Cooper downs defending champion to claim second New Zealand road crown

IsoWhey Sports-SwissWellness rider Joe Cooper wins his second New Zealand road race championship in three years on Sunday.

Just 24 hours after Rushlee Buchanan claimed her historic fourth national road title, IsoWhey Sports-SwissWellness rider Joe Cooper won his second New Zealand road race championship in three years in the North Island coastal township of Napier on Sunday.

 The 31-year-old Wellington native, who also won the road race title in 2015 and the national individual time trial crown in 2013, proved too strong over the 169km course for defending champion and former Avanti teammate Jason Christi, One Pro Cycling’s Dion Smith and former Drapac rider Brad Evans, who all finished second, third and fourth respectively.

“Today was about keeping calm and waiting for the right move. I didn’t have any teammates so I was forced to save energy and then unload at a certain point and hope that it stuck,” said Cooper, a reigning two-time winner of the Australian National Road Series (2014, 2016).

“You had to give respect for the WorldTour and Pro Continental guys and so if you are able to hang around their wheels long enough you land in the right moves and get an easy sit in the peloton which was a key to the strategy today.

“I knew they were riding for a bunch kick and I can’t sprint my way out of a wet paper bag so I needed to be solo. I had to roll the dice. There’s no way I wanted to wait for the bunch kick and come 10th.”

Top 10

  • 1. Joe COOPER, 4:14:57
  • 2. Jason CHRISTIE, +0:14
  • 3. Dion SMITH, +0:18
  • 4. Brad EVANS, +0:18
  • 5. Regan GOUGH, +0:18
  • 6. Aaron GATE, +0:18
  • 7. Jack BAUER, +0:18
  • 8. James FOUCHE, +0:18
  • 9. Michael TORCKLER, +0:18
  • 10. Tom SCULLY, +0:25

Pre-race favorite Bauer said he did not have the legs today. The Quick-Step Floors WorldTour rider said he felt the pain on the first climb up Napier Hill.

“I knew I was in for a hard day from there,” said Bauer, who finished in seventh. “This course was tough, possibly tougher than Christchurch but it was an excellent test. I just did not have enough miles in the legs today.”

Another Avanti alumnus Regan Gough, 20, who finished fifth overall, had to recover from a late puncture to outmuscle Auckland’s James Fouche at the line for under-23 (U23) honors.

Gough, a member of the world champion winning team pursuit in 2015 and the Rio Olympics, kicked off his tenure with the European-based UCI Continental road team An Post-Chain Reaction with a victory in the U23 time trial on Friday.