Team director Cameron Watt had said he expected big things from Michael Cupitt in the days leading up to Grafton to Inverell, arguably Australia's toughest one-day race. Cupitt did little to disappoint his team director, riding a near perfect race by entering the early breakaway and then attacking with teammate Peter Herzig as the shattered bunch crested the Gibraltar Range. At the finish Herzig took the win ahead of Cupitt after the two had been on the attack for over 150km.
"I've been coming to this race since '06. Both [Herzig] of us have dreamed of winning this race so to do it together, I couldn't think of anyone better to win the race with. We usually room together, we've been on Budget racing together for a couple of years and we're pretty good mates," Cupitt told Cyclingnews.
"We put our heads down and got going. We thought we would just force the other teams to chase and Mark O'Brien could get an easy run. We heard we had three minutes and got excited," he added.
"With 30km to go we decided to empty the tank. Herzig was strong. He did the turn up Wire Gully and the whole way up the last climb. It was only fair that he took it because he was stronger. If it wasn't for those turns it might have come back."
Cupitt's result was further confirmation that he has what it takes to lead his Budget Forklifts squad for the coming year. Team director Watt had already signalled a number of riders will be moving on and Cupitt says that while he has enjoyed riding in a support role for Mark O'Brien this year, he's excited about taking on a more protected position in tours that suit his characteristics.
"I've had lots of second-places this year. I really just want to win the overall GC at a tour or just try and get that win."
In 2013 Cupitt will seek to convert some of those podium places into victories and feels ready to take a leadership role on the team that will be without O'Brien next year. O'Brien had already stated his intentions to return overseas and was one of the pre-race favourites to win the ‘Grafton'.
"Most of the races it's been for O'Brien and I've worked for him at those. That's been great but with him moving on it's a role the team want me to step up and take."
The 30-year-old Canberra resident was a powerful domestique at the hillier tours where he assisted teammate Mark O'Brien to overall wins at Tour of Mersey Valley, Toowoomba and North Western. Cupitt not only supported his teammate to the victories but was strong enough to finish 3rd overall at Mersey, 2nd at Toowoomba and 4th at North Western.
"Toowoomba or North West I want to win. Any of those tours with a hill-top finish. I think they favour me because I know I can get time gaps there. I've finished on the podium a couple of time at those races."
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