This week on the Lockdown Lowdown, we're featuring Sarah Gigante, a 2020 signing for Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank and multi-time Australian national champion. Gigante has already made her mark on the professional scene, and we can't wait see what the future holds for this talented and bright 19-year-old!
At just 19 years old, Sarah Gigante has already accomplished more than most would in a lifetime. The multi-time elite Australian national champion attributes her success to hard work and a simple mantra: "keep it fun."
"It's essential to do what you love," said Gigante, who is planning a double major in linguistics and geography this year. "My number one piece of advice – and this goes for beginners, but also all cyclists, is to have fun and enjoy your time on the bike. I prioritize that, which is why I still love it so much."
At a young age, it was easy to see Gigante's love for the bike. After showing interest in riding, her mother took her to Brunswick Cycling Club's famous junior track clinic, and she was immediately hooked.
"When the racing was over the first day, I was still riding round and round the velodrome by myself," Gigante recalled. "Mum was told she'd need a crowbar to get me off the bike! They weren't too wrong."
Quickly, Gigante went from chasing her two older siblings on her bike to chasing high-level results. In 2018, she burst onto the competitive scene, sweeping the U19 Australian national championships with victories in the criterium, road race, and time trial.
Despite success at an early age, Gigante had her fair share of setbacks to overcome. The most challenging of which came when she broke her left shoulder, left elbow, and right wrist in a club road race. The accident happened in the spring of 2018, just a few months before she was set to represent Australia at the Junior Track and Road World Championships.
"I think that I did about 90 consecutive days of Zwift or something crazy like that, trying to stay fit for Junior Worlds. It was difficult mentally because I was training so hard for races, and I wasn't sure I would recover in time. My elbow was shattered and required a lot of rehabilitation time after surgery."
Not only that, but Gigante was also in the middle of Year 12, the final and most important year of high school in Australia.
"It was also a hard time off the bike because I wanted to do my absolute best in school, but I was 'armless' for six weeks of the term," she said. "I had to rely on my amazing mum to feed me, dress me, brush my teeth, tie my slung arm to my handlebars (at my request), and also to scribe hours of homework every night."
Incredibly, Gigante overcame those massive setbacks to achieve a perfect score in her Year 12 studies and bounced back on the bike as well. In 2019, Gigante entered the U23 and elite category at the national championships for the first time and stunned everyone by winning double road titles. To top it off, she claimed the U23 time trial crown a couple of days later.
Racing in Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank colors for the first time, Gigante continued her winning ways this January, powering to victory in the elite and U23 national time trial championships.
"I wanted to defend my Under 23 TT title, but when I crossed the line and heard that I was in the overall hot seat, I thought I'd misheard and that they were talking about 'just' the Under-23 one," Gigante recalled from that day.
"My favorite results have all been from the Australian National Road Championships. They've been held in the same town every time, so Buninyong holds a special place in my heart," Gigante said. "My favorite memories are winning the two elite national titles, but I cannot pick between them. It is an incredible honor to be the Australian champion. They also mean so much to me because both wins took me completely by surprise."
"Even just thinking about them now is making me smile. After the 2019 road race win, I think that I only really started to believe that it wasn't all a crazy dream a few weeks after the race was over."
Gigante's achievements don't stop at the national championships. In early February, she finished fifth overall at the Herald Sun Tour and second on stage 2. After COVID-19 hit, she took to Zwift racing with her team. She helped clinch the Tour for All team overall and, a few weeks later, won the virtual Tour of the Gila.
But results aside, Gigante says her number one goal right now is to keep loving the sport as much as she did 11 years ago - when she first discovered the velodrome - and to keep that mindset alive.
"I know there will always be highs and lows, but I hope I'll continue to enjoy cycling as much as I do right now," Gigante said. "In doing so, I hope that I will develop into a more powerful and confident rider and experienced and dedicated teammate."