November 5th, 2016

Alpine Energy 10 Hour Mountainbike Race, Timaru

I was roped into a team with a bunch of roadies a few days before this event. And yes, they weren’t happy that they were generalised by that term! Can’t hide from the truth though can we?… haha. We expected a tough battle from a couple of other teams, which always makes a relay race more exciting.  After I started with a double lap, and the other top team suffering a mechanical, we opened up a quick early lead. They soon pegged this back a few laps later as each rider took their turn. My team mates had plenty of pedigree on the road but, after a torrential downpour the night before, the other team of young mountain bikers used their MTB skills to establish a strong lead. As each hour ticked by the track dried out and the time losses to the other team weren’t as significant but still we weren’t gaining any ground. Eventually, we finished on the same amount of laps and about 15 minutes behind after the full 10 hours. All in all, it was a great day out with a great bunch of people on a really enjoyable course! I’ll be back again.

cid_e4cf4ef4b16d4c4db32081d67b2a257e2300a

October 23rd, 2016

Cheviot Hills Ride

Cheviot Hills Ride was one of my first ever races and was part of the reason I got so hooked on mountain biking. Therefore, when I heard it was on again this year I had no option but to return! Set in the picturesque Cheviot Hills reserve the race has a very British vibe to it. There are remnants of an old homestead and the trees are predominantly oak and poplar, with excellent single-track throughout. This year the course was held entirely within the reserve and was a great mix of single-track, four wheel drive roads and open grass climbs.

I was very unsure of what to expect as this was my first race back from illness and surgery. After 4 months of doing not much at all it was damn good to be back on a start line again! With some stiff competition there I decided to try and play things cool for the first few laps (of 4). The lead group of 3 was whittled down to 2 by the second lap and on the third lap I was feeling good enough to have a crack at the win. I managed to get away and opened up a gap to the line, coming home with plenty of breathing space. It was a great feeling to be back racing again, feeling fresh and healthy and with a more responsive heart rate which was a great sign! Positive signs heading forward!

cid_833816aa8ce44bd3bf4e938f1ee1eb6b2300a

May 31st, 2016

2016 World Cup #2 Albstadt, Germany

I felt reasonably good on Tuesday and Wednesday’s training sessions but as has been the case the last few months I’ve been unable to recover properly from hard sessions. However, I still had to stay positive for a good result on the day. Early on in the race I realised things hadn’t gotten any better and I was still feeling flat and as though I had no spark. Racing like this is hugely demoralising – riding around in the 50’s for an hour and a half in front of 15,000 spectators when you know that you belong up the pointy end of the field. I rode together with some other riders who were having a bad day which made life a little easier, eventually crossing the line in 51st position. Obviously very upsetting for a rider who always gives it 100% but that’s just the way things have panned out this season. Some things I would love to go back and change but I can’t. I decided to have a few days off before heading to France for the final Olympic selection the following Sunday in the hope that a weeks rest/easy riding would give me back my legs of old.

Crowds at Albstadt

Update: We arrived in La Bresse on Wednesday night. I woke up around 3:30 am with a very sore throat and made the decision along with my team that the best option was to head back to Germany to meet with the Doctor to get checked over. My problem is most likely a fatigue/over-training, under-recovery issue but I will still try to rule out all other possibilities. I will take 2 weeks complete rest with the aim of returning to race at the Under 23 World Champs in Nove Mesto. I won’t be anywhere near peak form in Nove Mesto but I will do my best to defend my title. The earliest I can expect to be back to proper race speed is the World Cup round in Mont Saint Anne, Canada on August the 7th. I’ll be back.

May 20th, 2016

2016 British Cycling MTB XC Series Round 3, Dalby Forest

The team made the decision to head to Dalby Forest a few days out as a final preparation race before the World Cup in Albstadt. After getting sick in Cairns a few weeks prior and after the long journey to Europe I wasn’t sure how I would fare in the race. We arrived in Dalby Forest the evening before the race and I found the time to do 2 laps on the course. The next day the race didn’t start until 3:20 pm so we had a bit of time to chill out and get ready in the morning.

All the top British riders were there racing alongside with Marco and myself. I felt reasonably good on the first lap matching it with Grant Ferguson and Marco for a lap and a half before I had to back off the pace a bit. Looking over my shoulder there were a few others not too far behind and I knew it would be inevitable with 4 laps left that they would catch me. I sat up for a quick breather before jumping on the wheel of the first chaser, ex Commonwealth Games winner Liam Killeen for a few laps. He was definitely stronger than me but I rode smart and played to my strengths. I had to dig very deep to stay in the contest and the last lap was a good battle. In the end I managed to out sprint him to take 3rd place. I was satisfied with my position and knew that I rode the perfect race with what my body gave me on the day. However, I knew I had to improve a lot more before the World Cup the following Sunday if I wanted a chance at a good result. I had a great time in Dalby Forest on a really fun track and met some great people. Hopefully I get the chance to go back again one day!

May 6th, 2016

2016 World Cup # 1 Cairns, Australia

Unfortunately my bad luck at Cairns continued on from the last time the World Cup stopped over here in 2014. My memories of severe food poisoning which side-lined me last time in Cairns weren’t good, but early on things were looking up and training was going well. However 3 nights out from the race I came down with a killer sore throat and a slight fever. I did the only things I could do which was to stay positive, rest and hydrate well but unfortunately the bug I had caught hung around until race day. I went to the medical tent before my race to get a final check over before the race and they advised me that I could start but if I felt bad to ease right off.

My start number of 30 meant I was on the 4th row which was good enough for me. I had a great start and within 300m I was in the top 5 before the rider in front of me clipped a marker pole and went down in a cloud of dust. I jacked on my brakes and skidded right over top of him only to be passed by about 10 riders in the process.  After the start loop I was in 16th position which wasn’t too bad but I was starting to feel the effects of my illness which were being amplified by the extremely hot and humid conditions. After the first lap I decided to back it right off before I caused any serious damage to my health, and just cruised around to finish back in around 60th position.

Summed up it was another disappointing race in Cairns but I can take some positives out of it as I know I will bounce back soon. Tests at the Doctor showed nothing too serious and just that I picked up a viral infection at a bad time! Hopefully that’s my bad luck over for the rest of the season and the next races go to plan! I’m now back in Germany where I will be based until mid September.

134A5833

March 27th, 2016

2016 Oceania Mountainbike Championships, Queenstown, New Zealand

After speaking with my Coach and Doctor about my symptoms we decided the best thing to do during the week between the National and the Oceania Championships was to rest. I hadn’t been able to get my heart rate above 170 bpm for a while and my power was down across all sectors which is a sign of fatigue, as 180bpm is usually my max HR. I only rode my bike twice during the week for a total of 1.5hrs and 4 laps of the course.

Without any hard efforts during the week I was really unsure of what to expect but early on in the race I could tell it was going to be a much better day then the week before! My legs had showed up to the party this time along with the rest of my body. I played a smart race, trying not to expend too much energy early on and after 2 laps it was myself, Dan McConnell and Sam Gaze out in front. On lap 3 it was just Dan and myself left to fight it out for the win. On the 6th and final lap I launched an attack up the last major hill before the final downhill opening up a gap to cross the line in 1st place!

DSC06873 (1)

DSC06945

A massive turn around after the week prior and great to be feeling fit, fresh and fast again. I am now back home and taking things easy for another week to make sure I am properly recovered before I head off to Cairns for World Cup #1 in a few weeks time. Can’t wait!

March 19th, 2016

2016 National Mountainbike Championships, Cardrona, New Zealand

To sum it up briefly, Nationals did not go to plan. After a strong showing at the Pioneer things were looking up for the season ahead, but even after a couple of weeks rest and easy riding I struggled to regain the form I had shown pre Pioneer. I was based at altitude for a few weeks prior to Nationals which didn’t allow my fatigued body to fully recover. However, at the time it had seemed like the best build up to the Nationals race, as it was also held at high altitude. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and there’s always something to learn.

On race day the clouds rolled in, the temperature dropped and the rain poured down. I felt alright off the start line but early into the second lap I could tell something major was missing and Sam Gaze, who I was with at the head of the race, sensed this and attacked.

IMG_2066 - Kopie

My body wouldn’t allow me to follow and I was forced to drop back and ride my own rhythm. I held the distance to him for one more lap before I got a front puncture which was the nail in the coffin for me. I managed to hold off the riders behind to cross the line in 2nd place and collect some valuable UCI points.

IMG_2164

IMG_2169

All in all it was a disappointing race for me but I had a great time staying up at the Cardrona skifield in one of the apartments there. Hopefully I will be back in the future sometime!

February 22nd, 2016

The Pioneer 2016

Stage 1: Christchurch Prologue

Stage one of the inaugural Pioneer was the shortest of the race but the most intense. Based on the Port Hills in Christchurch teams took off in 20 second intervals. With Dan and me as the top seeds we knew we would have to push hard on the first road section before the climb really began. We worked well together and rode a good solid speed up the Kennedy’s Bush climb before reaching the highest point of the day at the top of the Flying Nun trail. From there we cemented our lead with a smooth descent to the finish line on Bowenvale Ave, finishing with a lead of around 3 and half minutes over second. We then drove to Geraldine where tomorrow’s stage was due to start early the next morning.

Stage 2: Geraldine to Fairlie

From here the race really began with 106km taking the riders from Geraldine to Fairlie utilising gravel roads and steep farm tracks. Dan got a puncture about an hour into the stage which dropped us well down the pack but within 45mins we were back at the head of the race. Over the last 40 kilometres or so the track deteriorated becoming steeper, rougher and slower going which wasn’t too bad for us as we managed to gain an advantage over the Kona boys here. At the end of the day we had gained around 10 minutes over the second place ‘Kona B’ team.

DSC06318

Stage 3: Fairlie to Lake Tekapo

Stage 3 of the Pioneer took us from Fairlie to Lake Tekapo. At ‘only’ 73km’s long, you could be forgiven for thinking this was going to be an easy day, but it turned out to be nothing of the sort! Dan’s lockout broke on the start line so he was forced to race over what turned out to be the roughest stage of the race with his bike fully locked out. I sure was glad I wasn’t him as to be fair my legs also weren’t feeling too flash as the ‘Kona A’ team fought hard to make up ground they had lost on us due to a mechanical on stage 2. We managed to out manouvre the Kona A team coming into the finish area, outsprinting them for the stage win and making it 3 wins from 3 starts.

sportograf-73346569_lowres
(photo credit Sportograf.com)

 

Stage 4: Lake Tekapo to Lake Ohau

The organisers touted this stage as one that could be used as a recovery day. With around 60kms of flat bunch riding to begin with everything felt easy until we hit a massive climb. I likened it to riding up a wall, with the track around 30 percent gradient in places we climbed 800 vertical metres over just 4 kilometres. Crazy! Dan and I both agreed that this was the hardest climb we had ever ridden, it was just brutal, yet we somehow managed to ride the whole thing and gained a couple of minutes at the top of the hill. From there we took things a little easier across the tops before making the big descent down to the shores of Lake Ohau. After a few km’s on the flat the Kona A team had caught back up with us and we rode the last 20 km’s together with it eventually coming down to a close sprint finish. Dan and I snuck away with the win to make it 4/4.

sportograf-73350576_lowres
(photo credit Sportograf.com)
sportograf-73349569_lowres
(photo credit Sportograf.com)

DSC06427

DSC06429

 

Stage 5: Lake Ohau to Hawea

This was Queen stage of the race. At 112 kilometres long and with 3,578m elevation gain we were due for MASSIVE day in the saddle. Dan and I had a lead of around 30mins over Kona teams A and B heading into the stage and our aim for the day was to not lose any of that advantage. Things turned out even better than expected however as we both discovered our good legs again just when we needed them most, motoring up the huge final climb to extend our overall lead by the days end to around 40 minutes. This was my longest day ever on the bike totalling 6hrs and 17mins of racing.

Stage 6: Hawea to Snow Farm

Stage 6 looked like a breeze after all the challenges we had faced over the previous days. The day started with 40km’s of flattish riding on wide cycle trail and single-track before branching off onto farm trails to make the long trek up the hill to the Snow Farm alpine ski resort. It was yet another good day for Dan and I as we rode clear of the chasers and hammered home an advantage of around 13mins at the finish line to take our overall lead out to around 54mins, a comfortable margin heading into the final day.

DSC06510

DSC02881

Stage 7: Snow Farm to Queenstown

With the overall title close to being wrapped up Dan and I just had to make it through one more days racing. We set ourselves the goal of staying at the head of the race to keep out of trouble and to try and make it 7 wins from 7. All was going well until we went the wrong way with a 2min lead up our sleeve and only 20km’s to go! By the time we realised it was too late and regardless of our strong chase right to the line we were unable to catch the Kona A team who took the stage win by a little over a minute. It wasn’t enough to dampen our spirits however as Dan and I were ecstatic to finally put a very tough weeks racing behind us and come away with the overall win after a mammoth 26hrs 50mins and 53secs racing. A big thanks to my parents also who followed the race as our support crew and of course to Dan McConnell for coming over from Aussie to be my team mate. It sure was worth it in the end!

DSC06612

DSC06693

October 14th, 2015

Olympics Mountainbike Test Event, Rio de Janiero, Brazil

My original plan was to stay on in Europe for another 3 weeks after World Champs. I would then head to Rio for a Cat 1 race and the test event on the Olympic track en route home to New Zealand. I decided a few weeks before Worlds that I would instead finish my season with the World Championships race and head straight home. I then spent 4 weeks at home chilling out and getting life in order after 4 months on the road in the northern hemisphere. It was great to finally get the chance to relax and spend some time with my friends and family after such a long time apart.

Rio was calling however and I wasn’t going to miss out on the chance to see the Olympic venue and ride the track! So on the 7th of October I headed back to the airport to begin my trip to Rio for the official test event.  The main purpose of the trip was to collect data on the Olympic course by using a Go Pro and also a Garmin to collect data from my SRM power meter and heart rate monitor.

ALL

95% of the course was out in the open with no tree cover. The course was completely man made and artificial with plenty of technical rock sections and slippery loose corners. It had been packed down hard by a roller of some sort but at the same time it was still great fun to ride with a high average speed. I managed to fit in 7 laps over the 2 allocated practice days and also a further 6 laps as part of the ‘race’ which I rode at a solid tempo. The test event was not a selection race for us so it was important for me that I viewed it as a test event and nothing more especially midway through my off season break. All in all it was a successful trip and I’m very glad that I went and took the opportunity offered by Cycling NZ to get some valuable time on the track.

15, Cooper, Anton, Cannondale Factory Team, , NZL

I am now in Germany and will spend the next 4 weeks with my girlfriend before returning home mid November. Once home again my focus will return to the upcoming race season and selection in the Olympic squad. I’m enjoying the hard earned rest but looking forward to next season all the same!

 

September 4th, 2015

2015 World Mountainbike Championships, Vallnord, Andorra

What a day…..what a race!

 

Well… where do I start!?

World Champs is one of those races where everything has to fall into place to win. I knew I’d had good form in Val di Sole but for some reason it didn’t click on the day and I suffered. Arriving in Andorra for the World Champs I knew I still had that good form but had to work out how to unlock it all on race day.

3, Cooper, Anton, Cannondale Factory Team, , NZL

I really enjoyed the changes they made to the track since the last time we raced in 2013. The track had lot more variations in terrain and featured some nice natural technical features. Heavy rain the night before the race meant I had to re-evaluate my tyre choice and 1hr before the race I decided to switch the more aggressive Schwalbe Nobby Nics. This proved to be a great choice as the track was very muddy and the roots and rocks were as slippery as ice.

3, Cooper, Anton, Cannondale Factory Team, , NZL

I had a great start and felt amazing right from the word go, reaching the front at the end of the first lap and spending probably 90% of the race there making sure I stayed out of trouble and rode my own tempo.With 2 laps to go it was just myself and a Frenchman Victor Koretzky left at the front of the race. I was stronger on the climbs and he was a bit faster on the flatter sections and running a few steep climbing sections in the mud whereas I rode to try and save energy.

3, Cooper, Anton, Cannondale Factory Team, , NZL

3, Cooper, Anton, Cannondale Factory Team, , NZL

3, Cooper, Anton, Cannondale Factory Team, , NZL

3, Cooper, Anton, Cannondale Factory Team, , NZL

It was a tough battle and I just tried to stay calm and use my head. I made sure I was first into the last singletrack with the plan of attacking up the last short steep climb which lead onto the tarmac with them 300m to the line. I did just that and opened up a 5m gap which I was able to hold till the line crossing just 2secs ahead to win my first Under 23 World title to go with my junior World Title in 2012. Hopefully there’s more to come!!

3, Cooper, Anton, Cannondale Factory Team, , NZL

7, Koretzky, Victor, BH-Sr Suntour-KMC, , FRA 3, Cooper, Anton, Cannondale Factory Team, , NZL 2, Ferguson, Grant, Betch.nl Superior Brentjens, , GBR

7, Koretzky, Victor, BH-Sr Suntour-KMC, , FRA 3, Cooper, Anton, Cannondale Factory Team, , NZL 2, Ferguson, Grant, Betch.nl Superior Brentjens, , GBR