Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, cycling as a way of life

Rocacorba is one of the hardest climbs in the outskirts of Girona, a must-see in the pilgrimage of many cyclists who visit the area. This mountainous group of volcanic origin was the inspiration for an idea that the South African cyclist Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio had in mind, to create a unique space for cyclists of all levels, with a special vocation for female cycling, a place to relax, enjoy and train in a cycling territory like few others, cosmopolitan at the same time quiet, in a rural environment in the heart of Girona, in these conditions Rocacorba Cycling is born.

We decided not to miss the opportunity to talk to Ashleigh, concentrated with her CCC-LIV team, we wanted her to explain first hand her beginnings, why start this business in Girona and how she sees the women’s cycling, growing but with much route ahead.

PROFESSIONAL CAREER

How did you start racing on the cycling world?

“In the university I made a lot of sport, but in South Africa the main sports are Hockey, Tennis, Athletics and didn’t find a sport that fits completely with me. Then I met Carl (husband and ex pro former) and I get more into the cycling world, he use to ride such a fancy bikes and I was quite intimidated at first. Actually I started quite late, because when I was really young I liked bikes but never thought to live it like a professional.

One day we did a bike ride, with Carl, my Dad and my trainers, we got in a very hard and steep climb, I was riding a beginner bike and had no idea of cycling, but I keep the same pace of all the rest and I think that day they probably saw for the first time my potential as cyclist.

So I started to race and train more and more with Carl, and my beginnings as a racer weren’t so easy, I knew that I got potential but I took a while to being able to make some kind of performance. When you are competing you must be prepared to leave your comfort zone., you have to learn how to manage painful situations and train your body to hold on and hold fast, to stay with the leaders.”

When do you start believing that you can win the South African Championship?

“It started because I saw my potential and my good results on my training, so I decided to believe that it could be possible. Not always when you got good ‘numbers’ on training means you got the same numbers on the races.

I started working hard for the team, close the breakaways and that kind of things, I finish some races in good position and I start thinking that I could win a race.I also had some hard lessons, but you build your experience race after race

2012 was the first time I win the national championship and it was because I was really prepared and experienced. I felt very comfortable, when you are racing, feeling good and comfortable with your possibilities I think is one of the most important thing.”

Do you have any favorite race?

“At the beginning of my career maybe I was purely a climber in the multiple day races, but as I grew in my career I change, so I have a favorite one day race and also a tour one.

When the season starts you are focused in the classics and one day races, at the middle in the tours and, finally, already in the Worlds Champs, a one day race.

My favorite classic race is Flèche Wallonne, I really like the finish and the short steep climbs, and the stage races, maybe Emakumeen Bira, one of my first multiple stage races in my professional career, and also Giro Rosa.”

When you are racing, what is the best and worst moment for you?

“I really enjoy that moment when you got to be in the right place in the right time. You really feel the tension in the group, your teammates work for you to be there in it’s a RUSH! you got to be there and attack!

Definitively, when it’s raining… Sometimes you think – What are we doing here!?-“

Great days lived at races

“Is not easy to answer, crowd is one of the most important stuff, when you are on those tough climbs giving it all and the crowd are shouting, you can feel the energy and is great how that feeling can push you further and in women’s cycling not always occurs.

Another great memory for me was a race in the Basque Country, in 2017 I was racing in San Sebastian and there was another team with 2-3 great riders, and in the past stages I cannot won because I wasn’t able to catch everyone of them. In the last stage in San Sebastian, it was such a hard climb but then you can see the sea, I gave all that I had and I get the victory, and the crowd went mad! that was such a great moment for me.”

WOMEN’S CYCLING

Your point of view about current and future situation of Women’s Cycling…

“It’s good to see all the changes that are happening, sometimes I’m a little bit frustrated with the UCI because, in my opinion, they do things in the wrong order.

Now we need more exposure in the live TV and then you can introduce minimum salary and things like these kind of regulations. Now we don’t have too much exposure and it’s difficult if the organization of the event are not passionate or don’t trust in woman cycling.

So I thing the best thing we can do for woman cycling is create something new, make our own races otherwise we will be always in the shadow of men’s cycling. Of course is good to race the classic ones like Flèche Wallonne or Amstel Gold Race and it’s good if we race close to the men’s time, but in other races like Liege-Bastogne-Liege we start very early and there’s no crowd that assist to the races.

I think men’s cycling is also having some problems, so maybe it’s not the best idea for women’s cycling to copy everything that’s happening in men’s.. For me the future of the sport in woman cycling is trying something new but it’s very difficult to change because this sport is very classical and historical. We need fresh energy and new people to manage the events, is really special have a lot of tradition and culture in cycling but it also block the sport.

I saw a huge growth in the last years of women cycling in Catalunya, there are more bike rides organized by women’s , group rides, overtime there are more women that choose to participate and be part of the cycling community.

There are some brands that are working in the right direction to improve and push for women cycling. The good thing is when brands think about women’s with respect, and they use the best components and materials, to make women’s bikes or kits

At the beginning was a bit frustrating seeing the difference between men’s and women’s cycling, but now I think the best thing you can do is make all your best to improve, step by step, and try to change what you don’t like about it.”

ROCACORBA CYCLING

What can you explain us about that interesting project?

“Thru the years I saw few “problems” or dynamics in cycling, my mind never stops so I tried to find a solution. My big vision was that the different parts that makes cycling they need to be put together, in order.

For example, the pro cycling world, cycling tourism and events are very disconnected most of the time, would be like a dream to have my own women’s team connected with others activities like cycling tourism and even events.

The first step is to own an activity connected with cycling tourism, and we take the chance to start something in this area that we love (Girona/Catalunya)

For me Rocacorba Cycling talks about to share my passion with people that like to feel that kind of vibes and see how a professional team works, there’s very close connection between full time pro and people that lives cycling on another level, the goal is to create interest and community around the area and the people.”

And what about the future?

“Our goal is give a complete experience to people that come to our place, for people coming from all around the world but also for the local people, cause it’s always important respect the locals and the tradition that we’re so in love with.

Of course we also bring more and more cyclists from all around the world.”

How do you manage both lives, pro cycling and manager of Rocacorba Cycling?

“I wouldn’t be able to doing what I’m doing without such the great team that surround me, more than all my family and my husband.

Of course sometimes it’s a little bit stressful but it also help me, I’m not be able to being focused just on one thing, having my projects and my business outside cycling helps me, to disconnect and be more motivated and focused on my goals.”

GIRONA/CATALUNYA

Why did you choose Catalunya as place to live?

“We lived also in north Italy close to Lago Maggiore it was very beautiful but we didn’t find the feeling we were looking for, and we didn’t feel at home. In Girona we found what we were looking for,  in the last 2/3 years a lot of cyclist came to Girona and the cycling community is pretty big, the place is awesome and a we feel very welcome. People here are very warm and open minded.

Is a place where there’s a good balance for being a pro and have also a normal life, it was amazing that we found this place. It was a while that we had the wish to come here and start our activity, and few right situations give us the possibility to do it, so why not? It wasn’t easy at all but “poc a poc” (Catalan expression that means: step by step) we did it.

I want to offer the people from all around the world to have the possibility to live the experience of riding this beautiful place, beautiful roads, eat great food and meet good people.”

Interview and Rocacorba Cycling photos by: Brazo de Hierro
Action photos by: Oliver Grenaa

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