Joe Cooper will go into Stage 1 of the 2013 SBS Bank Tour of Southland in the yellow jersey after taking out the fastest time in the team time trial today.
Cooper, one of this year’s Tour favourites and riding for Australian-based team Huon Salmon Genesys Wealth Advisors, completed the 4.2km lap of Invercargill’s Queens Park in 4minutes, 46.28 seconds in warm, sunny conditions.
In a tight finish, Kiwi Velo-Armstrong Prestige and PowerNet were each within three seconds of the winning team.
While Cooper admitted the time trial victory was “early days” he was confident his team was capable of staying in yellow as the week progressed.
“We’re not a team that likes to be on the back foot,” he said.
“It’s always a good feeling to be in it (yellow), you don’t have to go out and take it so to speak. We are comfortable leading tours – we’ve been doing it all year in Australian races. This is the first year I have come (to Southland) with a group of solid guys that I know can get the job done.”
James Oram (Kiwi Velo-Armstrong Prestige) will go into Stage 1 in the Harcourts Sprint Ace jersey, while Taylor Gunman (Huon Salmon Genesys Wealth Advisors) will wear the Henderson Construction Ltd U23 jersey and Paul Odlin (PowerNet) will wear the Jesco Hydraulics King of the Mountains jersey.
This year’s Tour has undergone a number of changes. Tomorrow’s stage will be a testing 168km from Gore to Invercargill. Later in the week the traditional two-stage day from Riverton toTuatapere, then Tuatapere to TeAnau, has been merged into one 148km stage straight through on Wednesday. On Thursday riders will face a 186km stage from TeAnau to Queenstown, finishing with an 8km climb up Coronet Peak.
Cooper, though, is far from focussing on Coronet.
“We’ve still got to get to Coronet first and tick off a couple of decent, hard stages before then,” he said.
Tour director of the past 28 years Bruce Ross said this year’s field was an interesting one, with any number of potential winners.
“It’s a very interesting field – there are many chances in there,” he said.
“It’s going to be a great race. There’s no one clear favourite in there – there’s a whole heap of them.”