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Sarah Gigante, who made her debut with AG Insurance - Soudal in January 2024, reflects on her victory at the Tour Down Under. Particularly, her triumph on Willunga Hill in her debut season was a moment of pride and affirmation. Here, Sarah shares her experiences.

Winning at the Tour Down Under was an incredible feeling for me, especially the victory on Willunga Hill in my first season with AG Insurance – Soudal. There were several reasons why this win was so special. It was a mix of happiness, relief, and gratitude. Firstly, it felt like an amazing comeback after a few tough years, proving to myself and the world that I was back at my best. Secondly, it was fantastic to reward my teammates for their hard work and self-sacrifice during the tour. And finally, winning in Australia, in front of a home crowd with lots of family and friends, made it extra special - I have never heard so many ‘go Sarah!’s in my life!

My strategy during the third and final stage was clear from the start. Despite the strong headwind on Willunga Hill, I knew my best chance to win was to go full gas from the bottom of the climb. The steep start of the climb and a longer effort suit me well as a rider. I was incredibly thankful for the support of all my teammates, who protected me from the start to the foot of the climb. A special mention also goes to Ally Wollaston, who made a huge effort to drop me off at the base of Willunga Hill. Their hard work enabled me to excel on Willunga Hill.

Breaking the record on Willunga Hill was both a surprise and a milestone. Before the Santos Tour Down Under began, I even took a photo next to the sign at the top of the segment, just in case the sign needed to be changed after our race. Though my focus in the race itself was entirely on winning the stage and the general classification, I couldn’t help but dream about breaking my personal record from 2021. A week later, I participated in the time trial on Willunga Hill and broke my old record by twenty seconds, clocking a time of 7:53, in a fantastic atmosphere with large crowds that had already gathered for the men's race later that day.

The preparation for the race was intense, with a lot of time trial training and longer efforts, as I was really focused on the national championship. My coach Dylan Lindsey also gave me tough '5 minute mix up' sessions, which proved to be very effective.

Team Vibes at AG Insurance – Soudal

At AG Insurance - Soudal, I've been having an incredible time. Everyone, from riders to staff members, is extremely kind and supportive. My teammates are incredibly strong and self-sacrificing on the bike and great friends off it. The perfect mix of belief in our capabilities and a healthy dose of pressure makes it the ideal environment for me.

Despite being a professional cyclist for a few seasons now, I haven’t been able to race much in Europe yet. Therefore, this year I am most looking forward to improving my positioning and supporting my team as much as possible. My planned race calendar sounds really exciting so far. I can't wait to participate in some really tough and hilly races, hopefully some time trials where I can show my strength, and also to ride my first Grand Tour.

During challenging stages, like on Willunga Hill, I stay focused because I am extremely motivated for the race. There's so much to do that there's no time to daydream. Good communication with my teammates, eating, drinking, and positioning in the peloton are always important.

To young cyclists who are good at climbing, I want to say that it's important to keep enjoying cycling. Whether you're a professional or not, enjoying the sport is essential. It makes your training more sustainable and improves your performance. Go for the Strava KOMs or QOMs, and enjoy attacking and sprinting to the finish.

As a new rider at AG Insurance - Soudal, I am open to how I will fit into this already strong team. I see myself as someone who loves time trials and tough road races and am looking forward to supporting the team in stage races. I hope to learn a lot from Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and my other teammates.