Joe Cooper salutes Avanti Racing team-mates after their podium dominance
New national road race champion Joe Cooper reckoned his Avanti Racing team "couldn't have asked for much more" after their medals clean sweep in Christchurch yesterday.
Cooper, a 29-year-old Wellington rider who won the elite nationals time trial in 2013, hailed the efforts of his team who were favourites to take the race despite the presence of world tour professionals Sam Bewley and Jesse Sergent.
Cooper's team-mates, Tom Davison and Jason Christie, came second and third respectively and Cooper said it was the "awesome start" for the team's 2015 season, their first registered as a Kiwi team.
"Today we had six guys, everyone knew the plan and everyone was there to sacrifice themselves," Cooper said.
"We put in a lot and we got a lot out. You can't really ask for much more from the team than a one-two-three, it's outstanding."
Avanti were visible throughout the day, with Christie making an early breakaway and the team marshalling the chasing peloton from the front along with Breads of Europe/All About Plumbing who were looking after the interests of 2015 time trial champion Michael Vink and under-23 prospect Hayden McCormick.
At the halfway mark of the 183.7km race, the group started to make moves and shake up the standings, with Commonwealth track gold medallist Shane Archbold one of the casualties of the high pace set by the bunch.
Cooper made his move with two laps left, seeing his opportunity to ride away from the field and neutralise the chance of a bunch sprint.
Taking Davison with him, they stayed out in front and increased their advantage, sitting up in the finishing straight to take the applause.
Cooper crossed the line just ahead of Davison, the newly minted cycling professional conceding the win to his team leader.
For Christchurch-based Davison it marks a rapid rise in the world of professional cycling.
Upgrading his bronze medal in 2014, Davison said he "didn't come in[to] this aiming to get second" and that he would now try to build on the result over the coming season and see how it went in his first year as a professional cyclist.
"You can't ask much more of a newly registered New Zealand team.
"It's an absolute dream start, for me as well," Davison said.
"Jason [Christie] and I are a bit new in the team.
"Joe's been in the team for a long time now, so it's very cool that he won, and cool that I could get up the road beside him . . . you've got to celebrate success like this in the team and re-evaluate what's next."
For Cooper, it marks the culmination of hard work on the professional circuit.
He has established himself as the leader on the road for this young Avanti team.
"I've been riding now for 10 years, I've come second in this race to Gordon McCauley before," said Cooper.
"To get the jersey now I just feel like everything I've been working towards and building towards, putting in 10 years of hard work has paid off and there's justification for sticking at it and nutting it out."
The under-23 race was won by Hamish Schreurs, a Christchurch local who has plenty of experience of Dyers Pass as his family home is on the descent from the climb.
He hoped the result was a good birthday present for his mother and said he might have been a surprise package to win the under-23 race.
It follows the women's road race on Saturday where Commonwealth gold medallist Linda Villumsen took a decisive victory, riding away from the field and crossing the line 7 minutes and 49 seconds ahead of Christchurch's Sharlotte Lucas to claim her first New Zealand national title. Fairfax NZ