Sarah Gigante winning Stage 2 of the 2021 Tour Down Under

Sarah Gigante winning Stage 2 of the 2021 Tour Down Under. Credit: Sarah Gigante - Instagram

Sarah Gigante is the youngest member of the Golden Girls, the Australian Olympic Women's Road Race Team. Her bright future starts at Tokyo 2020.

Sarah Gigante is the youngest member of the team, still in her first year of racing in Europe at the elite level. We last spoke to her ahead of Brabantse-Pijl, where her season looked like it was to be ruined by bad luck.

Read about the team, Tiffany Cromwell, Amanda Spratt and Grace Brown here.

Sarah Gigante is just 20 years old and has been picked as the fourth member of the Australian Women’s Road Race team for Tokyo 2020. her experience as a professional rider has not been simple so far, but it has been successful.

Calamity strikes

At Brabantse-Pijl calamity struck, as Gigante fell, and broke her collarbone, elbow and leg. Gigante chased back onto the peloton initially, determined to continue and not realising the damage she had done to herself.

“When I crashed I thought I had broken something, and my hoods were really bent,” Gigante explained. “I tried bending my hoods back into place, and I couldn’t use my arm.”

“I was riding through the convoy, leaning all on one arm and hoping, because I had been so excited for Fleche-Wallone and Liege-Bastonge-Liege,” she continued.

“I don’t know what I was thinking, that I’d be able to carry out my dreams with an arm that didn’t work, and I was weaving through the convoy and knew at that point, that it was a bad idea.”

Despite Gigante crashing and fracturing three bones, her first thought was of the Olympics and the fact that her selection dream was over.

“At that point, I was starting to feel pain, and I could feel my elbow as well, but it was more thinking about the Olympics,” Gigante said.

“It wasn’t that I thought I’d be picked, and then I wouldn’t be picked after the crash, it was more that I didn’t think because the window for selection was until after Fleche-Wallone.”

It’s not the first time Gigante has had a major accident and recovered quickly, and it gives her Olympic teammates like Amanda Spratt confidence.

“I remember in 2018, she had a nasty crash with an elbow, and had a layoff with lockdown last year,” Spratt explained.

“The first time she could do a road race, she came out and beat the peloton by six minutes, and she performed well at Nationals.”

“If it was another rider, maybe it would be a concern, but Sarah has proven that she has the discipline and driver that I have no doubt she will be ready to go.”

Racing with heroes

Gigante, at just 20, will be taking on the Olympics with riders that she grew up idolising. Spratt, and Tiffany Cromwell, teammates at the Olympics, were racing Junior World Championships together when Sarah was four years old.  

“It’s crazy that I get to line up with such a strong squad, and especially ‘Spratty’, this is her third Olympics, so that’s pretty surreal,” Gigante said.

“Tiff has gone to so many world championships and Grace [Brown] is an absolute monster on the bike and a machine.”

Brown and Gigante have raced together before when Gigante was a development rider with Brown’s Holden Gusto Racing in 2017.

“I remember I was so young, and I was in absolute awe of those women, they were so professional,” Gigante explained. “Now I’m going to the Olympics with Grace, just a few years later, and I just can’t believe it.”

Brown also reflected on what it was like to share a team with Gigante again.

“It’s crazy to think how far she’s come from then, just seeing this bright-eyed child asking all these questions, copying what we were eating, and now she’s one of the best cyclists in the world,” Brown said.

“We’ve both come a long way, and it’s pretty cool.”

Cromwell knows the importance of being a leader and a guide for Gigante, knowing that she will soak it all up at the Games.

“I understand, being that young, making an Olympic team, and the pressure, that its daunting,” Cromwell said.

“It’s going to be really important to guide [Sarah] in the right way so that we can utilise her in the right way and she can be really important.”

Gigante has shown that at times that guidance could be helpful, especially after she explained the origin of her nickname (“Fifty”), from her early racing at senior level, at the Baw Baw Classic in 2017.

“I rocked up and knew that I wasn’t going to be able to climb anywhere near the women I was racing against, so what better idea than to attack right at the start and get a head start,” Gigante explained.

“I got caught at the 50km mark and dropped, and I finished dead last… but the nickname stuck, for my really naïve, 50km breakaway.”

Still among peers

Gigante might be racing with her heroes, but she’s not the only 20-year-old going to the Olympics, and not even the only 20-year-old from Brunswick Cycling Club in Melbourne.

Luke Plapp has been selected for Australia as part of the Track Cycling team, and Catalina Soto will be racing in the Women’s Road Race as well, representing Chile.

Gigante remembers Plapp being a rival and a friend at club racing as a junior.

“I was faster than him until about under 15s, but now he’s much faster than me, unfortunately,” Gigante explained.

“We used to be training buddies and race buddies, and it’s pretty cool that we’re both going to the Olympics representing Australia.”

As for Soto, Gigante was always impressed, both by her ability to adapt to Australia, and her ability on the bike.

“She came to Melbourne with her family from Chile in about 2014, and when she turned up to the track she couldn’t speak any English,” Gigante said.

“She jumped straight in, and picked up English very quickly, but she was an amazing cycling as well.”

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Plapp was selected as part of the track team, but Gigante and Soto have both benefited from the delay of COVID-19.

“If you asked me three months ago, I would have looked at you in shock,” Gigante explained.

“If you asked me two or three years ago,  would have said it was crazy. Last year, no way I would have made it, I wasn’t even on the long list.

“To suddenly come on board at the last minute, and have a small chance, and that chance become a reality is something I’ve always dreamed of.”

The Future is Bright

Sarah Gigante, as a 20-year-old, represents the next generation of Golden Girls, as much as the current generation. She remembers being inspired by Anna Meares at the Olympics, even though the two couldn’t be more different riders.

“Even though I was obsessed with the Olympics, I never thought I’d really be able to go,” she gushed.

“It just seems too surreal, and to get that call, it still feels crazy.”

Gigante grinned from ear to ear telling the story, and her smile has become a defining feature for her. Unless she’s crashing, she can generally be sighted with a big smile, and a keen watch taking everything in.

“I’m just going to soak up these Olympics. You never know, in three years time, maybe there will be some new 20 year olds who are taking this spot,” Gigante said.

“I’m just grateful to make it for Tokyo, and I’m trying to make it the very best in the lead up, and in the racing.”

Gigante goes into these Olympics with the Golden Girls, as part of the last generation of Golden Girls. Cromwell and Spratt have had decorated careers, and carried the torch from Sara Carrigan and Oenone Wood.

Now, Gigante will carry that torch, along with Brown, for the next generation, as new Australian road cyclists come through chasing gold. She’ll remember this experience, and will carry it forward for the future.

The Women’s Road Race at Tokyo 2020 will be on July 25.

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