Australia?s Baden Cooke showed he is on form ready for the 2008 season with an impressive solo win in the first criterium of the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic series in Melbourne on Wednesday.

The tough Aussie is known for his sprinting but attacked with Australian national road champion Darren Lapthorne on the twisting circuit in the trendy Williamstown’s area and the two stayed clear for the last 30 minutes of the race. Cooke jumped away alone 500 metres finish and crossed the line with his arms in the air as the other riders fought out the sprint for second place behind him.

2007 overall Jayco Classic winner Mark Renshaw was second and Hilton Clarke was third. Stuart O?Grady continued his return to fitness after his terrible crash in the Tour de France by finishing seventh.

“It’s fantastic. I didn’t plan to spend half an hour out there just suffering like that, but as it turned out the race was splitting apart and everyone was being quite aggressive, so I thought the best form of defence would be to attack,? Cooke told local Australia newspaper The Age.

“I got away with Lapthorne ? he’s a huge young talent ? and we just worked perfectly. We didn’t say a word to each other for the first 20 minutes, we just swapped well and worked hard.”

Alexis Rhodes won the elite women?s race, with a similar lone attack. Belinda Goss was second ahead of Megan Dunn.

The five-day competition is based on points rather than time, with five-rider teams sponsored by local companies. Britain?s Jeremy Hunt is part of Cooke?s detourmovie.com team, while Tom Southam is part of the A&I helicopters squad. Cooke rode for the troubled Unibet.com team in 2007 but will ride for Barloworld in 2008.

Thanks to their wins Cooke and Rhodes took the lead in their events with a total of 12 points. Thursday?s second race is around Port Arlington, with the three remaining events in Geelong, the cycling-mad town that will host the world road race championships in 2010.

Stage 1 – January 2: Williamstown

Elite men

1 Baden Cooke (deTourMovie.com) 12 pts
2 Mark Renshaw (Geelong Mazda) 10
3 Hilton Clarke (Portfolio Partners) 8
4 Allan Davis (FRF Couriers) 7
5 Rory Sutherland (Geelong Mazda) 6
6 Darren Lapthorne (A&I Helicopters) 5
7 Stuart O?Grady (Skilled) 4
8 Dean Windsor (Drapac Porsche) 3
9 Richard England (Jayco Bianchi) 2
10 Matt King (Jayco VIS) 1

Elite women

1 Alexis Rhodes (Pitcher Partners) 12 pts
2 Belinda Goss (Volvo) 10
3 Megan Dunn (CBD/NSWIS) 8
4 Kate Bates (Pitcher Partners) 7
5 Jenny Macpherson- Rapido Cycles) 6
6 Jessie McLean (Geelong Mazda) 5
7 Peta Mullins (Jayco VIS) 4
8 Gina Grain (Volvo) 3
9 Olivia Gollan (NSWIS Degani Café) 2
10 Oenone Wood (Geelong Mazda) 1