Avanti Racing's Joe Cooper claims opening-stage time trial at NZ Cycle Classic

TOP TRIO: Avanti Racing's Joe Cooper, is flanked by runner-up Fraser Gough, right, and third placegetter, Morgan Smith, ...
Fairfax NZ

TOP TRIO: Avanti Racing's Joe Cooper, is flanked by runner-up Fraser Gough, right, and third placegetter, Morgan Smith, after winning the opening-stage time trial of the NZ Cycle Classic in Palmerston North.

He was the last man down the chute, but Joseph Cooper blitzed the rest of the field to win the opening-stage time trial of the New Zealand Cycle Classic in Palmerston North yesterday.

Cooper's Avanti Racing team-mate Fraser Gough was the 12th man to go, riding 4 minutes 19 seconds over the 3.5km course and it looked as no-one in the field of 80 would overhaul him.

But Cooper, who was second in the time trial at the national championships and won the road race, flew home in 4min 9sec, to win by 10 seconds.

"I just took on the advice of my team mates who went out there previously and they said you can go full gas the whole way," Cooper said. "I took that on board and tried to go a bit quicker than full gas and ended up getting myself in a hole."

It is the second time in three years Cooper has won the tour's prologue, having won it the last time he rode the classic in 2013.

Third was Morgan Smith of the Subaru Albion team in the same time as Gough, but he was behind by thousandths of a second.

Smith leads the under-23 classification and Avanti lead the overall team classification.

It was thought it would have been hard to get much of a lead on a short 3.5km course, but Cooper's 10-second lead and having team-mate Gough second has Avanti in a prime position after day one.

Their team-mates Jason Christie and Taylor Gunman are also in the top 10.

Daniel Barry of Australia team Budget Forklifts, who won the tour last year with Michael Vink, was fourth and New Zealand rider James Oram fifth.

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The second stage of the five-day tour today is 132km from Palmerston North to Apiti, Pohangina and finishes in Ashhurst.

NZ Cycle Classic time trial results: 1. Joseph Cooper (Avanti) 04m09s; 2. Fraser Gough (Avanti) at 10s; 3. Morgan Smith (Subaru Albion) at 10s; 4. Daniel Barry (Budget Forklifts) at 12s; 5. James Oram (NZ) at 12s; 6. Tyler Spurrell (AUS) (Data#3 Symantec) at 13s; 7. Nick Bain (Nature Valley Avanti) at 13s; 8. Taylor Gunman (Avanti) at 13s; 9. Dion Smith (NZ) at 14s; 10. Jason Christie (Avanti) at 14s; 11.

 - Stuff.co.nz

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