Unheralded Pikulik scores upset Tour win

January 15, 2023 03:31 PM AEDT | By AAPNEWS
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Unheralded Polish cyclist Daria Pikulik has usurped the top teams to win the historic opening stage of the women's Tour Down Under.

The 26-year-old track specialist timed her sprint to perfection on Sunday to take out the stage at Aldinga Beach, south of Adelaide, and claim the overall lead.

It is the first time the women's Santos Tour Down Under has had World Tour status.

The win was also a banner moment for Pikulik, making her World Tour debut in her first race with the American-based Human Powered Health team.

She pumped her fist in elation after beating Italian Clara Coppini (FDJ-Suez) to the line, with Australian Commonwealth Games gold medallist Georgia Baker (Jayco-AlUla) third.

FDJ, Jayco-AlUla and Trek Segafredo are the strongest teams in the women's Tour this year and they were prominent in the closing kilometres as the peloton raced through strong crosswinds.

Pikulik, who had not been sighted throughout the stage, then timed her sprint to perfection.

She tore through the middle of the high-speed finish to claim the 110.4km stage from Glenelg to Aldinga.

Her previous best result was on the track, winning a bronze in the omnium at the 2020 world championships, and Pikulik is unlikely to hold onto her overall lead for the rest of the three-day tour.

None of the top overall hopes lost any time, with star Trek-Segafredo recruit Amanda Spratt finishing fifth and FDJ's Grace Brown also looking strong during the stage and finishing 20th, in the main bunch.

Australian Keely Bennett (Team Bridgelane) is out of the race after crashing heavily about 30km into the stage.

The right shoulder of her jersey was ripped apart, but Bennett sat up soon after hitting the road at speed.

Less than a week after winning the under-23 Australian time trial championship, Isabelle Carnes (ARA Skip Capital) again showcased her form with a strong ride.

She and Bennett's teammate Gina Ricardo broke away and with 30km left, led the peloton by as much as two minutes.

But the top teams kept them under control and caught the duo with 10km left as crosswinds buffeted the riders.

New Zealand team rider Ally Wollaston, who won Saturday's twilight street race in the Adelaide CBD, finished sixth.

The women's and men's Tour Down Under races are returning from two years off the World Tour schedule because of COVID-19. 

The women's tour runs for three days, while the six-day men's race will start late on Tuesday afternoon with a prologue time trial.


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