With Rosita Reijnhout’s surprise victory at the Deakin University Road Race in Geelong, the Australian leg of the Women’s WorldTour is done. A handful of new, or relatively new names graced the podium throughout the two weeks of racing Down Under – Ally Wollaston, Sarah Gigante, Nienke Vinke – and after Saturday’s race, Reijnhout herself. But perhaps the most unknown name to pop up so far this season belongs to the now-23-year-old Polish rider who celebrated her birthday by pulling on the purple UCI WWT leader’s jersey on Saturday evening.
Dominika Włodarczyk is brand new to the WorldTour this year, and after finishing fifth overall at Tour Down Under and second on Saturday, she found herself leading the whole dang thing.
“Last year, I raced in my small village in Poland,” Włodarczyk said after the race. “Today, I’m the leader of the World Tour ranking so … wow.
“It’s pretty amazing that I could finish second [today].”
Until just a few weeks ago, Włodarczyk raced on the Polish UCI team MAT ATOM Deweloper Wroclaw. She joined the team in 2020 after finishing second at the Polish Junior National Championship road race and ITT in 2019. The same year, she finished 18th in the Junior World Championship road race.
In both 2022 and 2023, Włodarczyk notched an impressive number of wins. A few stages at the Princess Anna Vasa Tour in Poland, some stages of Giro Toscana and Gracia Orlová, plus the overall and multiple stages of the Watersley Women’s Challenge in the Netherlands. The string of results caught the eye of UAE Team ADQ and guaranteed Włodarczyk a spot on a WorldTeam for 2024.
“[The] Tour Down Under was my first WorldTour race in my life, so I was very shy,” Włodarczyk said on Saturday. “You know, I only watched Grace Brown and Cecilie [Uttrup Ludwig] on TV, so for me, to race with them in the bunch was pretty amazing.
“Step by step and stage by stage I was more and more confident, and then in the third stage I finished [fifth] and I was like, ‘Okay, so maybe I’m not that bad. I fought today’.”
The confidence carried over into the Deakin University Road Race (also known as the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race) a few weeks later. On the final ascent of Challambra Crescent with 10 km to go, Uttrup made her move, breaking free of the reduced bunch. A group was able to stay together behind the Dane, but their time in contention was short-lived when Reijnhout went off the front. But the 19-year-old Dutchwoman wasn’t alone. With her was UAE Team ADQ’s newest recruit Włodarczyk.
“I thought that Sofia Bertizzolo was in this group behind,” Włodarczyk explained. “And I thought that when Cecilie [wouldn’t] work or cooperate with us that I can’t lead her to the finish line just to be beaten by her. So I thought that maybe if I [kept] a gap, maybe she would attack Rosita. But then I was completely shocked because she just stayed on my wheel.
“I knew today that I had really, really good legs and also the whole team did a really good job for me. So I really wanted to finish this job.”
It was an impressive first block of WorldTour racing from the youngster, but she may not be able to fly under the radar for long. Depending on how the UAE Tour and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad go, Włodarczyk could line up for Strade Bianche on March 2nd wearing a different jersey than her teammates.
It’s a tall ask, though. Włodarczyk leads the Women’s WorldTour with 520 points over Gigante’s 514. Last year going into the UAE Tour, Lidl-Trek’s Amanda Spratt led the ranking over FDJ-Suez’s Grace Brown, but Spratt had racked up over 700 points in the Aussie races. Włodarczyk doesn’t have as thick a cushion before the sprinter-friendly four-stage event in her team’s home nation, which she doesn’t expect to race.
“My next race will be Valenciana in Spain. It’s not a WorldTour race … But then [my next] one is Strade Bianche so I [hope to wear the jersey] there.”
Regardless of whether she will be able to race in the UCI WWT purple jersey or not, the way she started the year will hopefully be just the beginning for the Polish rider.
“For me, it’s pretty amazing, to be honest,” Włodarczyk said of her Australian campaign. “I think I just can stay calm, and just be the best version of myself, and this is my goal for the season. I don’t have any expectations about the future because I just want to build myself both as a rider and as a person.”
What did you think of this story?