In a difficult week for Australian cycling following the death of Carly Hibberd, if there was a shining light it was the performances of her female compatriots, including Shara Gillow who in a guest appearance for Spanish team Bizkaia-Durango, blazed her way to a stage win and ninth overall in the Giro Donne.
In the Czech Republic, Amanda Spratt riding for the Australian National Team, lead the Tour de Feminin - Krásná Lípa from start to finish after her opening stage win. West Australian Melissa Hoskins (Team Jayco-AIS) led home an Australian clean sweep of the podium on the second stage ahead of team mate Annette Edmondson with Tasmanian Belinda Goss (Australian National Team) in third place.
Adding to Gillow's success in Italy was her Jayco-AIS women's development program teammate Ruth Corset, who was also stepping in for Bizkaia-Durango, finished the Giro Donne in sixth overall.
Gillow, reigning national and Oceania road champion, powered away from Garmin-Cervélo's Sharon Laws within sight of the finish line in Pescocostanzo on stage 2 having spent much of the day's 91 kilometres in the break.
"All day I was feeling really good," Gillow told Cyclingnews once back at her Varese-base. "I just sort of went with the opportunity because I saw the break up the road and we didn't have anyone from Bizkaia-Durango in it. There were heaps of other teams being represented and I thought, ‘it's only the early stages of the Giro' given it was stage two of a 10-stage race so I just thought, what the heck. Whether the break was going to come back or not, one of us needed to be in there."
As it turned out, it was an opportunity worth taking with the original 14-woman breakaway group eventually whittled down to Sylwia Kapusta (Gauss), Laws and Gillow by the time the race reached the twisty descent to San Maurizio. Kapusta would fade, leaving only Laws and the 23-year-old Australian to fight out the stage with the uphill finish in Pescocostanzo.
"I don't think there was a moment when I thought, ‘I've got this in the bag,' because a lot of things can happen when you're racing and I didn't really know how strong the other riders were or what I was up against," Gillow admitted.
The Queenslander was however quite relieved to have left Polish rider Kapusta behind however, "She's quite a good climber and power to weight ratio, she could probably be like a little pocket-rocket compared to me up the hill," Gillow explained.
Gillow, who is also the reigning Oceania time trial champion, went on to wear the pink leader's jersey on stage 3 before Nederland Bloeit's Marianne Vos resumed her dominance of the event.
Their team without an invite for the Giro Donne, Gillow described it as "a real blessing" for herself and Corset to get the call-up from Bizkaia-Durango. Unsure whether it's an arrangement that will continue, it could be an option for Gillow who says she is unsure of "what's happening next year."