Joseph Cooper (Huon Salmon-Genesys) moved one step closer to winning the inaugural Tour de Perth, after a thrilling third stage to the National Road Series opener around the hills of Kalamunda.
I had a look around and everyone was basically cooked so I bridged across to Semple... I launched with about 500 metres to go, and he had no answer.
Cooper's team-mate Nathan Earle won the stage, coming around a resurgent Adam Semple (Satalyst-Giant) on the windy final section of Ridge Hill Road known locally as 'the zig-zag', to complete an impeccable day for Huon Salmon-Genesys.
"The team was outstanding today," Cooper said. "Words can’t describe how well they rode together to just control the race from start to finish. Never once did I feel like it was falling apart.
"For Nathan Earle to cap off all the hard work with a stage win is just out of this world, you can’t ask for much more than that," Cooper said.
Earle meanwhile was overjoyed with the win which capped a sterling display from his Huon Salmon-Genesys team.
"To be able to retain yellow and still get a stage win is just pretty much a bonus," the Tasmanian said.
Cooper now holds a 51 second lead over Neil van der Ploeg heading into the Tour de Perth's final stage, just outside the city centre.
"We did all we could," said Stage 1 winner Jack Anderson (Budget Forklifts) flagging the race for overall honours is now all but over. "We tried everything, and I said to the boys as we finish today completely spent then we've done all we could do."
Heading into the undulating third day of the Tour de Perth the blue and orange squad held an enviable position in the overall standings, with five of its riders in the top-10. Defending its position was however to be no easy task with three leg-crunching laps of a brutally tough dead road course that promised a war of attrition.
While none of the three major uphill drags on the circuit were overly selective, the sheer speed of the racing, and the accumulation of lactic acid and fatigue in the legs withered the 135 rider field to fewer than 50 by the final lap.
Unsurprisingly, it was Huon Salmon-Genesys patrolling the front for the duration of the race marshalled by Pat Shaw playing the spoilers against the moves of Budget Forklifts and search2retain to dislodge Cooper from the overall lead.
Looking to put pressure on Huon-Genesys, Eric Sheppard (search2retain), Brodie Talbot (Woodside), Marc Williams (Budget Forklifts) each took turns trying to detach themselves meaningfully from the peloton, but none ever got far. Even when they did, they were always dutifully marked by a Huon-Genesys rider. Aaron Donnelly, Nathan Earle and Pat Shaw among the most attentive at the front.
Budget Forklifts was for the best part of the second half of the race never not on the attack - with Williams, followed by Alex Wohler, Michael Cupitt, Blair Windsor, Sam Horgan and finally Jack Anderson - leaving nothing in the tank.
Every bit of aggression was parried and neutralised by Huon. With 10km to go Budget had put up the white flag, Cooper's advantage at the top insurmountable. That left Satalyst-Giant, who'd ridden under the radar for much of the race to come to the fore working for Adam Semple.
The West Australian attacked hard on the steepest part of Ridge Hill Road, on the final lap, matched only by Nathan Earle. Semple sat on, and allowed Earle to work for the stage win, but the local was out-done by fatigue, cramping inside of 500 metres, to allow a stronger Earle to cruise home for the win.
Cooper came home with the bunch to keep himself in yellow led home by Brad Hall (Satalyst-Giant) and Neil van der Ploeg (search2retain p/b health.com.au).
Early in the 140km stage Paul van der Ploeg crashed on the descent, breaking his collarbone and was forced to abandon. He was taken to hospital and is currently recovering, with doctors to decide shortly whether he'll have surgery or not.
Stage 3: Kalamunda, 140km
1 Nathan Earle (Huon Salmon-Genesys) 3hr 21min 02sec
2 Adam Semple (Satalyst-Giant) 00:00:01
3 Bradeley Hall (Satalyst-Giant) 00:00:05
4 Neil van der Ploeg (search2retain p/b health.com.au)
5 Shaun McCarthy (Budget Forklifts)
6 Joseph Cooper (Huon Salmon-Genesys)
7 Jack Haig (Huon Salmon-Genesys)
8 Anthony Giacoppo (Huon Salmon-Genesys)
9 Jack Anderson (Budget Forklifts)
10 Nicholas Graham-Dawson
1 Joseph Cooper (Huon Salmon-Genesys) 5hr 26min 43sec
2 Neil van der Ploeg (search2retain p/b health.com.au) 00:00:51
3 Jack Haig (Huon Salmon-Genesys) 00:00:59
4 Harry Carpenter (Euride) 00:01:08
5 Jack Anderson (Budget Forklifts) 00:01:12
6 Aaron Donnelly (Huon Salmon-Genesys) 00:01:19
7 Samuel Horgan (Budget Forklifts) 00:01:21
8 Anthony Giacoppo (Huon Salmon-Genesys) 00:01:22
9 Nathan Earle (Huon Salmon-Genesys) 00:01:27
10 Nathan Elliott (Target-Trek) 00:02:06