The Women’s Tour Down Under and its Willunga Hill finish couldn’t have delivered a more emotional victory, with the triumphant return of Sarah Gigante (AG Insurance-Soudal) from the racing and results wilderness.
She’d won before on Willunga, at the domestic Santos Festival of Cycling, but this was a Women’s WorldTour win and a reward for her unrelenting persistence through a period where nothing seemed to go her way.
To make it all the more special, her team also claimed stage 1 when New Zealand rider Ally Wollaston took the sprint in Campbelltown. Stage 2 was the only stage that escaped the squad, with Cecilie Uttrup-Ludwig (FDJ-Suez) claiming the stretched out, reduced bunch finish.
It was a triumphant start to their first year as a Women’s WorldTour squad for AG Insurance-Soudal, and there are still more chances as the Australian summer progresses, with the Down Under criterium on Thursday, the Geelong Classic on Wednesday January 24 and then the Women’s WorldTour ranked event at theCadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race on Saturday January 27.
For now, however, let’s take a look back at some of the key conclusions drawn from the first three days of Women’s WorldTour racing of the year at the Women’s Tour Down Under.
Loss, sadness and community
The start of the racing season in Australia is often a buoyant period filled with excitement and joy, but this year there was unquestionably a sorrowful undertone. The usual moments of lightness were at times quickly overwhelmed by tears, grief and sadness. As much as riders were trying to focus on the race at hand, the tragic death of Melissa Hoskins was clearly a loss that weighed heavily on the peloton, which included a number of riders who had raced alongside her.
Many felt the need to find a way to honour the rider and pay respect to those she had left behind. The Australian Championships road race began with a minute of silence, and the team of race winner Ruby Roseman-Gannon wore black armbands in memory of the Olympian and former World Champion on the track, who had also lined up on the road with the Australian GreenEdge squad through from 2012-2015.
The Tour Down Under also wanted to honour the rider and on stage 1 in Hahndorf roadside commentator David McKenzie led into a minute of silence with an introduction that included the following: “Melissa spent many years living, training and racing…