Sarah Gigante (TIBCO-SVB) completed a successful defence of her 2020 Australian time trial title, beating out Grace Brown (Team BikeExchange) by 17 seconds in a tough tussle for the honour of wearing the green and gold for 2021, with Nicole, Frain (Sydney Uni Staminade) in third.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

3 Feb 2021 - 5:48 PM  UPDATED 3 Feb 2021 - 5:59 PM

Brown was the first home by virtue of being the first starter of the two outstanding favourites for the race, but Gigante rushed home in pursuit of her rival, finishing with a time 17 seconds faster than Brown.

Gigante was her typical, bubbly self after the race declaring that she was in party-mode out on course, rather than succumbing to nerves.

"I was definitely nervous, but as I said at the Tour Down Under, I call it nerve-citement," said Gigante. "I was really excited, I did all the hard work through  lockdown. I woke up this morning and said ‘the hard work’s done, time to party’."

Gigante has been the star of Australian cycling in recent times, recording three dominant wins in the National Road Series, before going to the Santos Festival of Cycling and doing the same thing. With the talk of the town all about the 20-year-old star, she preffered to concentrate on her own performance than the talk.

“It’s certainly  different to coming in as an underdog, I do prefer to come in as an underdog," said Gigante. "I like doing my best, that’s the only thing I can do. Especially in a time trial. I can think about the other riders but it’s not going to change how fast I go.

"I had a great pacing strategy that I worked out with my coach Dylan Lindsey, and I just thought about all the hard work I’ve done, all the simulations I’ve done here and try to avoid the outside factors."

Gigante lives on course at times, she's had a lot of success here in the junior and senior ranks and credits her knowledge of the roads for part of her success.

“I love coming to Ballarat and Buninyong, it’s like my second home," said Gigante. "My aunt and uncle live on the Buninyong KOM, I’m lucky they like having me up here. I’m sure it made a difference, I didn’t win by that much.

"I probably did about three full simulations, I was really excited when I came up for the event launch and managed to beat last year’s time. I think today, I’m not exactly sure about my time, but somebody said I was two minutes faster than last year. Just as well I levelled up as Grace also levelled up."

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Brown was strong as well, and not too dispirited after the finish of the race, in comparison to last year, where the disappointment was palpable.

"I’m actually really happy," said Brown. "Even though it was a second place, I feel I paced it a lot better this year and managed to knock off a minute and 40 seconds off last year’s time.

"In the end, the course is a bit more suited to Sarah Gigante with that steep climb, she definitely gained some time on me there. I got a bit back with the headwind on the way back. I’m happy with where I’m at."

With big goals for Brown down the road, there's perhaps less of a focus on what is a reduced summer of Australian racing in 2021, but the Camperdown local revealed that she's come on significantly since racing at the Festival of Cycling just 10 days ago.

“I came into the Tour Down Under with zero intensity," said Brown, "then I had a week between then and now where I concentrated on more intensity work and I’ve come up to a really solid race-level for this week of racing."

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Brown is a likely selection for the postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the time trial after her fifth place at the world championships last year. 

"We get very few chances to ride a full length time trial on the women’s calendar," said Brown. "In terms of that, the nationals is really important to practice the race day scenario and all the technical aspects of the time trial under the same pressure."

"I feel that I get better in all the races I do in all aspects other than my power. This puts me in good stead."

Nicole Frain finished in third place, well off the pace of Brown and Gigante, but revealed after the race that she'd had a mechanical which had restricted her to just two gears. She was overcome with emotion after the finish with tears of frustration, but she did a sterling ride to hang on for third place.  

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