New Zealand track and now road sensation Ally Wollaston claimed a debut Women’s WorldTour major prize by winning Ziptrak Stage 1 of the new 2024 UCI season.
Wollaston, 23, barnstormed across the Maryvale Road, Athelstone finish line to beat a super fast bunch to earn her team AG Insurance Soudal a perfect start to the new year.
Wollaston’s efforts earned her a hat trick of wins on her most successful Women’s WorldTour day, including the Santos ochre leader’s jersey, the stage win, and the Ziptrak sprint jersey.
Wollaston beat Liv Jayco AlUla’s Georgia Baker to the Fox Oval finish line with Italy’s Sofia Bertizzolo, 26, (UAE Emirates) earning a precious third placing on equal time just ahead of Kristyna Burlova.
“I’m really proud of being patient and backing myself,’’ Wollaston said.
“Once I committed to the sprint I thought, oh hell, I could actually win this but it wasn’t until the final few metres for sure.”
Wollaston said she had trained hard in heated settings in New Zealand in a bid to acclimatise before coming to Adelaide and it paid off in 36C heat.
Wollaston last year upstaged the superstars of the Santos Tour Down Under at the Criterium Classic in the streets of Adelaide after winning New Zealand’s Criterium championship.
The day’s work probably finished as planned for most riders and their teams – a bunch sprint finish – as Italy’s Katia Ragusa entertained fans early on.
Ragusa had a brilliant start, winning the efex Queen of the Mountain jersey after riding powerfully in the breakaway during her team debut for Human Powered Health.
However, Ragusa’s day turned sour when she was forced to stop albeit briefly for a puncture and a wheel change during the fast Gorge Road descent into Campbelltown.
However, after the intermediate sprints and Queen of the Mountain polka dot jersey were decided Matilda Raynolds (Bridgeland) launched an audacious solo counterattack 58km from the finish line.
The 36-year-old set the nervous chasing bunch alight with the gap closing to 56 seconds with about 30km to go after it blew out to almost two minutes.
Raynolds was swallowed up by the breakaway group inside the final10km as it appeared that a bunch sprint was what the contenders were aiming for before the Czech Republic’s Burlova from Lifeplus Wahoo was rewarded with the Zwift young rider’s jersey on the podium.
And as teams were organising their sprint trains for the first time in the new Women’s WorldTour season Hyundai Stage 3 favourite Sarah Gigante (AG Insurance-Soudal) dodged a couple of nasty crashes near the back of the race.
In a beautiful gesture, the entire peloton, fans, and officials commemorated the life of Australian cyclist Melissa Hoskins who died tragically late last year.
A minute’s silence was observed for Hoskins at the Hahndorf start line before the start gun was fired to signal the 2024 Women’s WorldTour season was underway.
12km: Ziptrak Sprint 1 – Adelaide Road, Echunga
Australia’s WorldTour outfit Liv Jayco-AlUla ensured the nation’s newest road champion Ruby Roseman-Gannon earned the first bonus of the new season by taking out the Ziptrak Sprint 1 at Echunga with teammate Georgia Baker who was tipped as a potential stage winner close behind, followed by UAE Team ADQ’s Dominika Wlodarczyk.
29.7km: efex Queen of the Mountain 1: (Category 3) Hawthorn Climb: Hawthorn Road, Echunga
Italian breakaway rider Katia Rugusa (Human Powered Health) earned maximum points ahead of Coop Repsol’s French gun India Grangier and Bridgelane's Matilda Raynolds.
49.3km: Ziptrak Sprint 2 – Onkparinga Valley Road, Woodside
Rugusa was again dominant at Woodside, beating Raynolds at Woodside.
58.1km: efex Queen of the Mountain 2: (Category 3): Kenton Valley Climb: Kenton Valley Road, Lobethal
Ragusa wasn’t going to let this one slip, after doing a lot of work during the breakaway to earn a healthy 10 points for her QOM efforts. The Italian made sure the efex QOM jersey was hers to keep at the start line for the Health Partners Stage 2 Glenelg to Stirling on Saturday.
93.7km: Race Finish – Maryvale Road, Athelstone: Time: 2hr 32min 37sec
Stage Winner – Ally Wollaston (AG Insurance Soudal)
All the jerseys
Santos Leader’s Jersey – Ally Wollaston (AG Insurance Soudal)
efex Queen of the Mountain – Katia Rugusa (Human Powered Health)
Ziptrak Sprinter’s Jersey – Ally Wollaston (AG Insurance Soudal)
Zwift Young Rider’s Jersey – Kristyna Burlova (Lifeplus Wahoo)
Most Competitive – Matilda Raynolds (Bridgelane)