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EPERNAY, France (VN) – In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio was one of few cyclists to go all in on e-racing.
In 2020, the South African won a stage of the the only Tour de France for women at the time — a virtual one. She told VeloNews that after her stage win, people started to recognize her when she walked around her hometown of Girona, Spain. That didn’t happen often before the online race.
“It was really the first time ever that women had absolute equality to the men with relation to the Tour,” Moolman Pasio said then. “Even with La Course, it’s really frustrating that the Tour de France brand never even acknowledged La Course. It had to be separate.
“The Tour never tweeted about it, never put it on their webpage. Then with the virtual Tour de France, it was all on the same webpage, social media. For the first time, the Tour de France name was related to women’s cycling. Having the exposure was massive.”
Now, with the eight-day Tour de France Femmes replacing the one-day La Course, Moolman Pasio is standing under a spotlight brighter than she ever could have imagined.
So bright, in fact, that it’s made her rethink her decision to retire at the end of the season.
“There’s so much momentum now, it just seems silly when I’ve been such a big part of the fight that it’s almost worth soaking it up for an extra year,” Moolman Pasio told VeloNews at the Tour.
Moolman Pasio, 35, announced her retirement from professional road racing in early 2022, saying that was leaving the sport on a high note and would shift focus to running her cycling-centric tourism business in Girona, as well as continuing to race in e-sports.
However, Moolman Pasio told VeloNews that she began to rethink her decision during the course of this season, one in which she’s seen a slew of solid results, including third at Strade Bianche.
Was it the results, though, or the long-awaited arrival of the Tour de France Femmes that made her reconsider her decision to step away from racing on the road?
“In a way, yeah. It was pretty much the Tour de France” she said.
As one of the most tireless advocates for advancing professional women’s cycling, Moolman Pasio wants one more year to witness the fruits of her labor. In fact, she’s sticking around perhaps less as a way to get one more career result and more to surf the wave of momentum in the sport.
However, after a third place finish in Tuesday’s stage 3 that has plugged her into fifth place overall and more mountain stages to come, Moolman Pasio can easily have it all.