Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio postpones retirement to join AG Insurance-NXTG for 2023: 'My level is higher than it’s ever been'
The South African is targeting victory at La Flèche Wallonne and the Tour de France Femmes yellow jersey next year
South African rider Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio will join AG Insurance-NXTG for the 2023 season, moving to the Continental level team from Women's WorldTour team SD Worx.
The 36-year-old had previously intended to retire at the end of 2022, content with a career that yielded 42 wins, including six national road and five national time trial titles.
However, Moolman-Pasio has been encouraged by her form this season, causing her to reconsider her options.
“I was very certain I would retire after this season,” Moolman Pasio said.
“It’s what I announced to the world but gradually the idea to continue started to gain ground in my mind. I had one of my best seasons to date and even at 36 I make progress every year. My level is higher than it’s ever been so here we are."
Indeed, the South African has performed to a very high level in 2022. In the one-day races at the beginning of the season she finished third at Strade Bianche Donne, fourth at both La Flèche Wallonne Féminine and Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes, and secured top ten finishes at De Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold and Trofeo Alfredo Binda.
Moolman-Pasio continued this fine form into the Women's Tour, where she came fifth overall, while she managed to come third on stage three of the Tour de France Femmes.
Eventually, Moolman-Pasio's desire to continue racing remained, resulting in her signing for AG Insurance-NXTG, where she is is relishing the opportunity to share her experience with the team's younger riders.
“I like to share and talk," she explained. "Cycling is not only about riding hard. There is so much more to it like nutrition, your mental health and recovery. Living a life as a full-time pro is something you can learn and I can’t wait to share my life experiences with the team.
"I can mentor the riders from inside the bunch. Not as their ultimate team leader from an ivory tower but always as part of the unity that the team comes across as. We rise by lifting each other. I am also looking forward to learning from them, despite the age gap."
Moolman-Pasio turned professional in 2010 with Lotto Ladies Team, and has since ridden for Cervélo-Bigla, CCC Liv and SD Worx during her career.
Despite her age, though, she still has plenty of ambition to add to her palmares which includes a stage win in the Giro Donne - a race she has finished on the overall podium twice, in 2018 and 2021 - and the general classification of the Basque stage race Emakumeen Bira.
“Despite those 42 wins I am not a prolific winner,” Moolman Pasio said.
“But I am one of the most consistent riders in the peloton. Even at 36 I am still highly ambitious. I really want that elusive Flèche Wallonne win after nine times in the top seven of that race.
"I also want to aim for the yellow jersey in the Tour de France Femmes next year. I look at my career now year by year and am by no means announcing my retirement already. I did that once before."
Moolman Pasio's new team certainly matches her ambition, too.
The Belgian squad joined forces with men's WorldTour team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl earlier this year, as Patrick Lefevere confirmed his promise to help develop women's cycling. The team is also hoping to secure WorldTour status in 2023, and believes the addition of Moolman Pasio to the team will further add to the strength of riders on their roster.
“We are very proud to have signed a rider like Ashleigh," AG Insurance-NXTG CEO Natascha den Ouden.
"She is both an amazing rider and a wonderful person. That connection, that click, we had was instant. It shows that the team has grown as well. People start to notice what we do and having a big name like Ashleigh postponing retirement to continue with us, shows how we are already perceived from within the peloton.
"Next year we hope to obtain a WorldTour licence but we will also continue our U23 and U19 development teams. Ashleigh is someone to look up to and her presence will be a boost to our elite team but most importantly to all the young riders on our program who want to become what she already is: a champion on and off the bike.”
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Ryan is a staff writer for Cycling Weekly, having joined the team in September 2021. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before making his way to cycling. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer.
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