Growing anticipation: Recovery, Movistar and the Tour de France Femmes, by Sarah Gigante

How the former Australian-champion is preparing for a year racing with Movistar, in her own words

2022 is here. Actually, it arrived two months ago, but time flies when you’re having fun. No pressure but I’ve already decided that it's going to be an amazing year, on so many levels.

I will start on a personal note. I am so ridiculously happy that I am finally healthy and able to do what I love again. I have long been the person who keeps a countdown tracker for any race, even if it is hundreds of days away and not even confirmed on my schedule (I’m looking at you and my “216 days to go” ticker, Wollongong World Time Trial Championships…)

I was laid up with a nasty illness for the second half of last year, so I knew I would be thrilled to be back training and racing. However, I couldn’t fully comprehend the level of appreciation for being able to do so. It took a setback as horribly uncertain as my illness to make me realise how lucky we are to be cyclists, whether that’s on an elite or amateur level. The feeling of chasing goals, sharing adventures with friends, and being able to push ourselves every day – or even every week – is second to none. I feel so crazily in love with cycling and with life in general.

However, like when you have a bowl of chocolate ice cream and then someone offers you rainbow sprinkles on top, you can always have more of a wonderful thing. To add to my incredible start to 2022, I’ve just made the move to the amazing Movistar Team. I’d been dreaming of being in this position for years and even had six months of growing anticipation between signing my contract and the much-awaited New Year’s Day. But until I arrived at team camp, I had no idea of what a World Tour setup was really like. 

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On the 12 hour drive from our Pamplona base to the camp in sunny Almeria, I remember sneakily taking photos of the impressive-looking team bus to send to friends back in Australia, trying to avoid looking like I was creepily snapping pictures of my new teammates. I also tried on every single piece from La Passione, which took far longer than expected, because of the sheer volume of kit. What’s more, when I returned from our first training ride to discover that I was due to see the biomechanic, masseuse and osteopath that afternoon, I was blown away by the team’s immediate level of support. 

Of course, the best part was that all the riders were lovely and more than willing to teach me the (many) things I didn’t know, including lots of Spanish phrases. Team camp was eye-opening in the best way. 

What’s even cooler is that 2022 will be a fantastic year for all my colleagues in the women’s peloton too. Our sport has been taking big steps forward for a long time now; steps which seem to be greater and faster in the new world of increased race coverage. However, the re-introduction of a women’s Tour de France, this time coined the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, is sure to also bring a huge spotlight and many fresh eyes.

There are already prestigious and long-standing races on our calendar, including Liège- Bastogne-Liège and the Giro d’Italia Donne, which are over twenty and thirty years old respectively. I’ve never raced either, and would be thrilled to join the few thousand women who have. However, as a little kid who loved whizzing round on two wheels but who didn’t know anything about professional cycling, there were probably only two times when I would see fellow bike riders on television. Every four years, it would be thanks to the Olympics.

Related: "It's going to breathe some new life in to the sport," Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift

I loved admiring the fast-moving riders and the calm chaos of the pelotons. The other time was each July, when my family would inadvertently catch the highlights of the Tour de France during the evening news. I can say without hesitation that I rated the Olympics many times more highly than the Tour, and that was by no fault of the latter or its impressive entrants - it was simply that I could relate so much more to the female Olympians I could watch, and imagine myself joining them one day. I could not do so when I looked at the French Alps and saw 150 men.

The Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift will go a long way in inspiring so many different people; however, I am particularly thrilled that little girls around the world will be able to watch the women’s peloton and dream of being there themselves. As they say, you can’t be what you can’t see. 2022 is going to be huge.