Sarah Gigante (TIBCO-SVB/Garmin-Australia) conquered Willunga Hill as the famed men’s Tour Down Under climb made its debut in the women’s race, smashing the field by a minute enroute to a landmark win.
It was the case of another stage, another dominant win for young Australian star Sarah Gigante as she took out the win atop Willunga Hill on Stage 3 of the Santos Festival of Cycling.
Gigante broke clear on the first steep section of Willunga Hill, getting a gap quickly and motoring clear of the rest of the field, eventually finishing a minute ahead of WorldTour climber Lucy Kennedy (Team BikeExchange).
“It’s so cool the women were able to race up Willunga Hill for the first time,” said Gigante. “That was just the best teamwork ever. I had literal bodyguards around me all day!”
“We knew the other teams weren’t going to give it to us easily, I think everyone was trying to catch us out. It’s my first time working with these girls, a lot of them. It was just such a great team effort.”
Gigante had spoken on the start line about how she’d been feeling a touch of butterflies in the stomach ahead of a big metaphorical stage to perform on.
“The way i like to describe it is ‘nerve-citement’,” said Gigante. “I wasn’t really nervous before the other ones, but this one I cared about so much. I love getting that feeling of nerve-citement.”
At just 48.8 kilometres, and the three-kilometre climb of Willunga loomed as the summit finish, there wasn’t much chance for racing before the key finishing climb.
Ruby Roseman-Gannon took out the only intermediate sprint, securing herself some valuable seconds in the battle for the podium.
Alana Forster put in a strong attack from the peloton with 12 kilometres to go as Willunga Hill loomed on the horizon. She got a maximum lead of 20 seconds, well kept in check by the main group.
The doctor from Canberra has proved one of the most aggressive riders in the National Road Series women’s peloton, and has plenty of strength to go with her bold nature.
Sarah Gigante stamped her dominance on proceedings on the early, steep slopes of Willunga Hill, with the 20-year-old jumping clear with a powerful attack with just under three kilometres until the finish line atop the famous ascent.
Nicole Frain (Sydney Uni-Staminade) was the closest to following initially, going deep to follow the wheel of Gigante for a few hundred meteres before the Victorian was able to leave her Tasmanian rival behind.
Gigante maintained a hot pace throughout the climb, pedalling a large gear as she held a top tempo.
Behind, Lucy Kennedy (Team BikeExchange) kept a steady pace, catching and then overtaking Frain, finishing a minute behind Gigante, with Frain taking a wrong turn in the finish and costing herself maybe ten seconds as she finished third at a minute and 36 seconds.
Gigante will take a three minute and 11 second lead into the final stage, a criterium around Victoria Park, with the overall win virtually assured.
By Jamie Finch-Penninger