Welcome to Cyclingnews’ live coverage of the third and final stage of the Women’s Tour Down Under.
Stage 2 winner Cecilia Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Suez) tops the general classification with a 2-second lead on Sofia Bertizzolo (UAE Team ADQ) and 3 seconds on Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Liv AlUla Jayco). Tight GC with 25 riders all within 10 seconds of the leader.
Stage 3 of the Women’s Tour Down Under is set to start in just under 10 minutes. Starting in Adelaide, the 93km stage heads towards the coast to deliver the final challenge, the famous Willunga Hill, a 3km climb with an average gradient of 7.4% and a maximum of 15.6%
When asked what she thought of the ascent of Willunga Hill, Uttrup Ludwig’s response was a grinning ”I like it.” Read more in our analysis – All to play for on Willunga Hill finale at the Women’s Tour Down Under.
We’re just moments away from the neutral roll out for the third and final stage for the 85 riders in the peloton.
The riders are rolling through the 7km neutral section on their way to the official start. Today’s forecast high is 30 degrees Celsius under cloudy skies. Winds are up, which could make things interesting as the race hits the coast with about 20km to go before heading back inland to take on Willunga Hill.
One rider to watch today is Sarah Gigante (AG Insurance-Soudal). The Australian holds the record for the fastest ascent of Willunga and put in a scorching performance to win with a margin of more than a minute at Santos Festival of Cycling domestic event in 2021 on the climb.
Read more on Gigante in her interview with Cyclingnews Australia editor Simone Giuliani.
Flag drop by race director Stuart O’Grady and we’re out of the neutral zone and racing has started!
That didn’t take long. First attack by Amanda Poulsen (BridgeLane). She’s joined by Katia Ragusa (Human Powered Health)
The road goes up from the start, with the first QOM only 3.8km into the stage, the cat 1 climb at Windy Point with an average gradient of 6% and a max gradient of 20%.
Poulsen and Ragusa are joined by Sophie Edwards (ARA – Slip Capital), Stine Dale (Coop-Repsol) and Karin Söderqvist (Lifeplus Wahoo) but the peloton is chasing hard.
90km to go
Five riders – Ragusa, Poulsen, Edwards, Dale and Söderqvist in the breakaway with less than 1 km to the too of the QOM. Peloton keeping them close.
Ragusa takes care of business, and goes solo to take top points. That should secure the overall QOM classification. Edwards jumps, and screams at the motorbike to get out of the way, and Ragusa slots in behind her.
Edwards flicks her elbow to get Ragusa to pull through but Ragusa shakes her head.
Ragusa is still not pulling through while Edwards, the Oceania champion, keeps on pushing at the front. Peloton speed has picked up but no sense of urgency, yet.
Gina Ricardo (BridgeLane) jumps from the field and goes off on a lone chase to the breakaway.
Ricardo easily bridges up to the break, making it three off the front with a gas of 30 seconds. And Ricardo goes straight to the front with Ragusa on her wheel.
One more rider, Stine Dale (Coop-Repsol) jumps to chase the three riders off the front as the trees swirl around in the wind.
And now we have four riders together off the front. Ragusa, Edwards, Dale and Edwards are together with a 32-second lead on an uncategorized climb. Peloton is keeping them on a short leash.
And it’s all back together.
75km to go
Peloton caught the early break of four riders, and FDj-Suez is a the front to control for the ochre jersey of Uttrup Ludwig.
Dale attacks again with Haylee Fuller (BridgeLane) and Lucie Fityus (ARA – Slip Capital) jumping on her wheel with 70km to go.
No reaction from the peloton with Fityus the best-placed rider on GC, sitting in 44th place, 48 seconds down.
Right on cue. The Dutch teams come to the front with crosswinds expected soon. Fight for position in the peloton who is keeping the three-rider breakaway close at 27 seconds.
Washing machine is started to take place in the field. Lots of movement to stay at the front. Winds eased for now with the field spread across the road. No urgency to reel back in the three riders at the front.
Fight for position in the peloton with a change of direction coming up. FDJ-Suez at the front and Visma-Lease a Bike takes over the pace making.
50 km to go
Breakaway caught just before the feedzone. Liv AlUla Jayco comes to the front to calm things down.
Coming upon 4km is the first intermediate sprint of the day at Willunga, with the all-important time bonus seconds on offer as well as sprint points.
Two riders attack off the front into a headwind and it’s deja vu as Fityus and Dale give it another go. No response from the peloton.
Fityus crosses the line first on the uphill to the intermediate sprint line in the Township of Willunga head of Dale.
Roseman-Gannon jumped from the teammate’s wheel to take third and the all-important time bonus seconds.
Lidl-Trek drives the peloton speeding on the road. The break was gobbled up. Riders calling off the pace in the back.
Fight for control at the front between FDJ-Suez, Lidl-Trek, Human Powered Health, UAE Team ADQ and Liv AlUla Jayco with cross-tailwind pushing them on the road. The other teams also coming to the front.
Gigante is about 7th wheel from the back and her teammates are trying to bring her back up in the windy conditions. Grace Brown (FDJ-Suez) is also caught out.
Gigante got in trouble in the crosswinds. She was dropped and only has one teammate Ally Wollaston to bring her back. Brown is also driving the chase. Gigante used a lot of energy to catch back on before the right turn.
Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon-Sram) is pushing the pace at the front, causing havoc for the climbers in the crosswinds. And another turn and change of wind direction.
30 km to go
Strong winds are causing havoc for some of the riders in the field.
Roseman-Gannon is now tied with Uttrup Ludwig atop the general classification. One more chance to get time bonus seconds with the second intermediate sprint coming up before the final up Willungsa Hill.
Luckily all the riders avoided the dog on the road with some riders going on the grass!
25 km to go
Reduced peloton all together with a moment of calm before the final climb up Willunga.
Defending champion Brown is setting the pace for her teammate, leader into the stage Uttrup Ludwig.
Our own Simone Giuliani., Cyclingnews’ Australia editor reports that it was gusty in the exposed sections on the climb up Willunga, making the branches of the eucalyptus trees sway as the views over the countryside opened up.
Results of the second intermediate sprint:
1 – Dominika Wlodarczyk (UAE Team ADQ)
2- Georgia Baker (Liv AlUla Jayco)
3- Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Liv AlUla Jayco)
15km to go
FDJ-Suez at the front of the peloton heading to the famous Willunga Hill.
With the time bonuses in today’s stage, Roseman-Gannon and Wlodarczyk are tied atop the virtual general classification, one second ahead of Uttrup Ludwig.
Crash at the back of the peloton on a tight right-hand corner. Kate Richardson (Lifeplus Wahoo) went down and quickly gets up and is back on her bike.
Around 7km to the bottom of Willunga Hill, with a lull in the peloton.
Block headwind with less than 9km to go. Lidl-Trek’s Elynor Backstedt is at the front of peloton as they squeeze on by the cars on the side of the road.
7km to go
Canyon-Sram swarms to the front, taking over from Lidl-Trek. Gigante is yo-yoing back to front.
Here comes dsm-firmenich PostNL at the front for their protected rider Francesca Barale who is wearing the best young rider jersey
4km to go – Lidl-Trek’s Lauretta Hanson is putting the hammer down, and it strings the peloton out. Lots of damage at the back.
3km to go
Fight for position at the bottom of Willunga Hill!
Gigante comes to the front followed by Uttrup Ludwig. Gaps opens to Edwards who fights to get back on.
Gigante’s acceleration draws six riders with her. Uttrup Ludwig is on her wheel.Gaps are opening at the front!
Gigante goes again and drops everyone with 2.3km to go! Disarray in the peloton.
Uttrup Ludwig has now dropped to third wheel. Spratt is fighting back.
1.5km to go. Gigante keeps on pushing the pace at the front with 8 seconds to chase group with Uttrup Ludwig and Spratt.
Uttrup Ludwig is popped.
Gigante is being chased by 19-year old Nienke Vinke (dsm-firmenich PostNL). Behind them is Spratt and Neve Bradbury (Canyon-Sram).
Sarah Gigante is the queen of Willunga Hill and wins stage 3!
Nienke Vinke takes second. Neve Bradbury (Canyon-Sram) outsprints Amanda Spratt for third.
What a gigantic ride by Gigante who claims the overall victory at the 2024 Women’s Tour Down Under.
Sarah Gigante (AG Insurance-Soudal) dominates on Willunga Hill to win the third stage and the overall of 2024 Women’s Tour Down Under
Sarah Gigante (AG Insurance-Soudal) is the overall winner of the 2024 Women’s Tour Down Under