Joe Cooper (Avanti IsoWhey Sports) went into the final stage of Sam Miranda King Valley with a 24 second advantage on Alex Porter (SASI/Callidus) and looked to hold a strong hand in protecting his lead over the hilly final stage of the Tour.
The climb of Ryan’s Gap was first up, with the Glenrowan loop to be circuited twice to catch the short, punchy climb of Taminick Gap twice before a 15 kilometre run from the second summiting of the climb to the finish line back at the Sam Miranda Winery.
The race started very fast with the bunch reaching speeds of 55 km/hr in the opening of the stage with a number of ill-fated moves being denied any freedom by the peloton.
Coming into the first climb of the day, the two stage climb of Ryan’s Gap, Ben Hill (Attaque Team Gusto) and mountains classification leader Pat Shaw (Avanti IsoWhey Sports) went off the front to try and secure the King of the Mountain (KOM) points and time bonuses at the top of the climb.
In what would prove to be a consistent fight between the pair throughout the stage, it was Ben Hill who crossed the line at the top first and with Hill over a minute back on the standings at the start of the stage, Avanti were happy to see him taking the bonus seconds. Alex Porter did manage to snag a single second bonus, but he would have to accelerate his pace if he wanted to catch up with Cooper by stage’s end.
On the first ascent of Taminick Gap there was the same 1-2 result of Ben Hill and Pat Shaw on the KOMs with both moving up the general classification as well with the accumulation of bonus seconds.
The race settled down between the climbs, with riders that had been dropped catching back on as the teams prepared for the final climb and the flat run into the finish.
Joe Cooper showed why he deserved to win the race overall hitting out on the climb powerfully and establishing a gap at the top as he took the maximum time bonuses available before forming a brief attempt at pressing the attack. He was quickly joined by ten others and then the group swelled as the chase got organised behind. Coming into the finish with a bunch of 50 riders on the flat finish it was a frantic dash to the final corner, a 90 degree turn with only 100 metres to go.
Subaru-NSWIS showed a lot of power to put their fast man Scott Law into pole position in final 300 metres with Law first around the corner at breakneck speed with Pat Shaw the only one within touching distance. Law held off Shaw to record the win with Jesse Kerrison (State of Matter) rounding out the podium. Ryan Christensen (Oliver’s Real Food Racing), Cyrus Monk (Pat’s Veg) and Joel Walsh took 4th, 5th and 6th, rounding out a consistent weekend for all three, who had been up amongst the action on the previous stage as well.
Stage winner Scott Law had been performing well during his stint in the US, mostly racing criteriums and showed his form admirably when called upon in his first race back in Australia.
“It was quite a tough one out there,” said Law. “Taminick Gap isn’t the most friendly of hills especially for a sprinter, so our goal for today was to try and sneak Ayden Toovey up for a couple of sprint points to move him up on general classification, then try and keep it together for the sprint for me.”
“In the end it worked out really well and the boys did an awesome job to keep me in contact over the hill, and it was a perfect finish. We were a bit hesitant coming into the finish, there was a bit of a cross wind with around 10 kilometres to go, but I had to make an effort to push myself across to the break.”
“I made my way to the front and saw Ayden there, and he pretty much protected me all the way to the finish, then Stu (Shaw) and Ayden did an awesome job leading me out with 1km to go. I hit it with about 100-150 to go before the last corner and held on for the win.”
Law was followed in by Pat Shaw, who couldn’t quite replicate his win of the previous stage after skirmishing all day with Ben Hill over the mountains points and time bonuses but did enough to take second. With the result he wrapped up the sprints classification and also catapulted himself into 4th overall, which proved enough to give him enough point to become the new Subaru National Road Series leader as well.
“We showed our strength in the race today,” said Shaw. “After the climb we had five of us in the front. I said to the guys, let’s ride the front and make it as hard as we can for the rest of the guys, just so it’s etched in their memory for the rest of the races which are coming up.”
“Scott Law’s leadout was too good for me in the finish but to finish second is very good, it shows that all my form is heading in the right direction for a really big Melbourne to Warrnambool. It might sound silly but I wasn’t going very well at Great South Coast, I had gastro for three stages in the middle there. I was really happy to feel that I had quite good legs here but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.”
“To have the opportunity to go for the finish shows the strength of these guys (Avanti IsoWhey Sports team-mates), I’m full of compliments about these guys all the time. It was no different today either. It’s not about their bike-riding, not their talent that makes them a great team-mate, it’s the fact that they’ll lay it on the line for you regardless of who it is on the team, as long as you are wearing the jersey. It’s why we are successful.”
Ben Hill was racing again as individual after his second overall at the Tour of the Great South Coast, this time claiming third overall, the King of the Mountains jersey and most aggressive rider on the final stage.
“I was just out there racing, trying to grab everything today. The bunch was together for a lot of it so I managed to grab a few sprints, move up to third and grab the KOM, so it was all right.”
“Getting over the hill each time every lap I had a bit of advantage but when I looked back the main riders were always Avanti and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere as they were racing pretty negatively as they had the Tour lead already. There wasn’t much point in pushing on.”
“It’s pretty hard by yourself, just doing your own thing out there so I’m pretty happy to get 2nd and 3rd in two races, better than I thought I’d do coming in!”
Race winner Joe Cooper was in his normal laidback manner post-race after another strong performance with the foundation laid in the time trial in Stage 1.
“With the way the points system is and the time bonuses you’ve always got to be a bit conscious of the guys who are close to you on general classification, and just make sure they’re not the ones collecting those bonus seconds, but I managed to pick up some seconds too, so if in doubt, go get some yourself!“
“We had a couple of options for the sprint finish today, and we manned up, got everyone on the front, and had it strung out for the last 15k’s to make it safe for us because if people can’t come up outside of us it keeps us all safe for the next event in Gippsland.”
“With the wind and the climbs, this is definitely one of my favourite stages on the Subaru National Road Series calendar.”
Cooper ended up winning the overall by 25 seconds to Alex Porter, who took the young rider’s jersey, with Ben Hill rounding out the podium, 29 seconds in arrears.
James Finch-Penninger, Freelance Cycling Journalist
BrakeDown Podcast founder