Baden Cooke overcame pouring rain to win stage three of the Tour Down Under on Friday.
The tough Aussie was part of a decisive break that was sparked by team mate Jeremy Hunt and then stormed to victory with a final surge to the line in the last kilometre of the 128km stage to the holiday town of Victor Harbor. It was Cooke?s fourth win at the Tour Down Under and was the first for Unibet.com as a ProTour team.
Rain affected the stage for the first time in the nine-year history of the Tour Down Under with many riders preferring to stay safely in the bunch. However Cooke and Hunt had targeted the short stage and Hunt dragged the break of 19 riders clear after 15km and worked hard to open a 14 minute gap on the bunch. Hunt also chased late attacks and then set up Cooke?s late attack, allowing him to comfortably beat Australian mountain bike specialist Chris Jongewaard (UniSA Australia) and Aussie CSC neo-pro Matt Goss.
“It’s always good to kick off with a win, we’ve gone into the ProTour this year and we want to make a big impact, that’s the best way to start,” Cooke said.
“I rang my parents this morning and said keep an eye out, I’m going to have a crack. I’d had two days looking after my legs in the peloton, I knew my legs were good. Until 40km to go I wasn’t really touching the pedals. I felt really good and Jeremy Hunt did a huge amount of work in the final to pull it altogether for me and I’m just glad I could put it together for him.”
Tasmanian Karl Menzies retained the overall lead but admitted he could lose the orange leader?s jersey on the tough climb near the end of Saturday?s fourth stage around Willunga.