• Sarah Gigante after winning Day 7 of competition at the National Road Series (Jamie Finch-Penninger)Source: Jamie Finch-Penninger
Another tough stage around the climbing-heavy Bilambil route at the National Road Series (NRS) saw Sarah Gigante again attack, drop the other riders and solo into the finish after putting minutes into them on the final 17-kilometre lap.
SBS Cycling Central

4 Dec 2020 - 4:49 PM 

Gigante was in scary form yet again in the Tweed, not only winning again but putting in a huge chunk of time once she got away from her competitors. The 20-year-old climbing and time-trialling star is seemingly indefatigable, again blitzing the field, with three minutes and 22 seconds to second place on the day, again Justine Barrow, who was also runner-up to Gigante on the day she won by nearly eight minutes. Gigante talked to Cycling Central about how she keeps backing up day after day.

“I definitely do get tired, I’m tired right now,” said Gigante. “I was trying to be a bit more patient today. I knew the course was hard enough to whittle the field down.

“I thought that it would be easier to get the gap if everyone was a bit more tired. I’ve been training tons, so the harder the race and the longer the race, the better. If I’d tried to get away on the first hill, I probably wouldn’t have been able to, but by the second last lap everyone was looking pretty tired.”

The route featured over 400 metres of vertical gain per lap, a tight and winding 17.3-kilometre route around Bilambil that skirted the Tweed River and featured steep climbs and technical descents.

“That was a brutal course, I absolutely love it,” said Gigante. “Everyone says nationals should be moved, I love the Buninyong course, but if they do have to move it, I wish they’d put it here. It’s just fantastic. Always climbing, so many steep parts as well.”

Gigante’s climbing performances are by this stage expected, with her brutal annihilation of the field on Day 4 of the Tweed collection of NRS races still fresh in the memory. But it’s been telling that despite her dominance she hasn’t won literally everything and that has largely been down to the presence of an in-form Ruby Roseman-Gannon.

The Victorian sprinter, who crossed swords with some of the best in the world during the Australian summer of racing, has been a force on the hills during the recent NRS racing. On Day 3, she stuck with the best climbers in the race, then duly sprinted to victory in Tyalgum. On Day 6 into Mooball, she was the dampening factor on the race, with Gigante thinking that she couldn’t drop Roseman-Gannon on the less steep ascents, which gave Roxsolt's Neve Bradbury a tactical advantage which she jumped on.

“I was just really happy to finally crack Ruby,” said Gigante, “she’s been climbing like a demon all week and sprinting like an absolute machine. It was really good to see that gap when I got away with Justine. I could see her (Roseman-Gannon) closing us down in the distance on one of the descents and the next hill I whacked Justine, went solo and managed to stay away for the last lap.”

Any rivalry in the women’s peloton is a mostly amiable one, and Gigante and Roseman-Gannon discussed the race after the finish, with Roseman-Gannon suggesting that they’d be really good on a team together with their riding styles complementing each other. That will a tough ask at least for next season, with Gigante heading overseas with American squad TIBCO-SVB.

“I think in the WorldTour I’m going to be a very little fish in a very, very big ocean,” said Gigante, who in contrast at this race has been marked more than anyone in recent NRS memory. “It is funny sometimes, I get out of the seat just for fun and everyone’s just like ‘go, go!’. I like it, it’s a challenge having all the teams trying to beat me, I love it. I can’t wait to see how the time trial will go tomorrow because it’s a team time trial and I’m doing it solo.”

If riding as an individual in road races wasn’t hard enough, the 27.9-kilometre team time trial is going to be a new challenge for lone flyer Gigante, though if her time trial result from Day 1 and subsequent impromptu time-trialling efforts is any guide she’ll set a very competitive time. Gigante took a guess at how she’ll go tomorrow.

“Probably not well but I’m excited,” she said. “I wonder how my legs will pull up. It’s a hard seven days now, it’s definitely the longest tour I’ve ever done and it’s awesome, I wish all tours were this long!”