Sarah Gigante en route to an Emakumeen Nafarroako victory.

The return of Sarah Gigante

The 21-year-old Australian takes a solo victory at the Emakumeen Nafarroako Classic after a turbulent stretch.

by Amy Jones

photography by Cor Vos

After a tumultuous twelve months, 21-year-old Australian Sarah Gigante took her first win for Movistar at the Emakumeen Nafarroako Classic. In the absence of Movistar’s leader, Annemiek van Vleuten – who recently suffered a broken wrist – Gigante soloed to victory at the hilly Spanish race ahead of Veronica Ewers (EF Education First Tibco-SVB) and Mavi Garcia (UAE Team ADQ).

Starting by bursting onto the scene in 2019 after winning the national championships, 21-year-old Gigante looked to be kicking off an unstoppable upward trajectory as one of the most talented young climbers in the women’s peloton.

During two seasons at Tibco-SVB, Gigante won back-to-back national time trial titles – but her 2021 season was thwarted when, at La Fléche Wallonne, she crashed and broke three bones, sidelining her from racing for months.

“The week straight after my crash was pretty rough mentally as well as physically,” she wrote for CyclingTips after the crash. “I missed out on the two spring races I was most excited for, waved goodbye to my final chances of performing in the Olympic selection window, lost my independence because I couldn’t walk without crutches but also couldn’t use crutches, and my laptop (with all my not-backed-up uni work!) completely broke while I was at the hospital, as did my heart when I realised I’d have to take way longer off the bike than what we originally thought.”

Gigante managed to recover in time for the Tokyo Games, and picked up a contract with Movistar in the process, but shortly afterwards found herself unable to train and race once again after a case of myopericarditis – inflammation of the heart and surrounding tissue. After a few months in and out of hospital in Spain, Gigante decided to return home to Australia after the Games to focus on recovery. After spending the off season at home, Gigante was preparing to start her season in Movistar colours with NRS racing when she tested positive for COVID-19.

The 21-year-old travelled back to Europe and finally started her season at Nokere Koerse in March followed by Trofeo Alfredo Binda.

Then, she raced a few other one-day classics before heading to Spain for the Vuelta Ciclista Andalucia Ruta Del Sol and Gran Premio Ciudad de Eibar ahead of Tuesday’s race, where things all came together for her on the hilly Navarrese terrain.

The Emakumeen Nafarroako Classic is the first of two back-to-back races in the Pamplona region with the Navarra Women’s Elite Classics taking place on Wednesday over a similarly hilly course.

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