Austria's Laura Stigger secured a home win in the junior women’s road race at the UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck on Thursday. It was her second world title victory this month after securing the rainbow jersey in mountain biking just two weeks ago in Switzerland.
“It’s incredible to win in my hometown,” Stigger said after her victory. “Thanks to the people for standing on the course and cheering me on. It’s a very tight victory. My legs were burning in the sprint. This morning I didn’t believe I had any chance of winning because it’s only my second road race. I just wanted to have fun, and now I’m the world champion. It’s unbelievable.”
The junior women raced 71.7km along a gently rolling course that also included two main climbs; the first took the field up to Gnadewald, a 5km ascent with sections as steep as 14 per cent, and the second was a climb to Lans that crested to the top 10km from the finish line.
Stigger was part of the day’s main breakaway and attacked over the final climb, but in the end, the race came down to a four-way sprint. Stigger proved fastest racing across the line ahead of France’s Marie le Net and Canada’s Simone Boilard, while Italy’s Barbara Malcotti had to settle for fourth place.
“My legs were hurting. I thought that I would just give my best, but in the background, I thought about there being four of us, and perhaps that meant not getting a medal. I gave everything and so to get the gold medal is crazy,” Stigger said.
Stigger spends her season focused on mountain biking and won the world title in the junior women’s cross-country race at the World Championships in Lenzerheide, Switzerland two weeks ago.
She said that she doesn’t ride on the road often but that since she is from the Tirol region of the Austrian Alps, she regularly previewed the junior women’s road race course.
“My focus was on mountain biking, and after those World Championships, I then started to look to these road Worlds,” she said.
“My preparation was similar to mountain biking. I live about 50km away and so I often trained on the course; I rode the climbs, [including] the last climb, where I attacked, which was my favourite climb.”
Stigger is finishing her last year as a junior rider before she moves to the elite ranks, but said that she hasn’t decided which direction she wants to take her cycling career – mountain bike or road racing – but she is aiming to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
She will next race at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina on October 15 and 16.
“I don’t know where I want to take my cycling, yet,” she said. “I will go to Buenos Aires next week, and after that, I will make some decisions about which way I go.”