Cooke takes Bay Classic opener

Oz crit. champ continues winning ways

Australian criterium champion Baden Cooke defeated a class field to take Wednesday's opening stage of the 2008 Jayco Bay Cycling Classic in Melbourne.

Although later revealing he was reluctant to be in the lead, Cooke broke away with national road champion Darren Lapthorne 35 minutes into the race, which was held on a tight 800-metre circuit on the Williamstown foreshore.

"I didn't want to go with half an hour to go, but I had to. Everyone was being quite aggressive so I just went," said Cooke. "Although I hadn't done an enormous amount of training compared to previous years, I was feeling really good on the bike."

Last year's overall winner, Mark Renshaw finished second, just in front of Hilton Clarke and a hard-working Allan Davis, who had do a fair portion of the chasing after Cooke and Lapthorne got away.

"I knew the whole race we were going to get across, and in the end we only just missed it. Rory Sutherland did a big turn across the back," said Renshaw.

It was a confident performance from the 2004 Bay Classic winner, who also revealed that he had spent the first 20 minutes of the race getting used to a new conveyance.

"I only got my new team [Barloworld] bike two days ago and before today, I had only spent two hours on it," said Cooke, who also took the initial lead in the sprint competition.

Alexis Rhodes was an even more emphatic winner after breaking away on her own at a similar point of the first round of the women's competition held over 45 minutes and three laps, 15 minutes shorter than the men's.

The four-time Bay Classic stage winner extended her lead over the peloton to as much as 25 seconds at various times as the race drew to its conclusion, and in the end was untroubled in defeating Belinda Goss and 16-year-old Megan Dunn.

"The key to the Bay Crits is to be up the front. We have to make sure we are in any break that gets away. Today I was not doing that much work in the break, but when it nearly got caught, I went," explained Rhodes.

The Jayco Bay Cycling Classic continues on Thursday with Stage 2 at Port Arlington.

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