Sarah Gigante delivered a major WorldTour title to her new team AG Insurance Soudal as promised at the Santos Tour Down Under on Sunday.
The 23-year-old Australian forced her rivals to crack on the way atop Willunga Hill to take the Tour Down Under General Classification and a Hyundai stage 3 win which started in Adelaide.
Gigante’s victory was emphatic considering she bounced back from several setbacks including myopericarditis – inflammation of both the heart muscle and the pericardium and broken bones from bike crashes.
Her former team Movistar released her from her contract in 2023 before she signed with the new WorldTour outfit in December.
“I only raced one race last year, but I have been going out there every single day and doing training sessions,’’ Gigante said.
“I’m back in great form and I’m with my old coach Dylan Lindsay and I went from the very bottom of (Willunga Hill), my teammates helped me, I was out of position, but they drove me up to near the front (of the peloton).
“As soon as the road went upwards, I went.”
Gigante’s win capped off a successful WorldTour for the team.
It started with New Zealand gun Ally Wollaston claiming the Ziptrak Stage 1 and the Santos leader’s jersey on Friday.
Wollaston relinquished the jersey to FDJ-Suez’s Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig on Saturday before Gigante’s claimed overall honours.
The Kiwi was doing her fair share of the work to get the Australian into shape before the Willunga Hill climb.
But before Gigante’s emphatic victory, Liv AlUla Jayco’s tactical nous saw national road champion Ruby Roseman-Gannon was the provisional leader.
She earned three bonus seconds when she claimed the first Ziptrak preme sprint which saw her on equal time with overnight race leader Ludwig (FDJ-Suez).
The pressure was on Ludwig and her team as Roseman-Gannon earned another bonus second to take the overall lead when she finished third in the second Ziptrak sprint of the day at Aldinga Beach.
But UAE Team ADQ’s Dominika Wlodarczyk was on her game too when she took maximum bonus seconds at Aldinga Beach to take the equal provisional lead alongside Roseman-Gannon.
That smart intermediate sprint tactic turned the race on its ear, but Gigante quashed those feint hopes atop Willunga Hill.
The Hyundai Stage 3 Adelaide to Willunga Hill also conquered two significant milestones.
The stage departed for the first time from home base – the Tour Village in Victoria Square, Adelaide and it was also the first time the race finished atop Willunga Hill.
Just 10 seconds separated Ludwig (FDJ-Suez) and six riders including Roseman-Gannon who was sitting third overall before Sunday’s stage.
Ludwig’s main contenders for the Willunga Hill climb included, three-time Santos Tour Down Under champion Amanda Spratt, and Gigante were only 20 seconds behind the flamboyant Dane.
The Danish superstar is the highest ranked UCI rider at the Tour Down Under, after finishing seventh in 2023.
With about 70km before the finish, three riders Stine Dale (COOP-Repsol) Haylee Fuller (Team Bridgelane) and Lucie Fityus (ARA Skip Capital) attacked but they were no immediate threat to the main GC contenders.
The trio opened a gap of 49 seconds before the peloton had enough as Ludwig rode comfortably as her strong team kept the Dane out of trouble.
Gigante was patient before the main peloton flew into the Willunga township which signalled the business end of the race was about to kick off.
Spratt’s Lidl-Trek team kept the three-time Santos Tour Down Under in good shape led by Lauretta Hanson’s domestique duties Aldinga beach approached but Gigante was far too strong in the end.
3.8km: efex Queen of the Mountain 1: (Category 1) Belair Road at Belair Family Health Centre, Belair
Italy’s Katia Ragusa (Human Powered Health) claimed her third major prize of the stage race at Windy Point which was part of the race route for the first time in history. Ragusa earned 37 points and was at that point, 26 points clear of second placed Health Partners stage 2 winner Cecelie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Suez).
49.1km: Ziptrak Sprint 1 – Main Road at Willunga Show Hall, Willunga
Reigning national road champion Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Liv AlUla Jayco) claimed a timely bonus by winning the first sprint of the day. Roseman-Gannon at that point was on equal time with the then race leader Ludwig.
66.8km: Ziptrak Sprint 2 – Esplanade at Snapper Point, Aldinga Beach
UAE Team ADQ’s Dominika Wlodarczyk became a thorn between Australia’s Liv AlUla Jayco team to claim the three second bonus ahead of teammates Georgia Baker and Roseman-Gannon.
93.2km: efex Queen of the Mountain 2: (Category 1) Old Willunga Hill Road, Willunga Hill
Sarah Gigante did untold damage to the chasing bunch at the top of Willunga Hill before earning the title.
All the jerseys
Santos Tour Down Under Champion – Sarah Gigante (AG Insurance Soudal)
Hyundai Stage 3 Winner – Sarah Gigante (AG Insurance Soudal)
efex Queen of the Mountain – Katia Rugusa (Human Powered Health)
Ziptrak Sprinter’s Jersey – Sofia Bertizzolo (UAE Team ADQ)
Zwift Young Rider’s Jersey – Nienke Vinke (DSM-Firmenich POSTNL)
Yamaha Most Competitive – Stine Dale (Team COOP-Repsol)