Joe Cooper completes come-back; rides into Lakes Oil Tour of Gippsland lead

Peloton Cafe || 2014 Tour of Gippsland Stage 4 - Joe Cooper
Peloton Cafe || 2014 Tour of Gippsland Stage 4 – Joe Cooper
The yellow jersey has changed hands for the third time at the?Lakes Oil Tour of Gippsland,?with New Zealand?s Joe Cooper (Avanti Racing) clinching victory in Port Albert to take the Tour lead. Cooper is the third person to have led the Tour, which began in Warragul on Wednesday, after his teammate Scott Law claimed the opening stage before Jesse Kerrison (Budget Forklifts) clinched stage three and the jersey in Sale on Friday. However it was Cooper who was strongest in the afternoon?s race from Sale to Port Albert, crossing the line moments ahead of a charging breakaway group. ?I hit the group with two kilometres to go and I got into time trial mode, the break hesitated a bit so I was able to get away. I didn?t think I would have the legs but I lunged for the line just in time,? said Cooper who is the reigning Oceania time trial champion. The Tour is Cooper?s first Subaru National Road Series event after fracturing his pelvis at the FKG Tour of Toowoomba nine weeks ago. ?This means a lot to me,? said Cooper. ?The last nine weeks have been very hard to just be on the sidelines watching and I had to put in a whole lot of hard work to get back to where I am.? Cooper was part of a 14 man chase group who crested the eight kilometre major climb of the day ahead of a splintering peloton. The bunch chased hard to catch a five man breakaway which had been away from the gun. With 50 kilometres left to race, the two lead groups joined and rode aggressively to the line, catching out the sprinters and general classification contenders who were left in the chasing peloton. At one stage the peloton looked about to catch the escapees before attacks from Avanti, who had four represented in the break, ensured the pace was kept high inside the final 10 kilometres. Cooper attacked with two kilometres remaining to just hold off a fast closing Tim Roe (Budget Forklifts) and Cameron Bayly ( ?The aim was to have me hurting on the climb so then we knew it would be a super hard tempo, and that got rid of all of the sprinter type riders who could attack us on the flats. ?There was no way we were letting that peloton back after the amount of effort we put on up the hill,? remarked Cooper. Cooper now leads the Tour by a narrow one second to Roe while Bayly sits in third, five seconds back. The Tour continues on Saturday with a 97 kilometre road race from Paynesville to Metung. Stage three recap Earlier in the day,?Jessie Kerrison won his second stage in a row in Sale. Kerrison took out the 36 kilometre criterium in Sale, one day after winning stage two?s road race from Leongatha to Yinnar. ?It?s the first time I?ve ever got two in a row so that?s good for the confidence,? said Kerrison. ?Michael Freiberg (Wormall) hit and I jumped on his wheel, it was perfect. It looks like Alex Edmondson really flew home.? Kerrison out-sprinted Commonwealth gold medallist and track world champion Alex Edmondson (SASI) and Brenton Jones (Avanti). The race was animated by a strong two-man break including Germany?s Raphael Freinstein (CharterMason) and Darcy Ellerm-Norton (Subaru Albion). The duo gained a 40 second advantage and we still holding a solid break with just 10 laps remaining. Overnight race leaders Avanti took up the chase early until four laps to go when Budget Forklifts took the reigns for Kerrison. ?Raf and Darcy got off the front at the start and that gap got out so quickly, it blew out to 40 seconds. It was touch and go for a bit but the strength of an eight man team out-weighs the two man break. ?Avanti were chasing to save the yellow jersey and we sat back and waited for the lead-out. We only caught Raf on the last lap so it was close but the boys did exceptionally well,? explained Kerrison.

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