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Absa African Jersey Success Stories Part 2

2019-08-01

In the 2019 Absa Cape Epic Theresa Ralph and Sarah Hill recovered from a 30 minute time penalty on the Prologue to win the Absa African Women’s Jerseys. We spoke to them to find out how important the victory was to them.

The lives of elite sportswomen are filled with ups and downs. That was certainly true for Theresa Ralph and Sarah Hill, of Galileo Risk. From the excitement of starting a race they had prepared for, fastidiously, for months; to finding out, after finishing the Prologue which took in the trails of the spectacularly beautiful Table Mountain National Park, that they were being penalised with a 30 minute time addition.

On the opening stage their motivation had clearly been dealt a blow. By Stage 2 however they had done their best to shake off the disappointment and were hoping that they had got their bad luck out the way early. Anything can happen in eight days of mountain biking and the Galileo Risk team knew they could ride themselves back into contention.

That is exactly what they did by finishing ahead of dormakaba’s Amy McDougall and Samantha Sanders, their primary rivals for the Absa African Women’s Jerseys, on Stage 2. When McDougall fell ill the following day and could not complete the stage, Ralph and Hill claimed the Red Jerseys. Four long, hard, stages remained however and staying fit, healthy and ahead of their other rivals was anything but easy. Still they managed to do just that, avoiding any further ill fortune and securing the Absa African Women’s Jersey title.

“Realistically it was something that we were not sure that we would be able to get,” confessed Ralph a month after the 2019 race. “We wanted to start small and build from there. Amy [McDougall] and Sam [Sanders] were our only threat and we were watching them closely at the races leading up to the Absa Cape Epic to see how close we were to them; to give them a go and maybe hold the jersey for a few days or even just take a stage.”

“As the race progressed and despite our hard start to the race and disappointing our sponsors with the penalty that we received, we knew that we had to keep soldiering on,” Ralph reflected. “I cannot lie; we did get a mouthful from the sponsors for the penalty that we received and rightly so, as so much money is invested in us athletes to take part in this race. But every race has an element of luck to it and boy did it turn our way. We were so happy to bring the jersey home for our sponsors and fix a little mess that was made en-route.”

“It was a rollercoaster ride along the way and we were treated like royalty by our team when we got home. Winning the jerseys was a very proud moment for all of us. Our sponsors are more like a family, so it was an emotional and a very happy moment to deliver what we set out to do in the end,” the experienced rider blushed. Turning her attention to the coverage herself, her partner Hill and their sponsors received during the race she recounted: “I know that the exposure that us girls got from the ever improving coverage of the women’s race also assists our sponsors on the business side. Galileo Risk LIV is definitely a name that is known world-wide and this is a great thing. We are proud to fly that flag for them!”

“I have done many an Absa Cape Epic now and for many years – before the past two editions – I have been asking the organisers to make an African Women’s Jersey. We joke amongst us that I have won this jersey unofficially with Yolandi du Toit in previous years… but we are impressed and grateful that Absa have committed to the competition for the past two years. We understand that it has taken a few years to get the women’s racing to a level that this jersey can be instilled, and we are thrilled that it is now part of the race. It definitely ensures increased exposure for sponsors – yet it is also very refreshing that the African ladies are actually mixing closely with the top teams that are competing in the event – just like the men.” Ralph concluded.

Adding her voice to that of Ralph’s, Hill confirmed: “Winning the Absa African Women’s Jersey is an honour! It's the second year that this category has been featured and to be a part of its growth is inspirational. It motivates fellow Africans to join together and compete within the continent, which is super special. Experiencing the African spirit at African Continental XCO Champs in Namibia a couple weekends ago made me feel passionate about riding for my country, as well as seeing how much support goes into making opportunities like this happen. For athletes to grow in the world of cycling, we need to be thrown into the deep end. This raises the quality of racing and the standards we hold ourselves too, versus the rest of the world. Seeing how much Africa needs to develop and grow to reach a true international level made me really appreciate the sponsors’ support, which we get from Galileo Risk and LIV Cycling.”

“Since this was my first Absa Cape Epic, I feel I have come out of this event a changed woman,” Hill confided. “I am smarter and stronger which is so motivating. I have a new sense of the term ‘tough’ and so much respect for every professional racer out there, for their humble commitment to the lifestyle we live. Saying this, I am less intimidated for the upcoming season. I have a huge sense of belief in my potential as a racer, and I feel my maturity and patience in training will allow me to shine when the time is right. I am loving the process of stepping up the standard year after year... there is so much to come!”

Concluding with her thoughts on how the Absa African Women’s competition is aiding the development of women’s mountain biking, Hill said: “I definitely see it helping women's MTB in South Africa! Riding with another female is such a unique partnership, and it opens doors to many women out there to go ahead and join in on this category. A lot of South African women assume they must race with their romantic partners, and this gives them the power to join in on something much bigger. Women are stronger when they ride together; they understand and encourage each other in such a unique way, because their motive to ride truly comes from within. Women wear their hearts on their sleeve and radiate passion when they are partnered up together. Seeing the other women's teams, who weren’t racing in the elite category, cross the finish line made me want to experience races like the Absa Cape Epic over and over again.”

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