HUON-Genesys rider Jack Haig may be just one day away from securing victory in the Caterpillar Tour of Tasmania, but his team-mate Joseph Cooper stole the show during stage 7 with an impressive solo break to collect line honours.
The New Zealand national time trial champion was part of a breakaway group for most of the 83-kilometre stage before launching a solo attack with 20km remaining.
``This stage win means everything to me,'' Cooper revealed.
``I think this is probably my best win of the Subaru National Road Series so far.
``It's the hardest tour, especially at the end of a very taxing season. I'm just happy to get the job done for the boys today, and it's a bit of a reward for all the hard work I've been putting in this week.''
Despite being chased by Friday's stage winner Bernard Sulzberger (Drapac) and William Walker (Drapac), who finished second and third respectively, Cooper charged to the finish, to cross with a 49-second time gap.
``In my mind I had decided the 10km-to-go mark was when I'd have a go, but as it turned out, on that last King of the Mountain the break started to split up and I thought `I have to roll the dice now and have a crack'.
``I managed to get over the top with a bit of a gap. I knew Bernard and Will would probably try to get together and chase, but I just went into my drive mode and continued on to the finish.''
Cooper's victory all but ensures that team-mate Haig will clinch the tour, after the yellow jersey-wearer finished in a bunch alongside nearest competitor Robbie Hucker.
With one stage remaining, Haig was positive about his chances of finishing in the leader's jersey tomorrow.
``Another day down and the job is just about done,'' the Bendigo-based rider said.
``The boys did an amazing job today.
``We had a small breakaway go up the road with Joe Cooper and we just controlled it from there on in.''
Haig also admitted his delight to be alongside a notable list of yellow jersey alumni heading into the final stage.
``I'm extremely proud to be wearing the yellow jersey with only one stage to go,'' he said.
``When I looked at the people that had won this tour previously it's a pretty impressive list, with Richie Porte and Cadel Evans in there.
``I'd be honoured to get on that list with them tomorrow.''
The Caterpillar Tour of Tasmania concludes today with a criterium around Devonport from 11am.