Feature image: sprintcycling / Maximo Fulgenzi
Daria Pikulik ended the season just as she began it by sprinting to a stunning victory at the Tour of Guangxi in China.
The result means that the 26-year-old is the first rider ever to bookend the Women’s WorldTour having also won on the first day of 2023 at the Santos Tour Down Under.
“It feels like a dream to win my second WorldTour race,” she said, “We had the perfect start to the season in Australia, and this is the perfect end for us.”
Pikulik once again capitalized on supreme teamwork during the 144km one-day race from Dabu to Guilinonce to deliver her well for the finale. Unlike her podiums in the Tour of Chongming Island, Pikulik triggered the sprint instead of coming off wheels.
“The girls did an amazing job setting me up, and I learned from my other runner-up finishesthat I had good acceleration,” she explained. “This time I did not want to be put against the barriers so I was the first to sprint. I put my head down and no one came past me.”
The most crucial obstacle to overcome on the parcours was a climb in the final third of the race. Tackled in two steps with a 3km section at 5% before an undulating plateau and a 5.5km, 5% push to the peak, the team rallied around Pikulik – with the help of climbers Barbara Malcotti and Eri Yonamine – and ensured she was fresh for the finale.
“We knew there were 40km to go from the top, enough to bring the breakaway back,” she explained. “FDJ – SUEZ set a high tempo so all I had to do was dig in and survive the climb, then I knew I could sprint for the win.”
At just five riders, Pikulik’s lead-out train in China had to be a well-oiled machine.
“Of course, it feels so amazing to have won the first and last race of the year but for me, seeing how everyone has developed in the lead-out gives me so much motivation for 2024,” Pikulik ended.
Pikulik ends 2023 with six of the team’s 14 total victories, the most successful year for the program since its inception in 2013.
Tour of Guangxi results
1 PIKULIK Daria – Human Powered Health 3:39:45
2 CONSONNI Chiara – UAE Team ADQ ”
3 GRIFFIN Mia – Israel Premier Tech Roland ”
4 COLES-LYSTER Maggie – Israel Premier Tech Roland ”
5 TAN Xing – China ”
6 LACH Marta – CERATIZIT-WNT Pro Cycling ”
7 GUAZZINI Vittoria – FDJ – SUEZ ”
8 AHTOSALO Anniina – Uno-X Pro Cycling Team ”
9 NASKOVICH Taisa – Li Ning Star Ladies ”
10 FAHLIN Emilia – FDJ – SUEZ ”