• Laura Stigger of Austria shouts in joy as she takes the 2018 Junior Womens Road Race (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Austria's Laura Stigger proved the fastest in a four-way battle for victory in front of Innsbruck’s Hofburg palace, leading out the sprint and outpowering France’s Marie le Net by just over half a wheel, with Canada's Simone Boilard in third.
By
Cycling Central

28 Sep 2018 - 8:08 AM  UPDATED 28 Sep 2018 - 8:13 AM

Stigger was already a double World Champion before her win in Innsbruck - but in mountain biking, winning the Junior Cross-Country event both in the Mountain Bike World Championships a few weeks back in Lenzerheide, Switzerland as well as taking out the title in 2017.

Lining up on the startline for the world championships was only the second time she has fronted for a road race, with an admirable strike rate for the relative novice. 

“It’s incredible, so many people watching me and cheering me on, my thanks to them for that,” said Stigger. “They helped me go to the limit, and I had to give it everything, my legs were burning.”

“I knew the route well  because I live about 50 kilometres but  I’m from mountain biking, and when I started the race today I never thought I could become the [Road] World Champion."

For all Stigger’s caution at the start in the small town of Rattenberg of the 71 kilometre course, Stigger nonetheless showed she knew how to get in the right break when she formed part of a 25 rider group that split apart from the rest of the race, thanks to pressure from the Russian team over a tough early climb. 

When the large leading break’s advantage rose to nearly a minute by the time the 25 reached the final lap of the 23-kilometre circuit, it was clear that the race winner was among that group.

Ukrainian Olga  Kulynych was the first to make a sustained attack with 20 kilometres remaining on the lengthy Igls climb, but Italy and Russia, with significant numbers in the leading break, quickly reeled the move back in.

Iuliia Galimullina of Russia then made her attempt to shred the break, but it was Stigger, attacking three kilometres from the summit, who managed to open up a decisive gap off the front. 

Italy’s Malcotti and Canadian Boilard were the only two riders able to get across, and although Stigger tried to shake off her companions again before the summit, the trio reformed and crossed the summit with around 30 seconds advantage over the remnants of the group. 

Exploiting her local knowledge, Stigger descended well back down to Innsbruck and the finish, opening a small gap. However, Malcotti refused to lose contact, and Boilard then rejoined the two race leaders, whilst France’s le Net, thanks to a fine lone descent, finally brought the leading break up to four as the course eased through the city centre. 

With two more Italians, Camilla Alessio and Vittoria Guazzini, and another Frenchwoman, Jade Wiel in hot pursuit, the quartet were on the brink of being caught by their chasing rivals. 

But despite the pressure, Stigger never panicked, and on a long, sustained sprint to the finish, she surged up le Net’s left, grabbed Austria their first home gold medal of the 2018 Road World Championships.

Australia's pair of riders, Anya Louw and Sarah Gigante, placed in 55th and 58th respectively.