It’s going into the mid-year already; time definitely flies when you get older!

CASHANDRA SLINGERLAND won the African TT championship in 2009 and, although officially retired, she continues to race, albeit a few age categories below her ID book, to give the youngsters grief. This edition of Ladies First appeared in July/August 2018.

This might be the time take the mountain bike out of the garage and get it serviced and ready to ride; winter is great for training on the MTB, even if you don’t have the confidence to take the bike out into the trails, take it out on the road – it is generally harder on the body than your road bike (it is heavier, and you tend to ride wilder things) while training high cadence, and it is great for socialising and meeting new people. Anything that helps get you through the cold days and keeps the love for riding on the cold mornings is good, and those coffee rides quickly become a huge aspect of winter training.

Going into this part of the year, with a little less racing on offer, we get to concentrate on different areas of riding, we can concentrate on cadence, on keeping the pedal stroke smooth (push and pull) and focus on the average cyclist’s absolute worst: engaging the core. That pricey gym membership can be used now; try out different machines that you would not usually use while in racing season – focus on the upper body and core, one of those hidden secrets that most pros try to strengthen while off the bike.

Going into this coldest part of the year, we had our last classic race for the season: the 100 Cycle Challenge held in Germiston. It started off as a UCI race for the ladies, then at the last minute it was pulled from the UCI ranking races which was very disappointing as some teams were hoping (needing!) to get UCI points for their riders.

We had a large group of ladies, so it looked like we were going to have a hard and intense race, but when the gun went off this changed. It became one of the most negative races of the year. Now, I’m not sure if we need to race with men in some races during the year to keep the intensity high, but we just can’t have races where all the ladies sit and wait for the finish line. Please, ladies; if you are a sponsored rider or feel that you need a Elite racing licence, then please contribute to the race, or we all might as well go ride with the men. We need to keep the sponsors of the races happy as well as the sponsors on our shirts. We are not going to be able to grow this sport we all love by racing in such a negative manner. Some ladies were mentioning that more races now need to be with the 40 or 50 plus men, then the strongest lady, who can stick with the men, will win, but then we will also lose more lady riders as this is why they joined the licensed group; to race ladies only.
This seems to be a losing battle. I get quite upset, and depressed. Maybe we need to implement performance criteria for ladies’ races. We used to have an average speed that we had to show at the end of races in order to get our prize money, if this was not met we halved the prize; we might just have to regress to this silly system if we can’t put the ‘racing’ back into the ladies group by ourselves.

I have recently crossed over to the MTB racing scene, and my first impression is that we might be seeing a lot more ladies here in the near future. You can ride your own race and not rely on the group. It’s great to get out there and it’s an awesome way to work on fitness and technique that will come into play in the summer season when the road racing starts.
I hope to see a lot more aggressive racing in the next road season, lets keep it positive and exciting in order to grow the sport and the sponsors.

In return, we will be able to send a lot more ladies to Europe who will be able to handle the intensity of the European UCI races, and maybe even get more than one qualified to compete in the Olympics.