So we say goodbye to the New Zealand Cycle Classic for 12 more months. No sooner has it been than it feels like it’s gone; but it’s left us with memories. There have been several triumphs and we thought we’d share three of ours.
An absolutely and completely deserved winner emerged in the form of Joseph Cooper, and he and the IsoWhey Sports – SwissWellness team really had to go the hard way to get that GC triumph. The team won two stages, but the second stage they won saw them lose the jersey. Then after a quiet stage 3 of the race, it appeared that maybe they were keeping their powder dry for an all out assault later on; and so it proved to be.
Stage 4 was where everything turned upside down and blew up well and truly. Going into the stage Joseph Cooper wasn’t even top of the team on GC – tenth at 1 minute down to Sam Crome’s second at 10 seconds – it would surely have made more sense to side with the Aussie? But Joseph Cooper is not the reigning national champion for nothing. He has a reputation for his strength and it certainly went a long way to winning him the Tour as he took all but the stage in day 4 of racing; leaping from tenth to first and heavily in the hot seat. His successful defence of the jersey is a fitting end to the month that saw him take his second national road title.
But the team Cooper took yellow from were another triumph of this tour. Hayden McCormick, James Oram, Brad Evans, Hamish Schreurs and Luke Mudgway are a team full of youth, but they rode like a team of hardened veterans of the sport, riding aggressively and also effectively as they defended the yellow jersey in stage three and eventually ran away with two classification victories and third overall for James Oram.
In a team where any one of them could have laid claim to being a team leader – and we all know how clashing egos can effect team performances – the New Zealand National Team gelled and worked brilliantly. The accolades for Brad Evans – who claimed the sprint classification with a powerful final day’s display – and James Oram who took the king of the mountains title and final GC podium spot, say only part of the story of the team. Luke Mudgway could arguably put a case forward for being the tour’s most aggressive rider with the number of moves he contributed to during the Classic. Hamish Schreurs and Hayden McCormick were the understated members of the team whose tireless work kept Oram in contention overall and eventually also secured McCormick 11th place overall.
A word must also be mentioned of the performance of Hamish Bond. The Blindz Direct rider finished the New Zealand Cycle Classic 9th overall, one place ahead of teammate Michael Torckler. Some tactical refinement might be necessary, but Bond is like Cooper in that he has a huge ace to call on in his strength; and again he played that ace more than once. It can only be called a delight to have Bond taking a year off the boat in 2017 and we hope that he is as chuffed with his week as we were. He found himself up against a very tough international field which certainly put his tactical strength to the test; but Hamish has unquestionably got a special something when it comes to the bike and it’s still being discovered. If he were to show up for the New Zealand Cycle Classic edition 31 I wouldn’t be surprised if he lined up as an indisputable favourite for yellow.