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Cooper holds on to take title

By Jake Beleski

[email protected]

Joseph Cooper had two people in particular he wanted to thank after he comfortably held off his challengers to win the New Zealand Cycle Classic in Masterton yesterday.

The fifth and final stage was 12 laps of a 10km circuit, starting and ending at Mitre 10 Mega.

After battling fierce winds and rain during Wednesday’s stage four, the riders were greeted with hot, dry conditions for the final leg.

Cooper, a three-time national road racing champion, won the general classification category, maintaining the 36-second lead he had built up during Wednesday’s demanding stage four trek to Martinborough.

His IsoWhey Sports Swiss Wellness team also took out the teams’ classification.

After the race, Cooper paid tribute to the most important people in his life, his parents Maria and Graham Cooper.

“I’d like to thank my parents for coming out – they’ve been supporting me for probably 12, or actually 31 years of my life so they’re my biggest supporters,” he said.

“It’s nice that they’re here – they were here for the first couple of days and I’m glad they could come back over the hill and see the team put the final touches on.”

There was always going to be a push from his nearest rivals over the final stages, and when second-placed James Oram (New Zealand National Team) broke clear with four other riders there were some nervous moments.

They built a significant lead on the peloton, before being reeled in with the finish line approaching.

Cooper said they always felt like they were in control.

“We were a little bit nervous, but it was under control for most of it.

“There wasn’t too much stress.”

Stage four proved to be the key part of the race for Cooper, who embraced the difficult conditions to put himself in pole position.

“When the wind was blowing a gale it reminded me of growing up in Wellington where nearly every day is just as windy as that.

“You get used to it – you just put your bike on a 45 degree angle and get on with it.”

Cooper admitted he was starting to wonder if he would ever win the event, after about 10 years of trying.

“When you come back and come back and come back every year you wonder if you’re destined to get it or not, so it’s great to win.”

There would be little time for celebrating, as Cooper was doe to fly out for his next event this morning.

“I’ve got to wake up at 4am [today] to catch a flight to Melbourne so that’s probably next and then I’ll try and recover as best I can before the Herald Sun Tour.

“Hopefully I can help the guys there to take on Chris Froome (three-time Tour de France winner) and guys like that over the next five days.”

 

Kiwis take top accolades

 

Cooper wasn’t the only success story on the event’s final day, as Kiwi riders took out four of the five other individual awards.

The stage was won by Alex Frame, the only Kiwi in the JLT Condor team, in 2 hours 43 minutes 49 seconds.

Frame had already displayed his sprinting skills to take out stage three on Tuesday, and said his team had given him every opportunity to succeed.

“I had Ed (Clancy) and Mouldy (Jonathan Mould) just ripping it at the end.

“Ed went so fast when we went through that corner at the end and Mouldy stepped it up – all I had to do was not stuff it up.”

“Riding with guys like Ed [Clancy] makes it easy.

The most dramatic result came in the sprints classification, where Brad Evans (New Zealand National Team) won all three sprints to move from ninth position to first and take the green jersey from Ryan Thomas (Oliver’s Real Food Racing).

Evans said the plan had been to stay as aggressive as possible.

“It was a good day all round.

“I knew there were enough sprints on the line to take the jersey and I won them all so it worked out well.”

James Oram knew he would hold the King of the Mountains jersey no matter what transpired in yesterday’s stage, after dominant displays over the earlier stages.

His 18 points proved enough to take the jersey, with stage two winner Sam Crome (IsoWhey Sports Swiss Wellness) second on 14 points.

In the under-23 section, Logan Griffin (Oliver’s Real Food Racing) finished 1 minute 29 seconds ahead of Alex West (Team Skoda), to complete a successful event for Kiwi riders.

Griffin said it was exciting to see his team improving.

“It was time for us to step up – we’ve been on the cusp for a long time and this year we’ve got a really strong team together.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t get the green jersey but keeping the white jersey in the team was great.”

The one award that didn’t go to a Kiwi was for most aggressive rider, which was taken out by Australian Jordan Kerby (Cobra9 Interbuild Racing).

Kerby said he was keen to come back in the future.

“We took a pretty aggressive approach this week, trying to race from the front every day and yesterday it worked out with a podium finish on stage three.

“Overall it’s been good to come here and I’d love to come back again.”

 

Final results

 

General classification:

Joseph Cooper (NZL) IWS

Logan Griffin (NZL) ORF

James Oram (NZL) NZL

 

Stage five:

Alex Frame (NZL) JLT

Luke Mudgway (NZL) NZL

Neil Van Der Ploeg (AUS) IWS

 

Team classification:

IWS

NZL

JLT

 

Sprints classification:

Brad Evans (NZL) NZL

Ryan Thomas (AUS) ORF

Jordan Kerby (AUS) CIB

 

Mountains classification:

James Oram (NZL) NZL

Same Crome (AUS) IWS

Jordan Kerby (AUS) CIB
 

 

 

 

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