UCI Women’s WorldTour: the youth rises Down Under

Young talents Sarah Gigante (AG Insurance - Soudal Team) and Rosita Reijnhout (Team Visma | Lease a Bike) kicked off the 2024 UCI Women’s WorldTour in spectacular fashion.

As the road cycling year started Down Under, exciting young riders wasted no time seizing their opportunities at the highest level of road cycling. The first races of the 2024 UCI Women’s WorldTour, in Australia, saw Sarah Gigante (AG Insurance - Soudal Team) win the Santos Tour Down Under before Rosita Reijnhout (Team Visma | Lease a Bike) punched her way to victory in the Deakin University Elite Women's Road Race.

The former, who had already spent the previous two seasons as part of UCI Women’s WorldTeam Movistar Team, claimed her first UCI Women’s WorldTour success at 23 years old. The latter, tackling her second year at the highest level of road cycling, took her maiden professional victory just a couple of months before her 20th birthday!

Santos Tour Down Under: a gigantic victory

Gigante has been forging her reputation as a cyclist to be taken seriously for a few years already, whether on the track (a silver medal in the 2018 UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships), on virtual courses (another silver, at the 2020 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships) or on the road (multiple national and continental titles from Junior to Elite ranks, including the Elite Australian road race at only 18 years of age). But a series of health issues (illnesses, broken bones, a heart condition…) hampered her fast-paced development.

Gigante now tackles a new cycle after joining AG Insurance - Soudal Team for the next two years, with the Belgian squad securing a UCI Women’s WorldTeam licence for that period. They’ve started with some big bangs.

Stage 1 of the Santos Tour Down Under saw a Kiwi talent from AG Insurance - Soudal Team power to victory: 23-year-old Ally Wollaston, outsprinting Australian Georgia Baker (Liv AlUla Jayco) in Campbelltown.

Denmark’s Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Suez) rose to victory and took the leader’s jersey on day 2, with an explosive finish in Stirling. But the iconic slopes up Willunga Hill, on the third and final day of racing, were the perfect launchpad for Gigante to smash the peloton and claim her first UCI Women’s WorldTour successes (the stage and the overall), almost two years after her last victory, in Spain, at the Emakumeen Nafarroako Women’s Elite Classics (class 1.1).

The overall top 10 is packed with young talents: Nienke Vinke (2nd, Team DSM-Firmenich PostNL) is 19 years old, Neve Bradbury (3rd, Canyon//Sram Racing) 21, Dominika Włodarczyk (5th, UAE Team ADQ) 22, Ella Wyllie (7th, Liv AlUla Jayco) 21… New stars are rising, and among them, there’s a new queen Down Under!

“The last three years felt like a series of setbacks”, Gigante said. “The switch to AG Insurance – Soudal and the support of the team means everything to me.”

Deakin University Elite Women’s Road Race: younger, faster, stronger

The UCI Women’s WorldTour excitement kept going in Australia, with the 7th edition of the Deakin University Elite Women’s Road Race (formerly known as the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race - Elite Women's Race), and with Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig putting the hammer down again in the finale, featuring two ascents of Challambra Crescent en route to glory in Geelong.

The Danish star gave it everything she had, until lactates swarmed her legs and a couple of chasers got back to her: Reinjhout and Włodarczyk, building on their strong performances in the Santos Tour Down Under.

As the trio struggled to collaborate in the very last kilometres, the Dutch teenager set off solo… And narrowly held off her rivals, claiming her first professional victory ahead of Włodarczyk and Ludwig, with a reduced bunch crossing the line only 5’’ behind.

“I went with my gut, and when Ludwig attacked, I went after her,” Reijnhout explained. “When she slowed down, I saw an opportunity to attack. I quickly gained a few metres, and I gave everything for the win. It's great that it worked out, thanks to the good work of the team. I still can't believe it."

Reijnhout is the third Dutchwoman to win the Deakin University Elite Women’s Road Race, after Annemiek van Vleuten (2017) and Loes Adegeest (2023). She’s also the youngest rider in a list of winners featuring German Liane Lippert (winner at 22 years old, in 2020). She has joined an impressive list of names.

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