Avanti top of NRS leaderboard ahead of Adelaide Tour

Hungry Drapac bringing strong squad to South Australian race

Avanti Racing Team will start the second National Road Series (NRS) race of 2014 as the top team with the top rider after Joe Cooper successfully defended his Tour de Perth crown. Mitchel Lovelock-Fay's third place overall also propelled the men in blue to the top of team aggregate standings.

Cooper took the lead following dominant display in the Rottnest time trial on stage 3 overhauling a 1:07 deficit to race leader Tim Roe (BudgetForklifts)  to move into yellow by just 4 seconds. The former Kiwi national time trial champion leads the individual standings on 15 points with Roe on 13 points and teammate Lovelock-Fay in third on 9 points.

Having finished as the top team in the NRS for last four years, Avanti Racing are keen to make it five in a row. Budget Forklifts will be ensure that Avanti have a battle on their hands for the title while UCI Pro Continental Drapac Pro Cycling will also present a tough challenge as will a handful of other strong Australian squads.

The Adelaide Tour is devoid of a time trial or hill top finish with tactical racing set to feature as a result. There is also no time trial at the race to the disadvantage of Cooper but Avanti will have a strong team of eight riders to challenge for the overall victory including last year's overall NRS winner, Jack Haig.

Neil Van Der Ploeg won the final stage of the race last year when riding for the search2retain p/b health.com.au team while George Tansley (Euride Racing) was the overall winner.

Avanti Racing for Adelaide Tour: Joe Cooper, Jack Haig, Mark O'Brien, Jack Beckinsale, Tom Robinson, Neil Van Der Ploeg, Brenton Jones and Ben Dyball.

At the Tour de Perth, Drapac started the 2014 NRS season by claiming the first stage through Will Clarke's crash-plagued criterium win in Fremantle. Travis Meyer earned the team a runner-up placing on Stage 2 and fourth overall. Drapac is hopeful that the short turn-around between the first two NRS races of 2014 will work in their favour.

"We just have to be a bit more creative and use our power more wisely and hopefully we can put that into the shorter stages," said Directeur Sportif Agostino Giramondo. "In Adelaide there are some longer stages, which is great, and I think it will be good for the team.

"The boys rode really well last week," said Giramondo. "They had all the other teams under the pump for most of the race but at the end of the day I don't think the length of the race suited us – it was a little bit too short. When you get races that are too short, you virtually find that 80 per cent of the field is very competitive and the top 10 or 20 per cent of the field is ultra-competitive."

The opening stage of the race will feature the testing Corkscrew Road climb, which has become a staple of the Tour Down Under in recent years, and is likely to provide an exciting conclusion to the stage although the next day has been marked as similarly decisive by Giramondo.

"If you can have a good result on the Corkscrew and have a 20-30 second advantage, the next stage is one of those stages we're hoping we can excel in with 156km around Woodside," Giramondo said.

"That's the one where if we can set up our trump card on the first day and then have a good hard solid day on the Friday, then that's the Tour. Saturday's virtually a criterium and Sunday's a kermesse."

Drapac for Adelaide Tour: Jack Anderson, Jai Crawford, Ben Johnson and Lachie Norris, Jonathan Cantwell, Bernie Sulzberger, Darren Lapthorne and Wes Sulzberger.

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