Reigning Subaru National Road Series champion Joseph Cooper (Avanti Racing) has blitzed stage two’s individual time trial and survived a dramatic late race puncture to hold the FKG Tour of Toowoomba lead with two stages remaining.

After winning the morning’s nine kilometre time trial, Cooper went into stage three’s 167 kilometre road race leading the Tour by 13 seconds to Daniel Fitter (ChaterMason). Read stage two report.

With 10 kilometres remaining in the stage, the peloton battled gravel roads before the day’s final ‘king of the mountain’ climb saw a select 20 rider lead group form.

“The last 10 kilometres were pretty hectic,” explained New Zealand road race champion Cooper. “There were a couple of gravel sections which really spiced it up, and after you’ve already ridden for four hours, it’s pretty tough.”

Cooper crested the climb in second position before dramatically suffering a rear wheel flat tire some hundred metres inside the final three kilometres, rendering Cooper safe and ensuring he would receive the same time as his rivals.

“I know the rule, if it’s inside the final three you should get bunch time but you never know. Because my tire was dead flat I had no option but to stop and then you’re never going to get back on because the bunch are doing 60 kilometres per hour.

“Thanks to the Neutral Support, they kept me calm and got me going pretty quickly.”

Up ahead, it was 23 year old Brad Evans (Pats Veg) who stole the show, out-sprinting German duo Michael Schweizer (African Wildlife Safaris) and Raphael Freienstein (CharterMason) for line honours.

“It’s great to get a win, it is our first for Pats Veg so I’m wrapped,” said Evans. “It’s my biggest win in Australia, I’m very happy with this performance. I’ve had other quite big wins, I’m a New Zealand national track champion, but this year I’m putting the road first so it’s great to get a win for Pats Veg.

 “It was pretty hectic there at the end but I felt really good and positioned myself well. Jack Bobridge had a good dig at the end there, we only just caught him around that last corner.

“I decided to back myself for the sprint and coming into the final corner, I jumped on the back of Raphael’s lead out and when his teammate peeled off I attacked and it paid off.”

Day three of the Tour will see riders tackle a 136 kilometre circuit road race in Top Camp.

Cooper retains his 13 second Tour lead to Fitter, with Jack Bobridge remaining third overall, 25 seconds behind Cooper.

Earlier in the day, narrow roads and strong wind gusts meant riders were involved in a number of small crashes inside the race neutral zone.

After seven kilometres of racing, the breakaway of the day established with Ben Hill (CharterMason), Cyrus Monk (African Wildlife Safaris) and Tour de Perth winner Guy Kalma (Otoc Racing).

The trio gained a four minute advantage, with Kalma unable to sustain the pace dropping back to the peloton after 30 kilometres.

Hill and Monk swept up the intermediate climb and sprint points, before Avanti began to turn the screws, slowing edging the break back into their sights in time for the finale.

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