Cooper makes NRS history
Joe Cooper started the Grafton to Inverell with a slender three point advantage over Tim Roe (BudgetForklifts) in the National Road Series (NRS) overall standings and at the end of the 228km race, that's how it stayed.
The main breakaway of the day was a success and consequently both Cooper and Roe were unable to add to their points tally ensuring that Cooper would become the first New Zealander in the history of the NRS to claim the overall title.
"This is one of the biggest highlights of my cycling career," said Cooper who also won the Oceania time trial title earlier this year. "I'm just so glad we got it done today."
Cooper led the NRS having won the overall at both the Tour de Perth and Battle on the Border early in the season. A fall in the Tour of Toowoomba in May didn't stop Cooper from finishing the stage but it was revealed he had cracked his pelvis and would be forced off the bike for three months.
However the 2013 New Zealand national time trial champion was quick to reclaim the overall series lead from teammate Brenton Jones on his return to the NRS and described the joy at sealing the win.
"I'm so happy, it means a lot to me," Cooper said after his win was confirmed. "I've put a whole year of hard work into this and to cap it off today and actually survive the race myself is pretty good."
Cooper's win caps off another dominant season for Avanti who wrapped up its fifth straight NRS overall team award and keeps the individual award in the team following on from Jack Haig's win last season.
"Joe's win is a credit to him and to his teammates, in fact to the whole organisation," co-team owner Steve Price said. "It takes a lot of work to keep this team on the road and performing at their best so it's a great reward for everyone in what has been another great season for Avanti Racing."
Sean Lake rewarded for switching to the road
With Joel Person as the team's director sportif, African Wildlife Safaris had an experienced one-day racer in the team car at the Grafton to Inverell.
While Pearson twice won the Melbourne to Warrnambool, he never got to stand on the top step of the Inverell podium but he can revel in having a hand in helping Sean Lake take the win in just his second NRS event.
The 22-year-old joined the Melbourne-based team as a guest rider ahead of the Melbourne to Warrnambool race earlier this month which was his first race in the NRS.
A national level U19 rower, Lake only made the switch to the road in January and has progressed from racing criteriums, to racing the Victoria Road Series to winning in the NRS in just ten months.
"I've had a couple of good results in my rowing career but this is definitely the biggest thing, it's crazy, it's only my second NRS race," Lake said after his win which he celebrated by crossing the line facing forward, unlike his rowing wins.
"It's absolutely amazing, if you had of asked me before the race if I thought this was going to happen I would have told you pretty much no chance."
As a result of his win, Lake has been handed spot on the 2015 African Wildlife Safaris roster and will be a name to watch.
Ollie Kent-Sparks confirms one-day prowess
health.com.au-search2retain's Ollie Kent-Spark backed up his Melbourne to Warrnambool win with a second place at the Grafton to Inverell on Saturday to confirm his talent in the two one-day races that close out the NRS season.
When Cyclingnews spoke to Kent-Spark in May, he said his goal was a good ride in the 'Warny' before turning domestique and helping out his team at the Grafton to Inverell.
Kent-Spark had a breakout Tour of Toowoomba where he won a stage, was the most aggressive rider and won the king of the mountains classification but his season highlight was undoubtedly his win at oldest one-day race.
"I can't believe this has happened, it's absolutely incredible," said Kent-Spark. "This is 100% the highlight in my career."
Kent-Spark wasn't resting on his laurels at the last race of the season though as he made it into the day's breakaway and while he missed out on the win, he outsprinted his breakaway companions to secure second place and show himself as the most consistent rider in the one-day races.
Kent-Spark's win at the 'Warny' was the team's third consecutive win following on from Patrick Bevin's overall victory at the Tour of the National Capital and Tour of Tasmania and caps off a successful end to the season for the Victorian team.
health.com.au-search2retain finished the season as the third ranked team on the NRS standings while Bevin finished fifth on the individual standings.
While the NRS has concluded for another season, stayed tuned to Cyclingnews for coverage on the upcoming Australian racing action over the summer.
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