Stage 7: Burnie 82km
Joseph Cooper (Huon-Genesys) won the penultimate stage of the Caterpillar Tour of Tasmania into Burnie after soloing away from an eight man breakaway with 20km to race. The rider who has spent the better part of the last six stages helping defend the overall lead of teammate Jack Haig, finally got some free reign and took full advantage to come away with a commanding stage win.
[pull_quote_center]”This stage win means everything to me,” explained Cooper. “I think this is probably my best win of the Subaru National Road Series so far.[/pull_quote_center]
“It’s the hardest tour, especially at the end of a very taxing season. I’m just happy to get the job done for the boys today and it’s a bit of a reward for all the hard work I’ve been putting in this week.”
With just over 5km raced the move of the day was gone with eight riders quickly establishing a significant lead over the Huon-Genesys led peloton.
Riders in the break were Will Walker, Bernie Sulzberger (Drapac), Joshua Prete (Budget Forklifts), Cameron Bayly (search2retain), Caleb Jones (GPM Data#3), Jacob Restall (Caterpillar), Timothy Cameron (St George Skoda HP) and Cooper.
With 20km to race the break hit the second KOM for the day, a crude 600m at 16%, with Walker hitting out first with Sulzberger, Cooper and Cameron coming across soon after. Cooper increased the pace and passed first over the KOM as the rest of the breakaway lost ground on the Kiwi rider.
“In my mind I had decided the 10 kilometres to go mark was when I’d have a go, but as it turned out, on that last King of the Mountain the break started to split up and I thought ‘I have to roll the dice now and have a crack'” Cooper said.
“I managed to get over the top with a bit of a gap – I knew Bernard and Will would probably try to get together and chase, but I just went into my drive mode and continued on to the finish.”
Inside the last 5km Cooper was nearly one minute in front Walker, Sulzberger and Cameron and it appeared that the three behind Cooper were racing for the minor placings. Cooper went on to record a strong victory 49 seconds in front of Sulzberger, Walker and Cameron respectively with the Ben Grenda (Polygon) led peloton snapping at their heels just a further 15 seconds behind.
Walker took advantage of his time up the road to take a 3 point lead over Sulzberger in the sprint classification and Brodie Talbot (Caterpillar) looks set to take home the king of the mountains jersey at the end of the tour provided he finishes the final stage tomorrow.
Jack Haig (Huon-Genesys) protected his overall race lead and by extension held onto the lead in the young rider classification.
[pull_quote_center]”Another day down and the job is just about done,” said Haig. “The boys did an amazing job today – we had a small breakaway go up the road with Joe Cooper and we just controlled it from there on in.[/pull_quote_center]
“I’m extremely proud to be wearing the yellow jersey with only one stage to go. When I looked at the people that had won this tour previously it’s a pretty impressive list, with Richie Porte and Cadel Evans in there. I’d be honoured to get on that list with them tomorrow.”
The final stage on Sunday features 30 laps of a 1.8km circuit around the Devonport sporting precinct. With fast and mainly open roads the final stage should prove to be a reprieve for all the sprinters who have battled their way across the hilly Tasmanian parcours over the previous seven days.