South African road champion Heidi Dalton is more convinced than ever that she can compete on the international stage after overcoming a number of challenges to complete her first Giro Rosa earlier this month.
“Winning SA champs at the beginning of the year meant a lot to me,” said Dalton. “As a junior I won titles, but this was my biggest achievement.”
Her conquering of the Giro Rosa – the women’s version of the Giro d’Italia – was an achievement she said she’d been aiming for after making her debut in the 10-stage event in 2014.
“This year was all about finishing and I suffered throughout to achieve that,” said the 22-year-old, who was unable to finish when she first started the event.
“The Giro Rosa was not only 10 days on the bike; it was also the toughest 10 days for me.”
Dalton said the experience, where she had lined up alongside the world’s best, had better equipped her for when she returned next year.
“I haven’t done anything spectacular, but I have gained so much experience once again and learnt so much.”
The Ballito resident said she believed beating the international competition was within her capabilities, but admitted that it would take time and hard work.
“I’m going to have to work on all aspects of my cycling life to get to where I can start competing against these women.
“One of the big lessons that I learnt was to not give up. There were stages where I was really, really just hanging on but I still got to the end.
“It taught me to push my body past any pain barrier and to just always keep going.”
Having first appeared on the international scene at the age of 15, Dalton said it was a continuous battle to remain on top.
She admitted the winning that came easily as a junior was a thing of the past and it now took her best effort to “just be involved in the racing nowadays”.
“Women’s cycling is huge. It’s hard and I have learnt and seen once again that if you want to make it as a cyclist you have to live overseas and dedicate your life to the sport.”
She said Moolman-Pasio’s efforts were proof of that. The 31-year-old has had a spectacular season, racking up a number of top results in France, Spain and Britain.
“Cycling is a hard sport. I for one now understand just how good she is.
“She is something special and I don’t quite think people back home understand what she is doing and just how great she is.”
However, Dalton said she would remain focused and continue to devote her efforts to improving.
“I will keep trying and believing as I do believe if I keep working hard and stay focused the road to winning isn’t impossible.”