An Olympic track specialist has made history by taking out the longest one-day women's road race in the world.
Maeve Plouffe, representing ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast, claimed the title as the inaugural winner of the Lochard Energy Warrnambool Women's Classic on Sunday.
In doing so the 22-year-old handed her team a winning double.
A day after fellow ARA rider Cameron Scott took out the Melbourne to Warrnambool men's race, Plouffe, a member of the 2020 Australian women's Olympic pursuit team, held off Josie Talbot and Matilda Raynolds in a sprint to the finish line.
Taking four hours, 14 minutes and 52 seconds to complete the 160km course, Plouffe said it felt incredible to be the first ever winner of the Warrnambool Women's Classic.
"The Melbourne to Warrnambool is something I've watched for years, but as a track racer I never really had the opportunity to do the full 270 kilometres with the men," she said.
"I think having a women's only race and having it at the UCI distance is a leap forward for women's cycling. It's encouraging more of us to do it."
The University of Adelaide student said the distance was "a little out" of her comfort zone, but having the support of her teammates, especially Anya Louw in the breakaway group, helped her get through.
"I was a little bit out of my comfort zone but it was an incredible feeling being in that break with such a high calibre of riders," she said. "As soon as we made that break and started working in it, I knew it would be good day.
"They (teammates) were covering the moves earlier in the day, then when the big few moves starting going at the end I had Anya (Louw) come in the break with me.
"Just having that one other rider in the breakaway makes all the difference for confidence and having someone to look after you and get bottles, so it was a massive team win."
Nerves eventually hit Plouffe in the final few kilometres, but as a sprinting specialist, she was able to push it right to the line.
"There was definitely nerves when it starts to get real and there is a chance of winning this," she said.
"We had riders in there like Nicole (Frain) and Georgie (Howe), long range flyers, so I was really keeping my wits about me, having one eye forward and one eye back.
"There was one little scare with Matilda (Raynolds) going but I think I got on it quite quickly.
"That's where we lost Anya, so once I was vulnerable and exposed it was a little nerve wracking, but when I saw 500 metres to go, I knew I had a really good chance as long as I sprint on the right hand side of the road."
Recently recovering from a bout of COVID-19, Plouffe said her form had increased over the summer, including a recent second in the Tour of Gippsland last week.
"Right before Road Nats, I got COVID so I didn't really have the best national title, I wasn't feeling that good," she said.
"Today I think I'm peaking; hopefully I can continue this form, I've got a bit of track racing to do now.
Plouffe's focus will return to her track cycling, including pushing for Commonwealth Games berth later this year.
"I'll focus on that and throw a couple little road races hopefully in Europe in there and Oceania too," she said.
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