Picture: STILL PHOTOGRAPHY
Picture: STILL PHOTOGRAPHY

Cycling team boss Doug Ryder believes Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio will win SA’s first Olympic cycling medal in 64 years at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Ryder‚ manager of Team Dimension Data‚ which will race as NTT Pro Cycling from next season‚ described Moolman-Pasio as “one of SA’s greatest female sports stars”.

“I believe — and I’ll put it in writing — Ashleigh will be an Olympic and world [championship] medallist next year.”

The last SA cyclist to win an Olympic medal was Alfred Swift in the time trial at Melbourne 1956‚ though none of the nation’s eight gongs in that sport have come in a road race.

Tuesday was the final day for cyclists to earn ranking points‚ and standings meant the SA women’s team could enter four riders and the men three.

But the gap between Moolman-Pasio and the next best female rider is so large that she will probably be unable to rely on team support for a medal.

It was a problem for her at Rio 2016, where she ended 10th.

“She has to ride with the stronger teams and be lucky in the end‚” said Ryder‚ adding she would probably employ a better strategy and be prepared overall for the race in Brazil.

He reckons that even without effective support riders‚ Moolman-Pasio is a stronger medal possibility than the men’s team‚ which could feature two of his NTT cyclists.

Ryder‚ who competed at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and was team manager in Rio‚ is hoping two of his three team members — Louis Meintjes‚ Nicholas Dlamini and Ryan Gibbons — can make the SA men’s team alongside Daryl Impey.

“The road race will be super hard. It’s over Mount Fuji. It’s super hilly; it’ll be a good race for a good‚ hard-climbing‚ wearing-down difficult race. It’ll suit the climbers,” Ryder said.

Meintjes‚ who finished seventh in Rio‚ must improve after a long spell of poor form.

“We’re hoping he’s going to have an exceptional year next year. He’s had a really difficult two years‚ mostly because of accidents.

“But he does need to change the way he races. He has to be more attentive‚ race near the front‚ bet on himself a bit more.

“The sport has changed. Gone are the days where you can start at the back and move your way through … it doesn’t happen any more. The race is to the climb. He needs to change a few things.

“Louis is potentially our best hope,” Ryder said.

Impey isn’t a climber per se‚ but is a great team player. “It’s thanks to Daryl that Louis did so well in Rio. Daryl is the best teammate.

“From our perspective, we’d like Nick Dlamini to go. He’s a bulldog‚ he’s a good climber. Nick is an outsider who can add a lot … Nick has a chance of riding the Tour de France next year.”

The 2020 world championships will be staged in Switzerland in late September‚ after the July 24-August 9 Games in Japan.