Gigante steals show at Festival of Cycling

Sarah Gigante again provided an epic ride to her growing collection of stunning performances, this time taking off midway through the 97-kilometre Stage 2 of the Santos Festival of Cycling and winning by over two minutes.

Gigante’s effort was very consistent throughout her solo effort off the front of the full-strength National Road Series peloton, supplemented by the strength of WorldTour squad Team BikeExchange. Despite the strength behind, there was ony one rider who will be remembered in the minds of anyone who watched this race, the stage-winner and runaway favourite for the overall win, Sarah Gigante.

“The plan was for me to go hard over that QOM but it was a long, long way out,” said Gigante. “I didn’t think it would work. I did try and it did work!”

With a minute and 54 seconds lead going into the final two stages and a summit finish on Willunga Hill, Gigante is the big favourite to take the overall victory in the Santos Festival of Cycling.

I definitely love hills so I’m sure I’ll have a blast,” said Gigante. “I don’t how I’ll go after that long time-trial effort, but I’ll give it a go! I’m just so excited.”

An early gravel section saw a bit of tension injected into the early kilometres of the Birdwood to Lobethal route. There was over a minute lead for early attackers Bree Wilson (Roxsolt Liv SRAM) and Chelsea Holmes (Giant Racing) coming into the two-kilometre gravel section. However, riders in the peloton being keen to arrive in the front few positions significantly reduced the pair’s lead.

That proximity gave Ashlee Ankudinoff an opportunity to bridge, one that she took, making it a trio of riders at the head of the race. They contested the intermediate sprint in an odd manner, with Holmes launching first, Ankudinoff responding and coming over the top before sitting back down and allowing Holmes to win.

An attack from Grace Brown (Team BikeExchange) out of the peloton kicked off the action, with Gigante responding with a monster attack, shedding a persistent Roseman-Gannon on the Hawthorn climb, continuing her assault over the top.

She initially had the breakaway for company, but the 20-year-old set off by herself after Wilson and Holmes didn’t want to cooperate.

With a touch under 50 kilometres remaining, Gigante was flying solo and despite a concerted chase from Specialized Women’s Racing and Team BikeExchange, Gigante’s lead quickly built, pushing out to one and a half minutes lead with 30 kilometres left to the finish in Lobethal.

The peloton wasn’t waiting about and riding for second, with team leaders Brown and Lucy Kennedy contributing to the chase from Team BikeExchange, but the victory of Gigante was inevitable, as she continued to extend her lead out to over two minutes with 20 kilometres left.

The gap increased to two minutes and 25 seconds through the second intermediate sprint with 12 kilometres left despite a well-organised chase from a number of teams.

Georgia Baker lead the bunch home to make it a 1-2 for national team Garmin-Australia, with yesterday’s winner Peta Mullens (Roxsolt Liv SRAM) third.

By Jamie Finch-Penninger