19-year-old Rosita Reijnhout takes surprise win at women’s Cadel’s Race

The little-known Dutchwoman attacked with just over 4 km to go and held off a late chase.

Matt de Neef
by Matt de Neef 27.01.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos
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When crunch time came at the women’s ‘Cadel’s Race’, the big names came to the fore. Fan favourite Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Human Powered Health) led solo into the final 15 km. Tour Down Under winner Sarah Gigante (AG Insurance-Soudal) was predictably aggressive on the two ascents of the steep Challambra Crescent. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Suez) got away the last time up Challambra and led solo into the closing kilometres.

But in the end, the most important move on Saturday came not from one of the big names, but from a rider few had heard of.

With Uttrup Ludwig leading the race solo, roughly 5 km from the finish on the Geelong Waterfront, Rosita Reijnhout (Visma-Lease a Bike) and Dominika Wlodarczyck (UAE Team ADQ) surged clear from what remained of the peloton and made contact with the affable Dane. And then came the winning move. With a touch over 4 km to go, and the day’s climbing all done, 19-year-old Dutchwoman Reijnhout left Uttrup Ludwig and Wlodarczyck behind and struck out on her own.

The chasing duo got to within metres of Reijnhout by the finish line, but the young Dutchwoman had done enough to claim her first-ever victory, professional or otherwise.

At just 19 years and 294 days, she is the youngest winner of Cadel’s Race – women’s or men’s – and the youngest-ever winner of any Women’s WorldTour one-day race. 

“I still don’t believe it,” she said a short time later. “I just went for it and if you don’t try it, you don’t know.”

The season’s first WorldTour one-day race was led by an early breakaway featuring three local riders: Gina Ricardo (BridgeLane), Lucie Fityus (ARA-Skip Capital), and Stephanie Hibburt (Australian National Team). The trio were caught with 84 km still to go, as the bunch behind surged for an intermediate sprint, prompting more than 40 km of racing with the peloton all together.

With 42 km remaining Stine Dale (Coop-Repsol) attacked, taking Alli Andersen (ARA-Skip Capital) with her. The pair led into the finishing circuits around Geelong with around a one-minute advantage. They too were caught with 28 km to go, just before the first of two ascents of the punishingly steep Challambra Crescent climb.

Gigante tried to get away on the climb but in the end it was a thinned-down peloton of around 20 riders that came together over the top. Cordon-Ragot went solo a short time later, but she was caught just before the second and final ascent of Challambra Cres, where Ally Wollaston rode a strong lead-out for Gigante.

Again Gigante tried to get clear but again the Australian climber wasn’t able. Instead it was Uttrup Ludwig who got a gap with 9.2 km to go, after surging clear on the steepest part of the climb. 

Uttrup Ludwig’s effort up the climb took its toll later on.

“I was just fully in the red actually going over that and also coming to the second climb [Melville Avenue, a few kilometres later] and being on the flat,” she said.

Reijnhout’s first decisive move – bridging across to Uttrup Ludwig from the remnants of the peloton – had been born from confidence gained on the final Challambra ascent.

“On the second climb [of Challambra], I already felt that, on the steep part, I was quite good,” Reijnhout said. “And then Ludwig went for it. And I was going on the steep part after her [on the Melville Avenue climb] and I saw that I was coming closer.”

Reijnhout’s attack on Melville Avenue drew Wlodarczyck out and the pair bridged across, joining the front with 5.5 km left to race. 

“When the two girls caught me I was just pffft, full of lactic,” Uttrup Ludwig said. “It was just really hard to keep turning. I just gave it my best but, yeah, the two girls were super strong.”

It was a pause in that leading trio that prompted Reijnhout to make her winning move about 4.3 km from the finish.

“They stopped pedalling and I was thinking ‘Why?’, because we still have a gap,” she said. “So then I went on my own.”

Reijnhout, moments before making her winning move.

In the chase behind, Uttrup Ludwig and Wlodarczyck seemed to work well together, but Wlodarczyck spoke later of a lack of cohesion.

“I thought that [Wlodarczyck’s teammate] Sofia Bertizzolo is always in this group behind and I thought that when Cecilie don’t work and won’t cooperate with us, I just can’t lead her to the finish line and just on the finish line be beaten by her,” Wlodarczyck said. “So I thought that maybe if I [kept] a gap, maybe she [would] attack to Rosita. But then I was completely shocked, because she just stayed on my wheel.”

Uttrup Ludwig said there was a good reason she didn’t contribute to the chase as much as she might have.

“I was just too done to be honest,” she said. “But yeah, I gave it a go and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But yeah, I gave it a good crack.”

Uttrup Ludwig put in a late surge, trying to close the gap to Reijnhout, but she was caught by Wlodarczyck just metres before the line. Crucially, the pair had fallen just short of Reijnhout who crossed the line unsure of whether she’d won or not.

“I was thinking they were coming closer, but I just give it my all,” Reijnhout said of the closing kilometres. “And I was thinking, ‘OK, if I stop pedalling they for sure will come back.’ And you never know. So I just go and go and go.

“At the end I just, yeah, won and I don’t believe it. But over the finish I asked everyone ‘Did I win? Did I win?’ But I did.”

The women’s Cadel’s Race – officially the Deakin University Elite Women’s Road Race –  has had its fair share of surprise winners in recent years. Arlenis Sierra in 2019, beating a pair of GreenEdge riders. Liane Lippert taking her first WorldTour win solo back in 2020. Loes Adegeest beating Amanda Spratt in a two-up sprint last year. But in Rosita Reijnhout, the women’s Cadel’s Race has its most surprising winner yet.

A scan of Reijnhout’s previous results shows promise but nothing that would suggest victory in a WorldTour one-day: a handful of top-fives in junior Nations Cup races; fifth in the junior women’s race at the Dutch Road Nationals in 2022; 12th overall in last year’s inaugural Tour de l’Avenir Femmes; 13th overall at the recent Tour Down Under with a strong ninth on the Willunga Hill finish. 

Indeed, this result is the biggest of Reijnhout’s young career, by some magnitude. And in a WorldTour race no less.

Now, with her first win under her belt, the second-year pro has some big goals ahead.

“One day, I really hope to win a stage race like Giro or Tour,” she said. “I really love it and I like climbing. Also I feel when I do stage races I feel a bit better actually. So I think that’s also a dream but also Strade Bianche – I really love it.

“The problem is I like everything. I’m still a bit searching what I really can do. For now I’m also training for the Giro but I also really like one-day races, in Flanders.”

Tour de Suisse, Tour de Romandie, and Liège–Bastogne–Liège are also on the menu for the 19-year-old this season. She won’t be among the big names at any of those races, and no one will be expecting her to win. But the same was true today and with a daring, well-timed attack, Rosita Reijnhout managed to upstage the big names and put her name on the map. Who knows what she might be capable of from here.

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