“I started gymnastics at the age of eight and it was what I lived and breathed for,” she said.
It was during training a week before her provincial competition that she was practising a new element when she landed with her feet fixed but her body still rotating.
“I heard and felt a sharp snap sound and I immediately knew my ankle ligaments were torn.”
Following rehabilitation, Oberholzer carried on training for a further two years but she said she was never the same gymnast again.
“I was unable to get back to the same level as before,” she said.
“My dad had been nagging me for a long time to try out cycling but I was never too keen. Eventually I tried it, but I struggled in the beginning, not enjoying it all that much.
“The bicycle wasn’t love at first sight and I took some time to get used to the intensity, duration and sore behind.”
The 31-year-old Demacon rider grew up in Bloemfontein, where there was a strong cycling community. She joined a local high-school training group and found the love of riding contagious.
“Coupled with a competitive spirit, I started racing and it wasn’t long before I was winning the ladies’ category as a junior at the local events. It was also during this time that I met my [future] husband and coach, Stefan, who I dated for almost two years before a six-year hiatus,” said Oberholzer.
After school she knew cycling was not a viable career in South Africa. She decided to further her education and opted to study towards a physiotherapy degree in 2006 to 2007.
“I was blessed with the opportunity to race with the Proline team in 2008 and I gave up my studies for a year. It wasn’t the lifestyle I imagined, so I quit cycling and focused on finishing my studies from 2009 to 2011.”
Oberholzer then dabbled in trail running and visiting the gym, until she made contact with Stefan again late in 2012.
“He invited me to do a mountain-bike stage race with him in February, 2013. Never being one to shy away from a challenge I said yes and started training again. But, boy was I unfit! We made it through the arduous Tankwa Trek and our relationship, as well as my cycling career, had started again,” said Oberholzer.
The pair rode very casually initially, mostly on mountain bike tracks, for about a year.
“I said that if I ever had to race elite ladies, drink a protein shake or use a power meter I would quit cycling immediately. Little did I know just how hard the bug had bitten this time,” she said.
Her husband then convinced her to enter the Fast One in 2014 and she was seeded in the B-batch.
“I thought it was way too easy, so two weeks later I registered and raced as an elite lady at the Berge en Dale where I finished third. The rest of the year I managed several top-five positions,” said Oberholzer.
She raced for the Clover team in 2015 and even though she improved by leaps and bounds, she wasn’t winning races.
“In the middle of 2016 I parted ways with the team and what I thought was one of the worst times in my life ended up being the stepping stone which bolstered my cycling to new heights.
“I was taken in by Demacon and under the careful, constant and very able eyes of David and Lynette Pieterse I was moulded into the rider I am today.”
She was also offered a place on the UCI Bizkaia Durango Team in Spain for three months last year.
“I believe the combination of being exposed to racing at European level as well as having superb management and support in South Africa is the reason why real success started in 2017 for me.”
Oberholzer attributed her recent victories firstly to a gradual build-up over three years during which she and her husband made many mistakes with training programmes while trying to juggle work and racing.
“We managed to learn from these and eventually we found a recipe that works,” she said.
“Secondly, I attribute it to being exposed to racing in Europe. Even if it was just for three months it was a steep learning curve and it opened our eyes to what really needs to be done if you want to achieve top results consistently.
“Thirdly, and most importantly, I attribute it to my team. Demacon has taught me so much and they have managed to turn an average cyclist into a race-winning one.”
Oberholzer felt that as a team they were in a very good place. “The spirit is high and success breeds success. We trust each other 100% and we have each other’s back during a race.”
Since being crowned the national road champion, she said with a chuckle that not much had changed except for the number of interviews and Facebook friend requests.
“I’m still the same person I was before and my goals for the year are still the same. I don’t feel any particular pressure other than what I would have put on myself if I had not won.
“I am however also not more laid back because I have tasted success already. So my approach to the season won’t be changing. Stefan and I have decided to put a family on hold while I race in the national jersey,” said Oberholzer.
Asked if she had expected to start the 2018 season off with such good results, she said hadn’t. “I never thought I would be [in this position]. I had some good form towards the end of last year, but then I had a very disappointing 947 Cycle Challenge coupled with an extremely busy holiday season at our restaurant in Clarens where I couldn’t train the hours I would’ve liked.”
Going forward, Oberholzer’s big goal was the Commonwealth Games but Sascoc ultimately decided not to send a ladies team.
“Personally my next big race is the Bestmed Tour of Good Hope and for my team the Cape Town Cycle Tour. After that I’ll take some time off the bike and refocus and restructure for the rest of the year. I’d also love to defend my Amashova title and obviously the 947 Cycle Challenge is important.
“Personally I have just opened up my physiotherapy practice in Clarens and I’d like to take some time and build that into a successful practice which also serves the greater community,” she said.
Oberholzer said the biggest lesson she had learnt from cycling was that nothing in life came for free or without hard work.
“You’re not entitled to anything in life and every success you have is as a result of many hours of work from many people. Also, it takes a team and you can achieve nothing on your own.”