Joe Cooper continued his purple patch of form at the National Capital Tour taking the overall win by 18 seconds. The Canberra win was Joe’s third NRS tour win in a row and certainly establishes him as the most dominant rider in the National Road series.
The opening time trial was challenging to say the least. A hilly out and back course with a stiff climb straight after the turn saw riders go close to 100km/h on the way down and a fraction of that on the way back up. To make matters worse a strong head wind on the return leg crushed those that had gone out too hard. Jason Lea continued his recent good form and setting the fastest time early on. This was then bettered by teammate Anthony Giacoppo. AJ is underrated in time trials and climbing for that matter but as a sprinter he’s surely one of the most versatile riders in the peloton.
Robert Stannard from Mobius Racing did a great ride to unseat AJ by 4 seconds and with conditions deteriorating many thought that the early starters may have stolen a march on their more fancied rivals. Chris Hamilton did a good ride despite a couple of close calls as did Ben O’Connor and Robbie Hucker but all eyes were on Joe as he set off. A conservative start backed by a great back half saw Joe come in with an incredible time of 10.37:82 some 25 seconds better than the time of Stannard. While most people were still shaking their heads in disbelief Joe’s other contenders were coming home but none could get close with Jacob Kauffman sneaking into second at 23 seconds and Harry Carpenter 3rd at 25 seconds on the same time as Stannard.
Stage two was a new course that featured 14 laps around the embassy district with a finish on top of the iconic Black Mountain. The plan was to defend Joe’s lead and ensure the race was together at the base of the climb. The high speed circuit made it difficult for anything to get away as did the constant sprint and kom priems. With 3,2,1 bonus seconds up for grabs for every kom and sprint every second lap the pace was pretty constant with many riders getting unhitched.
Jacob Kauffman (NSWIS) was working hard for the sprints in a battle against Jessie Kerrison (SOM) and after the 3rd sprint opened up a sizeable gap and decided to keep going destined to spend the rest of the majority of the stage solo off the front. Pat Shaw and Robbie Hucker went to the front with the rest of the team safely in tow and rode a solid tempo to keep Kauffman in check with him holding a small 30 – 40 second advantage as he collects maximum points and seconds in the remaining time bonus kom and sprints. After the last lap Kauffman was still away but as the peloton reached the base of Black Mountain he was finally caught and immediately spat out as the climbers were lead into the steep section of the climb. Ben Dyball (Mobius) took off and immediately opened a 50m gap. As the field disintegrated new world tour recruit Chris Hamilton went to the front and set about bringing him back all the while ensuring Joe was still in the wheels. Once Dyball was caught only 8 riders remained and as the road levelled out a little it was Jess Featonby (Swiss Wellness) who took his chance and went for the win. The recently converted triathlete has shown some good signs of late so it wasn’t completely out of the blue but as he was 40 seconds down Joe could afford to continue to ride threshold and limit his losses which he did to great effect crossing the line 7 seconds behind in 7th place with Hamo rolling in for 8th and Jason Lea and Ben O’Conner in 12th and 13th respectively.
Sunday was miserable. The nice weather from the previous day had been replaced by a bleak drizzle that had many looking for an excuse to leave early. With a 64km kermesse in the morning and a criterium around the Stromolo Park circuit in the afternoon the plan was to stay upright and ensure the remaining bonuses from intermediate sprints and finish position didn’t go to anyone close on GC. The Kermesse went according to plan with the team doing a great job keeping Joe out of trouble. In the finish veteran Canberran Stu Shaw took the win for NSWIS with Pat Shaw second and AJ 5th.
The weather continued to deteriorate so by the time the criterium started it was a full on down pour. The team were on the front once again doing their best to stay out of trouble and nurse Joe to the finish. Joe touched the deck when two riders in front had a touch of wheels but he was quickly back up and running without too much trouble. In the finish the boys were just content to get Joe around safely and wrap up the tour. Job done.
The win at the National Capital Tour is the team’s fifth win of the NRS, that’s every round so far. Joe now leads the National Road Series from Pat Shaw and with only two rounds to go (Tour of Tasmania and Melbourne to Warnambool) barring disaster he looks good to win it for the second time. The team has set their sights on the remaining two rounds and would love to complete a clean sweep of the series and finish the season on a high. It won’t be easy but will give it a crack.
Thanks for reading.