SHE called it dream big racing and the huge smile that Emily Watts wore on the podium after claiming under 23s silver in the Cycling Australia Road Nationals criterium on Friday showed it was a dream she enjoyed.
Given how she finished it was little wonder.
The Bathurst Cycling Club graduate had dangled off the back of the front group and looked like she would cross the line in the combined elite women’s-under 23s field in around 20th position outright.
But Watts dug deep in the final incline to the finish line, passing some 11 riders to clinch 10th outright and silver in the under 23s.
Given her goal had been to try and crack top five in the under 23s, she relished the moment.
“It was amazing,” Watts, who was riding for her Sydney Uni-Staminade team said. “I never gave up – look how far back I came from in that final up hill sprint ... silver, whom would have dreamed?”
READ MORE: Allen awarded memorial trophy
READ MORE: Watts to face Australia’s top women
While Watts had made her debut at the road nationals last year, that was as a member of the under 19s field.
Her 2019 campaign in Ballarat brought with it a step up to under 23s level, which also means she joins the elite women in the peloton.
Though Watts has enjoyed past success in criteriums, the 33km test on Friday was a stern one. There were a litany of attacks made from the stellar field before Rebecca Wiasak finally clinched gold.
Wiasak launched her winning attack at the bottom of the final straight.
“A green and gold jersey is something money can’t buy… I was really excited it was a bunch sprint, I think everyone knew what my tactic was going to be, I was hoping it was going to be a bunchy,” she said.
“I was too scared to watch people screaming I heard my dad screaming like I’d already won, and I thought my legs could go at any moment and it was still 150 metres until the finish, so I didn’t want to salute until I crossed the line”
“There were some really strong teams represented so to come out again as an individual and win is just unbelievable and there were definitely some tears at the end of the race.”
Keep up to date with the latest sports news by clicking here
Watts said she had Australian representative Ashlee Ankudinoff to thanks for calming her and “cooling my jets after those first few laps” and it showed at the death as she also powered home.
Watts finished one second off the pace set by Wiasak, clocking a time of one hour, 11 minutes, 51 seconds. She joined team-mate Georgia Whitehouse in the top 10.
The only under 23s rider to beat her home was Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Victorian Institute of Sport), who also placed third outright.