In what is being heralded as one the most remarkable wins ever seen at a National Championships, 18-year-old Victorian Sarah Gigante (Roxsolt-Attaquer) has upstaged a host of WorldTour elite with a stunning victory in the 2019 Fed Uni Road National Championships Women’s Road Race.
In her first year racing in the elite field after claiming all three national crowns as an under 19 rider just twelve months ago, Gigante announced herself as she outfoxed a field littered with World Championship medallists, Commonwealth Games gold medallists and four national champions.
World Championship silver medallist and two-time winner of the race Amanda Spratt and Mitchelton-Scott teammate Sarah Roy completed the podium.
“I’m so happy. So, so, so happy. I can’t believe it,” an elated Gigante said after being awarded both the elite and under 23 women’s crowns, the first time in history a rider has claimed both honours.
The win continues a whirlwind twelve months for the talented Brunswick Cycling Club rider who experienced a simply stunning 2018 in the junior ranks. Representing Australia at both Road and Track World Championships, Gigante claimed six national crowns on the road and track, while horrifyingly breaking both of her arms in a devastating crash in May.
Amidst juggling her road and track commitments, Gigante amazingly achieved a perfect ATAR of 99.95 in her final year of high school.
The race was on from the gun as the field of elite and under 23 women set off in cool and calm conditions off to tackle the nine laps of the infamous Mount Buninyong course.
An early breakaway group of seven riders including Gigante, Roy, 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Chloe Hosking (Ale-Cippolini), Shara Gillow (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope), Taryn Heather (SpecializedWR), Michaela Parsons and Ella Bloor (SpecializedWR) established a lead of nearly two minutes on the field.
Roy and Hosking set the early pace early, with the gap stretching to more than four minutes at the midway point of the race, while Mitchelton-Scott’s Grace Brown attacked off a splintering peloton and formed a chase group of 13 riders desperately trying to close the gap on the leaders.
At the front, Hosking, Parsons, Bloor and Heather were dropped with three laps remaining, with Gigante making the decisive attack from Gillow and Roy on the penultimate lap.
On the way up the final climb, dual champion Spratt began her chase of the youngster, and while she passed Roy and Gillow, it was not enough to reel in the young star who streamed down the final straight to a roar from the home crowd.
“I didn’t expect to win the under 23s, I was hoping for a medal, maybe a win if I was really lucky,” revealed Sarah. “So to win under 23s, it would’ve been really amazing, so to win elite, I just can’t believe it.”
“In the break, I had some of my idols like Amanda Spratt, Chloe Hosking and Sarah Roy there and to just be doing turns with them and riding near them was so cool.
“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’. It was so cool.
“When I came down after the last corner, I just thought ‘don’t give up, just keep going.”
Despite finishing behind Sarah on the podium, Spratt was in awe of Gigante’s achievement,
“Of course, we came here to win but we also have to acknowledge that she had an absolutely incredible ride,” remarked Spratt. “She showed last year in Ballarat what she’s capable and the talent she has. Hats off to her she rode away from a class field even in that breakaway.”