New Zealand champion Joe Cooper wins Hainan finale, Jacopo Mosca claims overall

New Zealand champ Cooper wins Hainan finale, Mosca claims overall

05/11/2017 at 10:09Updated 05/11/2017 at 11:25

IsoWhey-Sports locomotive Joe Cooper steamrolls to a Stage 9 victory as Italian Jacopo Mosca takes home yellow for Wilier Triestina.

The general classification came down to the wire in the Tour of Hainan finale on Sunday, with Italian Mosca (Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia) narrowly holding on to the yellow jersey for his first stage race win of his pro career.

The reigning two-time New Zealand road race champion and 2013 national time trial winner crossed the line one second ahead of the approaching field, including runner-up Liepins and Ukrainian Andriy Kulyk (Kolss) after soloing toward his first UCI 2.HC stage win.

“It’s been a hard week, we’ve lost three guys and we wanted that top step on the podium with the sprinters and unfortunately they couldn’t deliver,” said Cooper, who also won his second ‘most active rider’ award of the race after taking the first honour on the opening stage in Wanning as well.

“I had to come out today and sort of just go about my work, and pretty happy with that,” he continued. “I thought those two guys that came across would spoil the day, but they didn’t have too much left so I just kept on riding.”

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In typical Joe Cooper-style, the man known as ‘JC Driver’ for his diesel engine-like output, turned the screws with 12km remaining for the second time in the race . Earlier in the 153.8-kilometre day from Lingshui to Wanning Xinglong, the 31-year-old from Wellington played a pivotal role in piloting teammate Sam Crome to additional five points on the first KOM of the day (Cat. 3) to wrap up the mountains classification jersey.

“The KOM was all pretty close and I decided with 5k to go before the climb I would go up the road and soak up the points and lessen the fight back in the peloton — and that worked,” Cooper explained to Eurosport. “I’m pretty stoked with the whole day and the great teamwork … we had a plan and we sort of stuck to it.”

According to Cooper, who is also a two-time Australian National Road Series champion, the stage victory marks a significant milestone in his career and perfect highlight to the season.

“This is the icing on my whole season,” he said. “To win an HC race in the New Zealand champs jersey that's just such a special thing for me. I've worked hard all year and this being my best season to date, hopefully I'm not done yet.”

Podium photo (Tour of Hainan)

Podium photo (Tour of Hainan)Eurosport

“I’m champion of Tour of Hainan, it’s unbelievable,” Mosca told Eurosport. “It was dangerous in the final because Zanotti and Kononenko took bonus seconds in the sprint, and when we arrived in the sprint without ‘Kuba’ because of his flat in the last 10k, so we tried and it was good.

“We were worried, because without him we couldn’t take the stage and we cannot take bonus seconds from the other guys,” he continued. “But it was very hard at the finish line.”

Podium photo (Tour of Hainan)

Podium photo (Tour of Hainan)Eurosport