Cooper wins National Capital Tour, 3 NRS wins in a row

Joe Cooper (Avanti IsoWhey Sports) secured the overall win on the double stage final day of the National Capital Tour which brought the race to a close. Two bunch sprints on the Mt Stromlo criterium circuit saw two different winners at opposite ends of the spectrum with the locally-based veteran Stuart Shaw (Subaru NSWIS) winning the kermesse with New Zealand junior Campbell Steward popping up to take the criterium win later in the day.

The morning kermesse saw the peloton go fast as soon as the flag dropped, maintaining a bilstering 50 km/hr average over the 20 kilometre circuit around central Canberra. Racing on rolling, wide roads, the peloton didn’t give the riders keen on a breakaway much leeway at all, with several short-lived attacks coming to nothing.

A likely looking move containing Jake Klajnblat (JML Racing), Harry Carpenter (SASI), Ben Hill (Attaque Team Gusto), Sam Phipps (GPM Stulz) and Rien Schuurhuis (Oliver’s Real Food) went off the front on the final circuit of the course. Despite the powerful riders present in the move working well together, the move was shut down by the teams of the sprinters with a touch over 10 kilometres remaining.

On the slight rise that leads the riders to the finish at Mt Stromlo, Ben Hill and Anthony Giacoppo (Avanti IsoWhey Sports) attacked hard from the bunch, coming into the final kilometre with a small lead on the peloton. There the cooperation between Giacoppo and Hill broke down, with neither wanting to lead the other out and the pair being caught on the final corner.

As the catch was made, there was a crash near the front, with Cyrus Monk (Pat’s Veg) coming down on the fast and slippery final corner with a number of riders including stage favourite Jesse Kerrison (State of Matter/MAAP) held up behind the fall. The front riders were unaffected however and it was the locally-based veteran Stuart Shaw (Subaru NSWIS) who lead out of the final corner and had enough time to post up and celebrate as he crossed the line in first. Pat Shaw (Avanti IsoWhey Sports) came in second, with New Zealand national team rider Campbell Steward in third.

After the race, Stuart Shaw spoke to Peloton Café about the win.

“It’s been a while, I think it was 2007 when I won the NRS series and the past few years I’ve spent my time riding for a lot of young guys… the Paddy Bevins, the Tom Palmers and the Adam Phelans. Today our sprinter wasn’t feeling so good, so they said ‘have a go if you want’ and they gave me a bit of help and I got the chance to sprint for myself. It was good fun.”

“The bunch was a bit nervous but to be honest I think everyone rode pretty well today, obviously the final was a bit hectic. In the last kilometre it’s always hectic. I’m a local boy, we race this every Wednesday night and I knew once you get out of that corner you just have to go full gas and commit to the sprint from there.”

“There were a few attacks, I think a lot of people thought a break would go today but at 69 kilometres it’s unlikely that a break was going to succeed. It was aggressive, yesterday was a hard stage but it was only one day and the average speed was really high.”

In the afternoon’s criterium the elements set in heavily with conditions miserable for all the riders throughout the race. Starting out fast were Avanti IsoWhey Sports who went hard from the gun to try and slim the field down in addition to keeping general classification leader Joe Cooper out of trouble. Cooper wasn’t able to stay entirely out of trouble however, crashing on the back half of the course as riders went down in front of him. He got straight back up and returned to the bunch after a lap out.

There was plenty of attacking racing, with Ben Hill again the catalyst of many of the moves and it was unsurprising that he was a member of the most dangerous move of the day where he was joined by Rien Schuurhuis (Oliver’s Real Food) and Marcus Culey (SwissWellness) in a move that was only shut down in the final few laps.

In the bell lap it was Subaru NSWIS who were on the front, again trying to set it up for Stu Shaw, but it was the young New Zealander Campbell Steward who took the flyer out of the final corner and powered away to take the win ahead of Jesse Kerrison and Sean Whitfield (Oliver’s Real Food).

“Yeah it’s awesome to be able to come over and race it with the big guns for the first time,” said Steward. “I’m really happy with how the weekend and how it went with me and my teammates.”

“I didn’t know what it was going to be like when I came in and when I got here the level was even higher than I thought. Obviously it’s been fast and hard but it’s been good to get a bit of racing under the belt.”

Steward will be racing the junior world championships and together with outstanding young prospects from Mobius Future Racing, James Fouche and Robert Stannard, the New Zealanders will field a formidable squad.

“That is my strength, to finish off the sprint and that was what I was aiming for. We’re going to Doha for the worlds in about three weeks time and it’s a flat course, so that’s the main reason why this Tour has been such good build up for the race for myself and Robert (Stannard).”

Joe Cooper secured the overall victory of the National Capital Tour to take his third successive overall win in the NRS and spoke to Peloton Café after the stage.

“Noone really wants to race in these conditions and then everyone wants to take risks and then I end up on the ground because two got tangled and took me out. It’s pretty average racing when they do that, I’m not 20 anymore and I don’t enjoy crashing.”

“After that, everyone sort of calmed down a bit. If it takes the yellow jersey to fall off for everyone to calm down then so be it.”

“It’s good to go back to back to back, that three NRS tours in a row now, I don’t know if it’s been done before… I’m all about doing things for the first time.”

Cooper finished ahead of youngster Robert Stannard (Mobius Future Racing) and Dylan Sunderland (State of Matter/MAAP) on the podium, with Stannard also claiming the young rider’s jersey.

Jesse Kerrison won the sprints jersey with Harrison Bailey (GPM Stulz) taking the mountains jersey and Avanti IsoWhey Sports winning the teams classification.

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