Report from Cycle Classic
New Zealand road champion Joseph Cooper will return to the Wairarapa this month to defend his New Zealand Cycle Classic title.
Cooper, who won the 2017 New Zealand Cycle Classic with his team IsoWhey Sports Swiss Wellness following an outstanding ride during stage four of the five-stage event, is looking forward to defending his title at the Tour being held from January 17th – 21st.
“As a Kiwi it is definitely a must win race. It’s one of New Zealand’s biggest races and feels nearly as good to win as the national title,” says Cooper. “Winning the New Zealand Cycle Classic is always a great one for the team to get exposure especially early on in the season. It makes it easier for the following overseas races to know that we have a strong and cohesive team – it’s the best way to get the ball rolling at the beginning of the season!”
Cooper, who hails from Wellington, has been a pro rider since 2013 and has been three times NZ champion as well as the TT Oceania champion in 2014. He has also enjoyed a successful 2017 season. After winning the NZ road champion title in January, he won the NZ Cycle Classic in Wairarapa then competed with distinction on the Asian calendar including in the Tour of Korea, Tour of China and Tour of Hainan among others. Cooper also won stages in the tours of China and Hainan.
He will be in great company riding alongside experienced teammates Brendon Davies; the 2016 Oceania champion Sean Lake, this year’s Admiral Hill stage winner Sam Crome, Hayden Toovey and Nathan Elliot.
“Getting the home town tour win last year was a mile stone for me – and every year I have raced the New Zealand Cycle Classic has been a great challenge, I am finding that the competition is really growing for this race,” he says.
Unlike the 2017 race which saw riders finish part way up Admiral Hill – a stage billed “the Queen Stage” – the 2018 tour will see this stage finish on top of the hill, meaning riders will have 10km of hill climbing. Cooper predicts this will be even more of a challenge.
“I think finishing at the very top will throw a bit of a spanner in the works. It will take it back to the style of racing of a few years ago where everyone will be trying to keep the race together for that one stage and to really light it up. The climb can be brutal and steep in sections and can be 35 degrees … you can find yourself melting away into the tar,” he says. “Everyone will have to be on point, I am expecting a battle that’s for sure. After the hill climb will take some doing to getting back into the yellow if you have slipped off the pace of the front runners.”
New Zealand Cycle Classic race director Jorge Sandoval is thrilled to have the defending champion competing in 2018.
“Joe is such a determined rider, I am sure he is coming to the event with great aspirations that having him in the tour, I believe, will force other teams to make some changes to their pre tour tactics in order to control Joe. I believe whoever wins the stage to the top of Admiral Hill will win the tour,” says Sandoval.
The New Zealand Cycle Classic is recognised as the premier international road cycling event in this country and has developed a reputation for unearthing new talent, with many of riders having gone on to win stages in the Tour de France, the Tour of Italy and world championship titles. In 2018 it will be held in the Wairarapa from January 17th – 21st with more riders coming from around the world.
The five-stage tour features two new routes that weave through Wairarapa’s rolling country side and will also see the team’s presentation held in a festive evening setting on Tuesday, 16th January in Masterton.
Being held simultaneously, is Huri Huri a series of community based cycling events designed to celebrate the Wairarapa’s bike-friendly roads, tracks and trails; the people that ride on them and the bikes they ride.
These include: an opportunity to explore the historic Castlepoint Station by bike along three different coastal tracks on Saturday, 20th January and a fun, family friendly evening at Mitre 10 Mega Masterton on Tuesday, 16th January. This promotional evening will include a freestyle BMX display; fun cycle obstacle course for children; a free barbecue and a promotional circuit ride for club riders. The elite teams will also ride the same Criterium circuit enabling spectators to get a taste of what exciting, international racing will unfold in the coming days.
DETAILS FOR THE 2018 NEW ZEALAND CYCLE CLASSIC
Teams Official Presentation & Promotional Criterium: Tuesday, 16th January
Mitre 10 Mega Masterton, evening
Includes teams presentation, Criterium, Huri Huri BMX display, family BBQ
Stage One. Wednesday 17th January
Masterton – Alfredton – Masterton
Stage Two. Thursday, 18th January
Masterton – Gladstone Circuit – Masterton
Stage Three. Friday, 19th January
Masterton – Martinborough
Stage Four. Saturday, 20th January
Masterton – Te Wharau – Admiral Hill
Huri Huri event
Explore Castlepoint Station by bike, 20th January
Stage Five. Sunday, 21st January
Masterton. Riders complete 12 laps of a 10km circuit.