Joe Cooper confident of returning to defend his National Road Series lead in 2014
Injured Subaru National Road Series leader Joe Cooper (Avanti Racing Team) met with Cyclingnews in Melbourne on Thursday at the Sheppards Cycles 2015 product launch featuring the latest road and time trial bikes from brands Malvern Star, Scott Bikes and Raleigh, as well as Cooper's team sponsor Avanti.
Cooper, who has been sidelined after suffering a fractured pelvis as result of a stage four crash at the Tour of Toowoomba in May. Cooper rode another 30km to finish the stage before pulling out of the race, and at the time told Cyclingnews he fully expected to defend his lead and race the Tour of the Murray in late July once the NRS resumed after a mid-season break.
However, the 28-year-old, 2013 New Zealand Time Trial National Champion and reigning Oceania time trial champion now says that a return to Murray, and perhaps even the Tour of the Great South Coast in mid-August may now be in doubt leaving a possible return for the Tour of Gippsland in September for the final five races of the series.
"At the moment I've only ridden on the bike for 15 minutes and it felt really awkward," said Cooper. "Maybe the idea of coming back for Murray was a bit of a stretch."
While Cooper admits that climbing back aboard the bike and finishing the stage may have done more harm than good, he told Cyclingnews that it still beat the alternative.
"Getting back on the bike and riding another 30km may not have been the smartest move," he said. "But I probably would have been kicking myself had I gotten to the hospital and they said [my pelvis] wasn't broken. I would have been pretty ropeable."
Cooper holds a 10-point advantage over teammate Jack Haig, who has headed to Italy to join the World Tour Academy, and BudgetForklifts rider Timothy Roe – both at 34 points.
"I have to step back and realise this is crucial for me and that if I come back too soon, it could jeopardise the rest of my season and long term plans," said Cooper referring to his goals of winning both the individual series championship and attracting a WorldTour team proposal.
"It's a legitimate setback, but I know the season is long and there are still a few races that I can still target, and even more critical that, I make sure that I nail them."
When asked about what has been most difficult about being off the bike, Cooper told Cyclingnews it has been not being there for his team in recent races, such as the UCI 2.1 Tour of Korea.
"It's been disappointing at times," said Cooper. "After some of my most recent performances, I felt like I had a really good shot of winning at the Tour of Korea. I saw Jack Haig getting third and I was climbing just as good as him before my injury and it would have been good for us both racing with each other and helping one another reach the top of the podium."
Team owner Andrew Christie-Johnston has been through this all before with his riders and told Cyclingnews he is confident Cooper will be back and ready to go.
"We would like Joe to be back on the bike as quickly as possible," he said. "When that is, we are not sure. He has an excellent base and is doing everything he can to get back, but there is no pressure on him to return too soon.
"I've remember when Richie Porte went through a tunnel and crashed, breaking his pelvis same as Joe in the process. At the time he was in great form and had a lot of interest from the pros. But once Joe, like Richie did, gets back on the bike and feels the wind on his face again, I wouldn't be surprised if he comes back stronger than ever."
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