At just 18 years of age, Sarah Gigante (Roxsolt Attaquer) beat the cream of Australian cycling to win the elite women's Australian national road race title in Buninyong, near Ballarat, Victoria, on Sunday, and with it, by default, the under-23 title.
Gigante made her solo move by attacking breakaway companions Shara Gillow (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) and Sarah Roy (Mitchelton-Scott) on the penultimate lap of the 11.6km circuit, which was covered nine times, and included the climb of Mount Buninyong.
As Gigante increased her lead on the final lap, two-time champion Amanda Spratt passed her teammate Roy on the final climb and linked up with Gillow with two kilometres to go.
It proved to be too little, too late, however, and while Spratt took silver, 50 seconds down on Gigante – who crossed the line unable to believe she'd won – Roy sneaked past Gillow on the line for the final podium spot.
"I'm so happy. I just can't believe it," Gigante said at the finish. "I didn't even expect to win the under-23 title. I was hoping for a medal, and to maybe win it if I was really lucky. So just to win the under-23s would have been amazing, but to win the elite race... I just can't believe it.
"In the breakaway I had some of my idols – Chloe Hosking and Sarah Roy were there – and just to be doing turns with them and riding near them, I was, like, 'Wow – this is so cool.' And then when I heard that three Mitchelton-Scott girls were chasing us with a lap to go, I thought, 'Oh – my idols are chasing me.' I was amazing. It just felt so cool."
How it unfolded
Gigante was part of a seven-rider breakaway group that got away on the first lap, which also included Roy, Gillow, Chloe Hosking (Ale Cipollini), Taryn Heather, Ella Bloor and Michaela Parsons.
On the climb with five laps to go, Bloor dropped off the pace, but managed to regain contact on the descent, while the peloton steadily fractured as the laps ticked by.
Despite Roy's presence in the front group, Mitchelton-Scott were keen to get more numbers up to the front, and Lucy Kennedy was active at the head of the chase, trying to pull Spratt clear, while Tibco-SVB's Brodie Chapman was also regularly seen at the front of the chasing bunch.
It was Gigante herself who led the front group through the start/finish area with almost a three-minute lead with 35km – three laps – to go, and it was Parsons who pushed the pace at the front approaching the climb once again, which put Heather into trouble.
Gillow put in the first serious attack on Mount Buninyong, and Roy gave immediate chase, followed by Parsons, Gigante and Heather, with Bloor having dropped away for good, along with sprinter Hosking.
Behind them, Team Virtu Cycling's Rachel Neylan and Mitchelton's Gracie Elvin picked up Hosking, and with two laps to go the leading group of five – Gigante, Parsons, Gillow, Roy, Heather – held a two-minute lead over Neylan and Elvin, with Hosking holding on to them.
Gillow attacked again on the climb, and this time only Gigante and Roy could follow, with Kennedy and Spratt linking up with the chasers. Gigante made her move on Roy and Gillow with 15km to go, and the 18-year-old had a 30-second gap as she started the final lap.
On the final time up Mount Buninyong, Gillow left Roy behind as she set off in pursuit of Gigante, and as Spratt pushed the pace and caught her teammate Roy, Roy was able to shout an update of the situation up the road to her team leader.
One-by-one, Gigante, followed by Gillow, and then Spratt, went over the top of the climb, and with seven kilometres to go, Gigante still had a 43-second lead, and it wasn't until with two kilometres to go that Spratt latched on to Gillow, and tried to go straight past her.
But by then it was too late: Gigante had the win in the bag, and crossed the line with a one-armed salute to the crowd, with a huge smile on her face before bursting into tears.
Spratt opened up the sprint for silver, with an exhausted-looking Gillow looking as though she'd hold on for third place, despite a fast-approaching Roy. However, Roy managed to catch Gillow on the line, with Gillow either not knowing she was there, or simply not able to do anything about it.
"Of course, we came here to win, but we also have to acknowledge that Sarah had an absolutely incredible ride," Spratt said of Gigante's victory.
"She showed last year in Ballarat what she's capable of, and the talent she has. Hats off to her. She rode away from a class field, even in that breakaway."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Sarah Gigante (Aus) Roxsolt Attaquer||03:03:36|
|2||Amanda Spratt (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott||0:00:50|
|3||Sarah Roy (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott||0:00:54|
|4||Shara Gillow (Aus) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope|
|5||Gracie Elvin (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott||0:01:10|
|6||Rachel Neylan (Aus) Team Virtu Cycling|
|7||Emily Roper (Aus)|
|8||Jaime Gunning (Aus) Specialized Women's Racing|
|9||Brodie Chapman (Aus) Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank|
|10||Lucy Kennedy (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott||0:01:59|
|11||Taryn Heather (Aus) Specialized Women's Racing||0:02:15|
|12||Grace Brown (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott||0:03:26|
|13||Rebecca Wiasak (Aus)||0:05:10|
|14||Jessica Pratt (Aus) Sydney Uni Staminade||0:01:59|
|15||Justine Barrow (Aus) Gusto StepFWD KOM powered by Suzuki|
|16||Elizabeth Stannard (Aus) Gusto StepFWD KOM powered by Suzuki||0:01:59|
|17||Bree Wilson (Aus)|
|18||Michaela Parsons (Aus)||0:01:59|
|19||Lauretta Hanson (Aus) Trek-Segafredo||0:06:14|
|20||Peta Mullens (Aus) Roxsolt Attaquer||0:01:59|
|21||Chloe Hosking (Aus) Ale Cipollini|
|22||Anna Booth (Aus) Specialized Women's Racing||0:01:59|
|23||Annelise Jefferies (Aus) KOM Financial Advice Racing Team|
|24||Nicole Frain (Aus) TIS Womens Racing Team||0:01:59|
|25||Emily Watts (Aus) Sydney Uni Staminade|
|26||Kathryn Woolston (Aus) Veris Racing Team||0:01:59|
|27||Georgia Whitehouse (Aus) Sydney Uni Staminade|
|28||Shannon Malseed (Aus) Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank||0:01:59|
|29||Ashlee Ankudinoff (Aus) Specialized Women's Racing|
|30||Holly Harris (Aus) Specialized Women's Racing||0:06:18|
|31||Jemma Eastwood (Aus) Gusto StepFWD KOM powered by Suzuki|
|32||Matilda Raynolds (Aus) Specialized Women's Racing||0:06:21|
|33||Madeline Wright (Aus)||0:06:57|
|34||Megan Williams (Aus)||0:09:58|
|35||Ella Bloor (Aus) Specialized Women's Racing||0:10:02|
|36||Gina Ricardo (Aus) Sydney Uni Staminade||0:12:48|
|37||Veronica Lebedev (Aus) Gusto StepFWD KOM powered by Suzuki|
|DNF||Jessica Allen (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott|
|DNF||Lauren Kitchen (Aus) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope|
|DNF||Jenny Pettenon (Aus) Gusto StepFWD KOM powered by Suzuki|
|DNF||Nicola Macdonald (Aus) Gusto StepFWD KOM powered by Suzuki|
|DNF||Kendell Hodges (Aus) Gusto StepFWD KOM powered by Suzuki|
|DNF||Jessica Mundy (Aus) Gusto StepFWD KOM powered by Suzuki|
|DNF||Katie Banerjee (Aus) KOM Financial Advice Racing Team|
|DNF||Kirsty Deacon (Aus) KOM Financial Advice Racing Team|
|DNF||Rebecca Stephens (Aus) KOM Financial Advice Racing Team|
|DNF||Kate Perry (Aus) Specialized Women's Racing|
|DNF||Briony Mattocks (Aus) Specialized Women's Racing|
|DNF||Jennifer Darmody (Aus) Sydney Uni Staminade|
|DNF||Jade Colligan (Aus) Sydney Uni Staminade|
|DNF||Emma Chilton (Aus) Roxsolt Attaquer|
|DNF||Josie Talbot (Aus) Roxsolt Attaquer|
|DNF||Anya Louw (Aus) TIS Womens Racing Team|
|DNF||Bridget Bremner (Aus) Vie13KOM|
|DNF||Maddison Beevors (Aus) Sydney Uni Velo Club|
|DNF||Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) Canyon-SRAM Racing|
|DNF||Fleur Wellings (Aus)|
|DNF||Natalie Redmond (Aus)|
|DNF||Kerry Jonker (Aus)|
|DNF||Maddison Taylor (Aus)|
|DNF||Pia Smith (Aus)|
|DNF||Georgia O'Rourke (Aus)|
|DNF||Chloe Heffernan (Aus)|
|DNF||Jennifer Kay (Aus)|
|DNF||Emily Fowler (Aus)|
|DNF||Eloise Vaughan (Aus)|
|DNF||Saffron Button (Aus)|
|DNF||Emma Viotto (Aus)|
|DNF||Sarah Tucknott (Aus)|
|DNF||Bre Vine (Aus)|
|DNF||Emily Mascaro (Aus)|