Sarah Gigante is Australia’s newest cycling gem. Before even moving out of the under 23 division, she’s a two time national time trial champion, and one time national road race champion.
It’s a resumé that has her jetting off to Europe to race with the elite women of the sport.
Gigante sat down to talk to The Inner Sanctum ahead of Brabantse Pijl, a race through the Ardennes.
It would ultimately become a fateful week for her, suffering a significant crash which resulted in a fractured collarbone, elbow and fibula.
Coming unstuck in Fleche Wallone, Gigante showed why she has become one of the hottest prospects in the pre peloton. Despite the broken bones, she chased down the bunch for 10km before being pulled from the race.
Despite the tough circumstances, Gigante has the internal confidence to be able to bounce back quickly.
“There were so many times where I was frustrated, or it wasn’t going my way. I just tell myself to be patient,” Gigante said.
“There were harder times coming back from crashes, and it was a bit of a difficult transition into seniors.”
And she knows she’ll be able to return after those frustrations.
While she might only be 20-years-old, she’s been riding for a long time.
“As a family, we used to do the Great Victorian Bike Ride, which is a week long ride across the state,” Gigante explained.
“I was doing it on a trailer bike with my mum when I was five and six, and then on a tandem when I was seven.”
She jokes that after that, she told her mother that she “was sick of seeing her backside, and wanted to do the next one” on her own.
“I went and took my brother’s old mountain bike down to the velodrome. I was told that I need ‘a real bike’ and was given a bike with no brakes and one gear.”
Gigante explained that her first few seasons were in what was declared ‘Sarah Grade’, because she was small and nobody was slow enough for her. And it began quickly, with promotion over time, racing both road and track racing for almost a decade.
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That experience proved to be more valuable than Gigante might have dreamed.
When she turned up to the national championships at the start of 2020 as a 19-year-old, eligible for the u23 classification, she was not sure she would even finish the race.
“I didn’t think I’d get a medal in the u23s, and then I crossed the line first, and I was worried I’d counted the laps wrong,” she said.
She got her count right, and at first crack, was crowned national women’s champion of Australia.
“It was a super special feeling, and each win was just as special as the others.”
Gigante would leave the National Championships as the dual road race and time trial champion.
“It was such a surprise, and it was a real honour. It’s special to wear the green and gold,” she said.
Gigante may have burst on the scene at the National Championships in January 2020, but she was already signed up with Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank to race in the US last season.
“The plan was do some American racing last year, as a great transition, and do a little bit of European racing as well,” she explained, but unfortunately, COVID-19 had other plans.
Gigante was still based in Melbourne, and as such couldn’t fly over to the US to compete.
She raced on Zwift (a virtual reality riding platform) last year, much like how the Virtual Tour de France was held in 2020, and Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank was one of the top Zwift teams by the end of the year.
“It was the best feeling in the world when lockdown ended and we got some racing again,” she said.
Gigante found herself in the heat of the National Championship again in 2021.
Somehow, being a winner of only one national championship was “a bit disappointing,” Gigante confessed.
“I felt a bit more pressure coming in, which made it special to win [the time trial], because I proved to myself it wasn’t a fluke.”
She admitted that even after the third win, twelve months on, she still slept in the green and gold jersey that night, letting the feeling sink in.
Gigante knows that the races she’s missing through injury are some of the Olympic selection races, but she’s still focused on learning and recovering.
“I haven’t worried too much about the selection process so far, I can’t change it,” she said.
“I’m just focused on doing my best.
“My main goal this year is to learn, and to enjoy the process. Hopefully I can be a great teammate in coming races and I’m excited for what’s to come.”
Gigante might not be looking towards Olympic selection just yet, and with her injury, it may be a tough ask this year, but this will not be the last the world hears of Sarah Gigante.
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