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Rosita Reijnhout (Visma-Lease a Bike) took a dramatic solo win at the 2024 women’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
The 19-year-old held off fast-finishing chasers Dominka Wlodarczyk (UAE Team ADQ) and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Suez) to claim her first professional win.
It was the Dane who had gone solo on the second and final ascent of the Challambra Crescent climb, before Reijnhout and Wlodarczyk joined her on the run for home.
With the trio struggling to work together cohesively, the Dutch teenager set off solo. She looked to be fading in the final 1500 metres as Wlodarczyk and Uttrup Ludwig closed in, but a final burst of power sealed a breakthrough win for Reijnhout.
“I can’t believe it. I’m so happy. It was really hard,” Reijnhout said after the finish. “Ludwig first went and I go after and they stopped pushing. I thought ‘why do we stop because there’s a gap’, so I was on my own and I was just fighting and pacing.”
Reijnhout showed a tactical instinct beyond her years with her late attack, despite an initial hesitation.
“I didn’t know what to do, actually. I was asking on the radio what to do. I just went with intuition.”
“I’m proud of the team because they did a great job,” she added.
Uttrup Ludwig had made the selection on the final climb but reflected after the finish that she had gone too deep to compete when she was caught.
“I just saw a moment and just went for it. The problem was that I was fully red. Then there was the downhill and another climb and after the second climb, the two girls came from behind and I was just fully red and couldn’t pull. She had a gap and we never got her back. She did a super good race and chapeau to her.”
How it unfolded
Almost two weeks since the women’s Tour Down Under concluded dramatically up the Old Willunga Hill, the peloton travelled 700 kilometres southeast to take on the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
The Victoria landscape was a picturesque backdrop for what was a tough 141-kilometre race of attrition, with a sensational conclusion.
The riders set off west out of Geelong and towards the coast on a long lap, before twice taking on the climb that has become synonymous with this race: the Challambra Crescent.
The breakaway formed early on, Gina Ricardo (Team Bridgelane) continued her attacking form from the Tour Down Under, joined by Stephanie Hibburt (Australia National Team) and Lucie Fityus (ARA | Skip Capital). Fityus was dropped early and then bridged back over to the breakaway a few kilometres later.
The group never enjoyed a comfortable lead, however. The peloton raised the pace as they approached the first intermediate sprint in Torquay. Fityus held on to take the sprint, but the group were simultaneously caught with 83 kilometres to the finish.
The wind picked up as the day wore on and several changes of direction made for a nervous peloton. FDJ-Suez and AG Insurance-Soudal kept the pace high on the approach back towards Geelong.
With 40 kilometres to go and the pace decreasing as the riders traversed west into a headwind, Stine Dale (Team Coop-Repsol) and Alli Anderson (ARA | Skip Capital) launched a move. The bunch immediately backed off, not wanting to burn matches into the wind with Challambra approaching. The gap ballooned over a minute.
As the peloton hit the first lap of the circuit, the pace increased. There was a crash for Neve Bradbury (Canyon//SRAM), one of the outside favourites for the race, it seemed a difficult chase for her to get back on.
Dale and Anderson were caught on the approach to the foot of the main climb of the day. Liv AlUla Jayco took on the pacesetting on the first of two ascents of Challambra through Georgia Baker. The peloton immediately felt the effect, with riders being dropped by the dozen. Only 15 riders were present at the front of the race over the top of the climb, the likes of Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Suez), Ruth Edwards (Human Powered Health) and Sarah Gigante (AG Insurance-Soudal) making their presence felt.
The climbers hadn’t yet managed to rid themselves of the faster riders. Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Liv AlUla Jayco) and Sofia Bertizzolo (UAE Team ADQ) were among the riders to worry about. Then the group tripled on the descent as the pace dropped, Bradbury remarkably among those chasing back on.
Just before the first crossing of the finish line, Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Human Powered Health) put in one of her characteristically diesel-powered moves.
The Frenchwoman was swept up just before Challambra as AG Insurance-Soudal led the peloton onto the climb in support of Gigante. Ally Wollaston ripped the peloton to pieces just before the climb, Gigante in her wheel. The Tour Down Under champion attacked halfway into the ascent but was unable to divorce herself from the rest of the favourites.
Uttrup Ludwig launched at the steepest point on the climb, going solo over the top. Ella Wyllie (Liv AlUla Jayco) and Marion Bunel (St Michel-Mavic-Auber 93) were initially together in pursuit with a larger group just behind.
The chasers came together on the rapid descent back into the centre of Geelong before Wlodarczyk and Reijnhout broke clear to join the Dane with five kilometres to go.
Gigante attempted to bridge the gap, but teenager Reijnhout attacked Uttrup Ludwig and Wlodarczyk and immediately took a significant advantage.
Reijnhout began to fade in the finale, Uttrup Ludwig and Wlodarczyk looked to be about to latch on to steal the victory away. However, Reijnhout accelerated again and held on to take the victory in a nail-biting finish.
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