Sarah Gigante Celebrates Impressive Win in 2024 Tour Down Under

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

The 23-year-old Australian Sarah Gigante (AG Insurance-Soudal) finally confirmed the promise of her early career by impressively winning the first world road race of the year, the 2024 Santos Tour Down Under. She grabbed the GC victory on the third, and final, stage of the race with a dominant performance on the climb to the finish line on the summit of Willunga Hill, an ascent of 3 km at an average slope of 7.4%, with a maximum gradient of 15.6%.

The unheralded 19-year-old Dutch rider, Nienke Vinke (dsm-firmenich PostNL), took a surprise second place, 20 seconds behind the winner, with 21-year-old Australian Neve Bradbury (Canyon//SRAM Racing) making it a clean podium sweep for the young generation of women riders, finishing 33 seconds behind Gigante. The 36-year-old three-time Tour Down Under winner (2017-19) Amanda Spratt (Lidl-Trek) saved some face for the veterans by finishing fourth, just 4 seconds off the podium.

Gigante was obviously delighted with her prestigious victory, posting on X: “Sometimes all you have to do is keep believing… and when that becomes too hard, listen to the people around you who still do. Shocked and grateful to have won the TDU with these absolute legends after a really rough three years.”

Gigante’s victory comes after several disappointing years following her breakthrough national road race championship in 2019 at the age of 19. This was followed by a national ITT championship the following year. She eventually came to the attention of the powerful Movistar women’s team, which she joined in 2022. But her career was disrupted by accidents and illness, and she was never able to live up to that early promise, eventually due to the lack of races given to her by Movistar.

“Movistar was very supportive, especially because my years were so disrupted, so they were very, very patient and I can’t thank them enough,” Gigante said. “But it just wasn’t really the best fit for either of us, I think.” So she and the team both agreed to forfeit the last year of her contract, allowing her to move to AG Insurance-Soudal, a former development squad that has moved up to the Women’s WorldTour level this year.” I love the [Movistar] team but I just needed more race opportunities,” Gigante said.

She will certainly get them now. She said she is aware that she has a lot of catching up to do but she is delighted with her new team. “I know I have a long way to go in terms of development and improving as a rider,” she said. “I can see that they also have that vision, even though they have some really top riders like Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, they also have so many young riders… They have a long-term vision.”

As expected the final 3 km of the 291.5 km race were decisive in crowning the winner. Stage 2 winner and co-favourite Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Suez) led the race going into the final stage, with Gigante sitting in 16th place, only 10 seconds adrift. That all changed on the slopes of Willunga Hill. Gigante immediately surged to the front, followed closely by Uttrup Ludwig, and they were joined by five other riders on the climb. But with 2.3 km to go, Gigante dropped all of her pursuers and took off on her own. With 1.5 km left to climb, Gigante led by 8 seconds over a chase group that included Uttrup Ludwig and Spratt. Eventually, Uttrup Ludwig faded and the stage came down to Gigante and the surprising Vinke. The Australian beat the young Dutch rider to the line by 16 seconds, with Bradbury outsprinting Spratt to complete the podium.