Lisen Hockings (Holden Women’s Cycling) and Joe Cooper (Avanti IsoWhey Sports) took out the time trial win in the women’s and men’s opening stage of the Sam Miranda Tour of King Valley, moving into the race lead in the process.
The nine kilometre time trial was held over an out-and-back course with a tailwind for the riders on the way out and then a headwind into the finish line. Conditions progressively got worse throughout the stage, but thankfully the worst of the weather held off until the riders were off the road.
The men set off first, with Ben Hill (Attaque Team Gusto) setting the early pace, fresh off his second at the Tour of Great South Coast, but without a rear disc wheel that most riders opted to start with.
His time was quickly overtaken by the likes of Harry Sweeney (State of Matter/MAAP), Scott Law (Subaru NSWIS) and Jason Lea posting progressively faster times. Alex Porter (SASI/Callidus) then set a scorching time out on the course in a continuation of the good form that saw him win a stage of the Tour of the Great South Coast a week ago.
Only Joe Cooper (Avanti IsoWhey Sports) was able to best that time and he did so in typical fashion for the New Zealand powerhouse, obliterating the course in a time of 10 minutes 10 seconds, 24 seconds better than Porter, with a further seven seconds back to Liam Magennis (Subaru NSWIS) who slotted into third with a strong ride.
After the stage, Cooper spoke the stage and the possibility of protecting the pink leader’s jersey across the rest of the Tour.
“It was only 10 minutes, there’s probably 4 hours of racing left to go, so percentage-wise there’s a lot more to come. There was a little bit of wind in both direction, on the way out it was quite a heavy tailwind, then on the way back it was a bit of block headwind, but you push through it.
“There’s no real pacing strategy, you just go as hard as you can without blowing, maybe there is a bit of strategy but in a ten minute effort there’s no point holding much back.
“I’ll give it my best shot, we’ve got six guys to ride the front as opposed to five last week, but pretty sure anything can still happen.”
Alex Porter was understandably pleased with his strong ride, which also saw him take the young rider’s jersey.
“I was stoked with that performance, I was hoping to come here and get in the top five so to come away with second, I’m over the moon. There was a part of me hoping I could cling on for the win but I knew Joe would be flying out there so I wasn’t surprised when I saw him beat my time.
“I’m feeling good, I’ve done a lot of hard training over the last few months, aiming at Tour of the Great South Coast then Tour of the King Valley so it’s good to come to both races and get some good results.
“I’ll definitely try and hold onto the Under 23 jersey, and try to eat into Joe’s lead on GC as well”
The women got underway on the course with the men still on the course and quickly went about setting their own marks around the course. Tessa Fabry (High5 Dreamteam) was the first of the likely contenders for stage victory to finish and it looked like she would be sitting in the virtual hotseat as she set a hot time around the circuit which was beginning to get a bit of rain coming down on it.
On the slightly slicker surface Verita Stewart (Specialized) crashed and went down on her elbow, limping back to the finish in a slow time and seeking attention from the paramedics just after the line.
With many of the big names slated as the final starters it was a tense wait to see if NRS series leader Kate Perry could continue her superlative form in the TTs or if someone could upstage the Specialized rider. Perry set the fastest time as she went through the finish, but her time at the top of the leaderboard was shortlived as Lisen Hockings (Holden) showed that the early results from the season were no fluke, going fastest with a time of 11 minutes 58 seconds.
Kate Perry finished up eight seconds back, a good result considering that she was giving away at least eight inches in height to Lisen Hockings with the smaller riders getting buffeted around a lot more in the windy conditions.
“Yeah I’m not feeling too bad (about the ride),” said Perry. “We went out there will a plan of not going out too hard and then really hammering home into that headwind. I definitely left it out there on the road today but unfortunately I was about 8 seconds too short.”
Perry praised the performance of Hockings and was still upbeat about her chances in the rest of the Tour with the Strade Nero and Ryan’s Tamnick stages left to ride.
“She definitely put in a stellar performance and deserved the win. Now that the crit is not in play, it’s going to open the race up a bit. It’s a bit unfortunate as there were a lot of seconds up for grabs in that Criterium, which was really going to make it a hot circuit. If it’s raining tomorrow, the dirt is going to make it equally as interesting, so either way it’s going to be a hotly contested tour.”
Hockings is very new to the sport and was seemingly uncomfortable in the spotlight, but with her performances continuing to improve, you would expect that she’ll have to get used to it.
“It was raining for the whole time I was out there and it was pretty windy, but overall it was ok as it was the same for everyone. I’m a bit surprised to take the stage win but it’s pretty exciting!
“I’m really looking forward to a weekend of racing with my Holden teammates as it’s my first real opportunity to have a proper race with my team and I’m really excited to race with them.
“It’s fantastic to be racing with Holden, I’m very grateful for the opportunity. I’m just getting to know everyone, they’re very supportive, they’re teaching me about race tactics and they’re happy to answer all of my questions, so it’s good fun!
Both Hockings and Cooper will head into the iconic Stage 3 of the Tour of King Valley over the dark dirt and gravel roads or the ‘Strade Nero’ in the pink leader’s jersey after the Stage 2 city Criterium was cancelled with concerns for rider safety with the weather forecast.
James Finch-Penninger, Freelance Cycling Journalist
BrakeDown Podcast founder