There are less than 100 days to the Olympics and that is making me think about the woman I want to be on the start line. I’m not the same person I was when I started cycling and it’s been the bike that has changed me the most. From thinking I could maybe be a cyclist to becoming an Olympian, and all the crashes in between, it has been the challenges on the bike that have taught me the most about who I am and who I want to be.
When I started out in the women’s pro peloton, I had a lot to learn about cycling. I knew I had to be a student of the sport but, all too often, I thought that meant being quiet, going with the flow and just accepting whatever I was dealt. If I made a mistake, it would throw me. If I succeeded, I almost wouldn’t believe it. The ups and downs were unpredictable and I finally realised that I only had myself as an anchor.
That anchor was my self-confidence. It wasn’t my values, thoughts or passion that were lacking, it was my confidence to stand up for those values, thoughts and passion. I was afraid to rock the boat and stand up for what I believed in, but the more self-confidence I gained on the bike, the steadier I became off the bike. If I failed, it was on my terms. I would learn and move on and I was okay with that. And so was every one else. Even if people disagreed, having the self-confidence to act according to my true beliefs meant that at least I was respected.
It’s taken a lot of lessons, a lot of people and a long personal journey but I know now that it’s not about being loud or liked, it’s about being true. That’s the woman I want to take to Rio. That’s the woman I want to show the world. That’s the woman I am on the bike.
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio is a professional cyclist from South Africa. She’s currently riding for the Cervélo-Bigla team.