About a week before the Tour de Maurice was set to take place I was offered the wonderful opportunity to take part in this year’s event. A few quick arrangements later and there I was, the Sunday morning after the MTN Rooiberg event on a plane bound for Mauritius.
I was excited but also nervous for the event. It has been ages since I last raced in a UCI road tour. Furthermore, I would be one of only 3 girls participating in the race as part of the almost 100-rider strong field. For the event you had to enter a minimum of 4 riders per team and the Mauritian outfit of Team Rawat warmly welcomed me as a guest rider on their squad for the duration of the tour.
The 33rd edition of Tour de Maurice took place from the 27th of May to the 1st of June 2014. The six day event consisted of seven stages traversing the tropical Island of Mauritius.
The race started with a 21km team time trial held on the outskirts of Curepipe. The town is situated in the middle of the Island and is also the highest city in Mauritius at 561 meters above sea level.
Stage two’s 113km flat route took riders northwards from the capital and harbour town of Port Louis to finish at the newly built suburb of Goodlands.
Stage three started and finished in Curepipe, with riders completing a 107km circular route laid out in the south-eastern part of the Island.
Day four consisted of two parts. First we had an 18km individual time trial held in the morning followed by a hilly 80km stage five in the afternoon. Both stages were held in the north at Beau Plan and made for a full day of cycling.
The 120km ‘Queen Stage’ of this year’s tour took us from Port Louis along the west coast to finish for the final time in Curepipe. Not only was stage 6 the longest in distance, but it also included to most climbing as it totalled up to 1613m of ascent on the day as we climbed the steep inclines of Bassan Blanc.
The tour concluded with a circuit race in Beau Bassin on stage seven. We had to complete 12 laps of the course totalling a distance of 103km on the day.
The racing over the 6 consecutive days was incredibly hard for me. Every day I pushed my body over the mental limit I unconsciously set for myself and was left wondering how I would recover from the day’s effort and race again the next day. To my amazement my body responded well, recovering sufficiently to do it all again the following day. This just confirms once again how important it is to keep on pushing boundaries.
Despite the racing being competitive, fast paced and at times scary, as a lady I never felt unwelcome in the bunch but actually the exact opposite. In Mauritius I was just another rider in the bunch – a sentiment I greatly appreciated. At least next time around I’ll definitely be less nervous about the prospect of racing against the guys in Mauritius.
I’ve also learned other valuable lessons from this race which you have keep in mind when competing in the Tour de Maurice.
- Always be mentally, physically and logistically (pack extra race food) prepared as the day’s stage can be up to 23km (to be precise) longer than what the organisers announced it to be.
- The race marshals are only following and directing the first group during the stage. Therefore, if you feel you are going to drop from the lead bunch, make sure you are with a local rider. You will need the local rider’s knowledge to find your way back to the finish on the small and unfamiliar back roads. It can be quite daunting riding alone on unfamiliar roads – I know this from experience 🙂
At the end the overall victory went to local star Yannick Lincoln who also won the mixed category in this year’s Absa Cape Epic alongside Aurelie Halbwachs. Second and third spot on the podium went to South Africans James Tennent and Ian Pienaar respectively.
I felt privileged to be the first international ladies rider (non-Mauritian) to participate in the event. Along with Aurelie Halbwachs and Kim Le Court we even made news headlines on the Island for racing in “univers d’hommes” (in a men’s world). I hope this will only be the start of more ladies participating at the event in the future. It’s a great race and everyone is welcome.
Thanks to Team Rawat for having me on your team and for making me feel very welcome, to the Halbwachs and Lincoln families for hosting me and to my title sponsor Garmin – without you this trip wouldn’t have been possible.