In a continuation of his superb recent form, Joe Cooper (Avanti IsoWhey Sports) again showed his strength to post a dominant win on the Stage 1 time trial at the National Capital Tour.
The New Zealander finished 23 seconds faster than Jake Kauffman (Subaru NSWIS) in second with Harry Carpenter (SASI) a further two seconds back and a clump of riders only seconds behind them.
The opening stage of the National Capital Tour was held in blustery conditions, with the sun doing little to warm up the riders on the hilly, exposed course. Featuring a fast descent, where the fearless dropped to the top tube and touched speeds of over 100 km/hr the descents were matched the tough, steep climb coming back to the start/finish line on the out and back circuit.
Ben Marshall (Oliver’s Real Food Racing) in particular will be thankful that nothing worse happened after he got the ‘death wobbles’ midway down the descent, thankfully avoiding a nasty crash. Aaron Bicknell was one casualty, in odd fashion, tumbling off at the top of the starting ramp and having to start at the tail of the field, rather than his official slot.
Young New Zealander Robert Stannard (Mobius Futures Racing) set the early pace on the course with his time looking like it might be very hard to beat, but it was once again it was Joe Cooper who weathered all the potential difficulties of the course though, powering to yet another victory in the NRS and leaving many in the field wondering if he is in fact beatable. Cooper spoke to Peleton Café after the race.
“The seven kilometre distance is what I train for, day in, day out,” said Cooper. “I’m pretty happy with how it went and now me and the boys have to come up with a good plan for tomorrow.”
“It was pretty windy out there today, but I’m from Wellington and the wind was nowhere near as strong as there, so today felt fairly normal for me, just another day on the bike.”
The New Zealander has been a terrific exponent of the time trial discipline in recent years and provided some insight into what goes into making up a successful battle against the clock.
“For me my pacing strategy is in two parts and when you have a course like today it’s more simple with the way out and the way back. My goal is always to make sure I can go out and come back even quicker. So you have to work out what the wind’s doing, how your legs feel when you’re on the start ramp and just know where your upper limits are… how much pain and suffering you can inflict on yourself.”
“Over the last four years of NRS races these prologues have been my bread and butter, so to speak. Once you’ve done one you can always replicate that feeling of being in absolute hurt and you have to enjoy in being in that much pain to want to do. Some people can reach that but once they do, they shy away from actually hurting themselves. I think my strongest point is getting to that point of hurt and then ‘just keep poking the bear’.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s summit finish atop Black Mountain, Cooper was understated about his chances but still confident.
“I’d like to say yes, I’ll be in the mix again, the climb’s about eight minutes, two minutes shorter than this time trial and it will just be another of those cases of finding that level of hurt and just going from there.”
Jake Kauffman was very pleased and a bit surprised at himself after finishing second on the hilly course.
“It was pretty windy in spots, a few guys came back and said maybe don’t use the disc wheel but I rolled the dice, thought it was worth the extra speed,” said Kauffman. “I nearly paid the price at the bottom of the descent where we turned right and the wind caught it pretty hard but I held it up. Yeah it was a good day, a bit unexpected.”
“It definitely felt fast, I looked down and I was doing 94 km/hr and was still accelerating but I didn’t dare look down after that, just holding on for grim death really.”
Not traditionally a rider that excels in races with prominent hills, Kauffman revealed that he was even considering not having a concerted effort to ride a competitive race.
“Today was not a course that would traditionally suit me, I was umming and ahhing over whether I should save my legs but I had a go and went pretty good, pulled one out of the bag.”
For tomorrow’s stage, Kauffman’s 2nd on GC won’t be a priority for the team with the final climb expected to be more for the power to weight climbers that the Subaru NSWIS squad boasts.
“We’ve got young Sam Jenner, back from the World Tour Academy, Ayden Toovey and Liam Magennis who could all pull something out of the bag for tomorrow, so we’ll be looking after them. Then maybe on Sunday I can have a go myself again.”
Tomorrow’s stage finishes atop Black Mountain with the stage expected to be decisive in the battle for the overall classification.