these special boys and girls. They are the future of our country and their touching words inspires me to continue to dream big and make it happen. God bless Erica and the students of Akademia High School!
I finished my schooling career at Eunice High School for girls and on stage two, it was very special to have the Eunice girls at the stage finish in Bloemfontein. The girls cheered and chanted the school motto: “vincit qui se vincit”, “she conquers who conquers herself.” What a fitting motto and one that has definitely formed me as an person and athlete.
Bob from Savannah Game Lodge played a key role in the organisation of the tour. Since meeting him in February during our Tour de Free State photo shoot, he has been incredibly supportive. Bob was along route on every stage and he did a great job of organising the local school kids to cheer along the way. It was very touching to hear the kids cheer my name as I cycled past.
Stage 2 was a hard day for the team. We lost our teammate Jo Van De Winkel to a very unfortunate crash. Jo is fine and recovering well, but it was very sad to see her in hospital with minor fractures of the hand and bad skin abrasions! Jo is a tough woman, she has a fighting spirit and I believe she will be back to good health very soon. You can do it Jo, just keep believing!
Although the first two stages were rather flat, there is something special about the Free State province, with it’s vast farmlands and windmills.
On Friday, the tour moved to the quaint town of Clarens and the beautiful Golden Gate Highveld National Park. Nestled in the rolling foothills of the Maluti Mountains of the north eastern Free State, the park derives its name from the brilliant shades of gold cast by the sun on the park’s dramatic sandstone cliffs.
Cycling in the Golden Gate National Park on the last stage of the tour was a real treat and a very memorable experience!
The passion of the African people is always inspirational! Riding through Fouriesburg was a particularly memorable experience, a goose bump moment. The vibe was amazing. This passion was evident in the singing and dancing of the local school kids and African women in traditional dress lining the streets.
Lessons, teamwork and success
Lotto Belisol Ladies team learnt a incredibly valuable lesson during the Tour de Free State. We learnt that as a team we can achieve so much more.
On stage one of the tour, we slipped up as a team and it cost us the tour. It was a hard, but valuable lesson that needed to be learnt.
With the guidance of Dany Schoonbaert, our team manager, it was great to see how we came together as a team as the tour progressed. This team work culminated in a stage win on the last stage of the tour!
“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, but working together is success.” Henry Ford
Thanks Ludivine, Robyn, An-Li, Jo and Lise; your support is much appreciated.
Thanks to the Free State Government, Barry Austin, Ciska Austin, Cycling South Africa and Pela Pela marketing for putting on a world class event! The organisation and attention to detail was superb. It was a privilege and honour to take part in the first UCI 2.1 tour in Africa, alongside some to the best women cyclists in the world.
Racing on African soil with local support was very special and I can proudly say, LOCAL IS LEKKER!
For full race results and photo’s of all the stages visit the Cycle Nation website.