Port Elizabeth legend Anriette Schoeman started cycling when she was 15 after reading in a local newspaper about an EP schools team going to nationals.
But she knew her biggest obstacle would be financial.
“I always loved riding my bike and thought this was the coolest thing ever.
“I only had one problem – my parents were very poor and my dad had lost his job. A friend of mine in my class told me about a cycling coach at Lorraine Primary School, Alex Cooper.”
The 42-year-old said as a young teenager she summoned up the courage and contacted him.
“He helped me to get started and is still involved in my cycling. When I started riding my parents couldn’t afford to buy me a bike, but Alex helped me.
“It was also not possible to enter for races as I had no money, but with people believing in me and Alex’s support he helped me go from strength to strength. In 1994 I received my national U17 colours for track riding.”
Schoeman, who represented SA at the 2001, 2006, 2008 and 2010 UCI Road World Championships, said she had learnt many lessons during her 20 years of racing professionally.
“It has taught me to persevere, be disciplined and appreciate my health. It has also taught me to be humble.
“I always say the only two unconditional things you’ll receive in your life are your parents’ love and your body. Use it and enjoy it.
“Not everyone is an Olympic medallist, but nothing stops you from dreaming like one and enjoying your body,” said Schoeman, who competed in the road race at the 2004 Summer Olympics.
The seven-time Cape Town Cycle Tour champion says that as she’s got older she has appreciated her body and good health more and no longer sweats the small stuff.
“Like the current situation we find ourselves in with the pandemic. I’m using this time to work a bit on my weaknesses and enjoy other activities, like running.
“Now is a good time to start building. Besides, exercise is good for your immune system and the time is going to pass anyway.”
She added that she loves the travelling that is part of racing and having people come from afar to support her.
“I don’t really have specific highlights, but in 2013 my sister came to visit me from Australia and was in Cape Town with me when I won the Cape Town Cycle Tour for the seventh time, so we celebrated together. That was pretty special.”
Schoeman has also started her own coaching academy to share her skills, knowledge and expertise.
“I have a few athletes already and I have to admit seeing them do well makes my heart want to burst with pride.
“It gives me so much satisfaction when I know I have played a part in people being the best version of themselves.”
She wished she could make a difference to children who are in the same situation she was in when Cooper helped her.
“They might not all be race winners, but I know how much it means to be in their situation because I’ve been there; to be part of something and to feel worthy.
“Stop dreaming and start daring. If you don’t try you will never know how awesome you can really be.”
Schoeman added that she was also excited about the future of cycling in SA.
“This year Frances Janse van Rensburg has been exceptional.
“Also, Cherise Willeit coming from a European winter and winning the Cape Town Cycle tour is something special. She has always been a classy rider and pulls out her big-match temperament when it counts.”