Joanna van de Winkel has rekindled her love for the sport after seriously considering taking a break from competitive cycling during the Covid-19 lockdown this year.
The Cycle Nation rider, a former professional, underlined her credentials by capturing her third straight Satellite Classic in Magaliesburg on Saturday, following a second place in the Joburg Classic the previous weekend.
The 38-year-old has a fulltime job in Johannesburg and, with young children aged seven and five, she said there were times during lockdown when she wondered if the effort was worth it.
“I had actually thought about stopping riding to spend more time with my family and to manage my job,” said Van de Winkel.
“Cycling is a lot of commitment and it can be hard and stressful trying to juggle all those responsibilities. I think anyone who races at that level knows how much time cycling takes, and I lost motivation in lockdown.”
In recent weeks, however, Van de Winkel has been rejuvenated after team owner Lincoln King revived the Cycle Nation outfit.
“I then got that excitement back and have only started training properly in the last few weeks, but a win like the Satellite Classic has helped to bring back the motivation.”
She does, however, see herself making a slightly different contribution to the team, using her experience to help others.
“My aim next year is to play more of a support role and to impart my knowledge to my teammates,” she said.
“So it will not be just about me racing for titles, but, being a bit older, I want to see if I can give back to the team and help the other riders.”
In terms of her recent Satellite Classics victories, Van de Winkel said each year had been different and, like last year, she was sceptical of her chances.
“Sprinting is not my strength and last year I won by kicking on the final climb up to the finish,” she said.
“This time the girls were together until Hekpoort, about 8km into the race, and I knew that was where I had to split the group.
“I was also aiming for the queen of the mountains, so I kept the pace hard while riding within my limits and when I looked back at the top nobody was behind me.”
With more than 100km to go, Van de Winkel knew she needed to be smart and when she saw Parys Edwards, who came second, not far behind, she sat up and waited for her.
“That was about 3km after Hekpoort and we decided together that we would try to hold the breakaway, so basically we worked well together for the rest of the race and set the pace fairly hard.”
“Towards the end I could tell Parys was getting a bit tired having come off an injury and I felt I was a little bit stronger.
“I knew I was going to give it everything from the bottom of the final climb to the finish and when I turned the corner I had 200 metres to go and was able savour the win.”
Van de Winkel crossed the line in 2:56:24, half a minute ahead of Edwards. Azulde Britz finished third.