• Emily Roper won the Noosa Crit which is a part of a huge multi-sport weekend of racing. (Supplied)
Emily Roper went out hard early and hung on to win the women's Australian Open Criterium in a performance that left even herself scratching her head.
By
Cycling Central

Source:
AAP
5 Nov - 4:40 PM  UPDATED 5 Nov - 4:41 PM

The 24-year-old claimed a maiden Noosa title in unique and gutsy fashion, breaking free of the peloton inside the first 10 minutes and never looking back.

The former AIS cyclist, now a Gold Coast nurse, won from under-23 national criterium champion Kristina Clonan and local hope Alexandra Martin-Wallace.

Roper led from inside 10 minutes until the 30-minute bell, after which she easily hung on in the final three-lap dash as the main pack battled for the minor placings.

Her sustained solo push had commentators casting their minds back, without success, trying to remember a similar effort in the race's history.

Not even an ambulance, on the course after Commonwealth Games silver medallist and world track champion Rebecca Wiasak crashed out, could slow her down.

"I don't know what made me go only a couple of laps in," she said.

"I just got a gap and played it by ear but, 10 minutes in, I was thinking 'I don't know if this is the right idea'."

Roper has form, though, having lapped the field in a similar race last month in Kirra.

She also won October's Tour of Gippsland - part of the National Road Series.

Massive crowds, five or six deep in some parts, cheered the riders home along Noosa Parade. It was a moment to treasure for Roper before returning on Monday to her day job .

"In the last month, I've been riding my bike non-stop," she said.

"It's pretty special; I've come here a lot of times and, a few years ago, was in a break with Tiffany Cromwell and Katrin Garfoot but they were too strong for me then.

"This win is definitely up there."

World record holder in the Teams Pursuit, Sam Welsford, riding for the Sunshine Coast based Australian Cycling Academy (ACA), didn’t have the luxury of time and distance that Roper conjured up, with his first Noosa win coming in the last two pedal strokes.

He emerged from a breakaway group of more than 10 riders to win from Kaden Groves and Ayden Toovey.

“It was insane," Welsford said. "That race was just so hard from the start and there were numerous attacks throughout the race.

"I rode across about 20 minutes into the break because I saw it wasn’t coming back so I knew I had to go and a few others followed.

"It was about surviving the finish because the peloton was chasing us and we couldn’t back off at all. I had to go very early in the sprint because they were coming at me and I just held on to the finish. The last couple of pedal strokes were pretty excruciating but I was very happy to throw my hands in the air in a local race.

“The win is awesome for the ACA team in our first year and wonderful for me as it is my first time here. I love racing crits because they suit my type of riding style. When I saw the hotdog course I thought it was perfect with high watts on and off.

"We train that way a couple of times a week. Noosa is a pretty unique place and the atmosphere here is insane, so it was awesome to get the home crowd behind the home team. I love it and the fact that everyone is here to get around bikes and watch some quality racing."