Team dormakaba’s Candice Lill aims to inspire fellow cyclists by wearing the inaugural Cape Epic African women’s special jersey, which she and partner Amy McDougall claimed after the final stage at Val de Vie on Sunday.
Lill, who won the overall Tankwa Trek title with German Helen Grobert last month, felt the achievement stood for women’s equality and growth in the sport.
“To be the first wearers is really a privilege and honour and I hope this will inspire other African women to come and race for this category, which will also add to our race as a whole,” she said.
It would also make for a more competitive race where people would fight for the jersey, especially if there was the potential of it changing hands after each stage, something the South African rider would like to see.
Lill added that they had also been working towards having the same category as the men, with equal prize money.
“Now that it has happened it also shows that the women’s race is actually big enough to warrant such a category, which is exciting as it shows growth in the sport.”
The special feat was not an initial goal of Lill’s as she was supposed to race with German cross-country mountain-biker Adelheid Morath, but she broke her wrist and was unable to race.
McDougall’s availability, due to a partner who crashed out, then meant the pair would qualify for the special category.
“We immediately said it would be something we would try and achieve, even though we didn’t really know who else was up for the jersey.”
The team wore the jersey from early on in the week and knew that unless something went drastically wrong they would be able to keep it.
“Even when Amy was sick we were still wearing it, so it was a good start for the jersey.”
Lill hoped that by wearing the jersey throughout the week, by the things they said, by the way they raced and the teamwork they showed, it had made a change in other women cyclists’ lives and inspired them to take on the challenge.
“It’s amazing prize money, we got good coverage and it’s also good for the sponsors to get this kind of media attention as it brings more of them to the sport. Hopefully they will then invest in women’s cycling and be able to further careers as professionals,” she said.
“It can really change African women cyclists’ lives.”
For next year, Lill said if she could find a rider who would go for the overall win and the African jersey she would again aspire towards this achievement.
“I would like to try and go for the overall win. Imagine if you could have an African women’s team winning the race and the African jersey. Would that be possible?” she said with a chuckle.