The Paceline Women’s Cycling Team is an amateur team dedicated towards creating opportunities for more women to race on the road and in gravel events in the Western Cape. Founded in 2021 the team is supported by Fine & Country and ASAP World. With their financial support – as well as the product partnerships with Versus Socks, First Ascent, Omnico’s Ryder brand, Hyundai Somerset West, Veldskoen, Squirt Cycling Products and Myriad Events – Paceline aims to bridge the gap from recreational cycling to competitive racing for women and girls.
“Racing is intimidating,” team founder Chanel Fourie admitted. “The prospect of racing in the bunch, working for a teammate and feeding from the car are all alien to cyclists before they start racing. There’s currently a limited number of ways for women to gain this experience and move up through the levels of competitive cycling.”
“Even a safe environment, like Killarney, is quite scary at first,” Fourie continued. “While men and boys seem to bluff their way through the initial fear of the unknown, women and girls tend to be more circumspect. The Paceline Women’s Cycling Team bridges that gap by providing the know-how, a welcoming environment and support to women’s road cyclists.”
“If you look at the amount of talent in competitions like the School’s Mountain Bike League and in triathlon clubs across the country, there is no doubt that South Africa has the riders to have a vibrant and competitive road racing scene,” Fourie affirmed. “It’s just a matter of nurturing that talent and providing the stepping stones between being able to produce numbers in training and apply that to racing. Race craft can only be learnt in racing and more needs to be done to get women into races.”
“Events like the Cape Town Cycle Tour and 94.7 Ride Joburg feature a women’s only start group,” noted Annemie Kurger, one of the founding members of the Paceline team. “Those events are on the forefront of assisting women’s racing, as are Myriad Events. Myriad stage the Western Province road and criterium series and are doing all they can to support women’s cycling. They have been very attentive and open to feedback, hopefully with their support the numbers of women in the local races will grow to the point where they can host women’s only start groups at every event. This keeps the racing free from interference by the age-category men’s racers and makes it safer.”
Getting more women to and entered into races is the first obstacle, Paceline has overcome this issue with the aid of Hyundai Somerset West and Myriad events. Along with the financial contributions of Fine & Country and ASAP World the backing of a motor vehicle dealer allows the team to have a dedicated support car at races. The Hyundai Vehicles provides more than just transport to the races, it serves as a vehicle from which riders can feed and serves as a team car, complete with spare wheels in the case of a puncture.
“We’re also proud to have the support of companies like First Ascent, Versus Socks, Veldskoen and Squirt Cycling Products,” Fourie smiled. “They provide products to help us look the part, in terms of professional level kit, podium wear and products to help us perform. A partnership we’re particularly excited about is the one with Omnico’s Ryder brand. Ryder offers a range of South African designed cycling tools. We will soon begin hosting training sessions where we teach women the basics of road-side repairs, which goes beyond racing. Being able to fix a puncture, be it plugging a tubeless tyre or replacing a tube, is an essential skill every cyclist should possess.”
“One of the great things about the women’s peloton is the age-range” Fourie stated. “From the juniors, just out of high school to the masters age-groupers, everyone races together. This means that virtually any competitive women can get into racing, regardless of her age. Currently the Paceline team is made up of Sarita Louw, Michaela Lubbe, Tarryn Povey, Catherine Pellow-Jarman, Andrea Mason, Annemie [Kruger] and myself. The composition of the team is important because they are all very approachable people. Hopefully women see us at races or on training rides and feel comfortable enough to come speak to us.”
“Though I realise that we also have to do a lot of evangelising and convert good riders into racers,” Fourie laughed. “Paceline isn’t about winning or achieving podium places even. We’re about helping women develop the skills they need to be competitive and to grow the depth of women’s racing. If we can mentor a young rider to a point that she’s ready to join a professional team then that would be a great success. In the meantime; we’re having fun, pushing ourselves and promoting women’s road cycling.”
The Paceline Women’s Cycling Team is also targeting gravel racing. “Cycling is no longer in the narrow silos it once was” Kruger noted. “Chanel was a triathlete before she started road racing. I’ve raced mountain bikes, as have a number of the other women in the team. But we believe gravel racing is more accessible to road racers. There’s a lot of cross-transfer of skills and the position on the bike, on a drop-bar bike, is similar too. Mountain biking may be South Africa’s most popular discipline by participant numbers, but gravel racing is growing and we believe it’s a more natural transition. Especially with the road season winding down in winter, when the majority of the gravel races take place.”
Beyond the competitive team Paceline would like to encourage all women with a bike to improve their cycling capabilities. “We’ll be hosting relaxed Saturday group road rides and gravel outrides too” Fourie promised. “Any woman wanting to get involved need only drop us a DM on Facebook or Instagram to find out more. A good place to start perhaps, is with a ride from the Hanger Bike Co, outside Somerset West, where Fine & Country sponsor the coffees between 9 and 10am on Saturday mornings.”
To get in touch with Paceline Women’s Cycling Team or to follow their progress like the squad’s Facebook page, Paceline Women’s Cycling Team, or follow @pacelinewmncycling on Instagram. The team rides in support of Lady Talk Matters and promotes the charity’s message of removing the taboo surrounding women’s reproductive health.