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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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  

August 25th, 2015

2015 World Cup # 6 Val di Sole, Italy

I spent the week prior to the race up at altitude in Livigno, Italy to try and help acclimatise for the World Champs in Andorra. I felt like training had gone quite well so I was hoping for and expecting a good result to finish the World Cup season and head into the World Champs full of confidence. It rained overnight but I made the decision to stick with the same tyres I had used in previous days. This turned out to be a mistake as the track was much wetter than I thought and I was left slipping and sliding all over the place. My legs didn’t offer me any consolation and I felt flat for the first half of the race. I came back strong on the last few laps moving my way up from 9th to 6th place in the end just 10secs from  4th position. I was left disappointed with my race but I also know that anything can happen at the World Champs, I just need to iron out a few things.

7, Cooper, Anton, Cannondale Factory Team, , NZL   7, Cooper, Anton, Cannondale Factory Team, , NZL

I’m now back in Livigno where I will spend the week before flying to Andorra on Monday. I’m looking forward to this weeks training and then hitting World Champs hard! Hopefully I can finish the season with a race to be proud of and also something shiny to take home around my neck would be nice too!

August 9th, 2015

2015 World Cup #5 Windham, USA

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I gained a lot of confidence after my performance at Mont Saint Anne the previous week so I was really looking forward to having another crack at the podium in Windham. I slept poorly for the whole week, I’m not too sure why but come race morning I still felt in reasonable shape. I had set my sights set on a podium finish and wanted to do well on a course that didn’t play to my strengths at all. With a long climb followed by a fast non-technical descent it suited the skinny climbers but nonetheless I wanted to lay down a good performance. I felt a bit off at the start of the race and it took me 2 laps before I really found my rhythm and settled into a solid tempo. Just like in MSA I found myself locked in a battle for the 5th position with the Swiss Champ Andri Frischknecht. By working together we were also able to keep sight of the guys in the 3rd and 4th positons.

With 1 lap to go I was able to drop Andri and emptied the tank in pursuit of the podium, in the end crossing the line a bit over 20secs off a spot on the box in 5th place. While slightly disappointed to not be on the podium I was still happy enough with my performance and feel like my form is building nicely at the right time of the season. Tomorrow I will fly back to Germany for a couple of days before heading to Livigno before Val di Sole to squeeze in some time at high altitude. I’m feeling confident and really looking forward to what lies ahead!

August 3rd, 2015

2015 World Cup # 4 Mont Sainte Anne, Canada

I’d always enjoyed racing in Mont Saint Anne and after a much improved performance in Lenzerheide I was really excited about another 3 weeks training before heading to MSA for another crack at the podium. Things didn’t quite go to plan however and I fell ill a few days after Lenzerheide which forced me to have 2 weeks of zero intensity. Once arriving in MSA I found I was able to settle into the new time zone fairly quickly and I was sleeping well which was a welcome relief. I also really enjoyed the challenging track which has a nice natural trail feel to it, reminding me of the back country trails I used to adventure on back home in New Zealand. On Friday I finally started to feel more like my usual self on the bike which was a huge confidence boost just 2 days out from the race. Things were finally start to look a bit brighter.

My call up number was 9th so I had the first choice of where to line up on the 2nd row of riders. I had a strong start and was 4th into the first switchback climb. I had no idea of just how good I would feel later in the race so I was very cautious not to push too hard early on. I found my rhythm in 6th position and focused on trying to not let the riders in front out of sight. I fought hard over the last few laps to bring back Andri Frischknecht, the Swiss Champion in front of me in 5th position eventually passing him on the final lap to ride home in 5th place.

10, Cooper, Anton, Cannondale Factory Team, , NZL 10, Cooper, Anton, Cannondale Factory Team, , NZL

Overall it was a great day at the office and I’m really happy with how I rode. First and foremost I need to focus on my recovery and staying healthy before the World Cup in Windham, USA next weekend.  After that I will return to Europe for the final 2 races of the season, Val di Sole World Cup and the World Champs in Andorra. That’s it for now! Hopefully I can ride myself onto the podium next week in Windham!

July 7th, 2015

2015 World Cup # 3 Lenzerheide, Switzerland

This was the first real race of the year at altitude, or I guess the second if you count the NZ Cup round at Cardrona back in January. I still feel like I’m relative novice at altitude compared to most of my European and American competitors so I was curious to see how the thin air would affect me.  At 1500m above sea Lenzerheide is still around 700m lower than where we will race at the World Championships in Andorra.  Each day in training I felt more and more acclimatised to the altitude we were at which was a good sign.

I had a flying start, moving from the second row into 3rd or 4th position by the time we hit the first singletrack. There were a couple of tense moments with riders crashing just in front of me and jostling for position but by the end of the first lap I was with the leaders. On the second lap up the main climb I was forced to hold back and watch a few riders ride off up the road as I made a conscious effort not to go to deep early on in the 7 lap race. This tactic paid off and halfway through I started to reel the riders in front of me back in. I pushed really hard to try and catch Howard Grotts, the American in 3rd place but couldn’t quite catch him in the end, settling for a solid but very satisfying 4th place. It’s a great feeling to be back fighting for the top few spots again and I’m looking forward to the next World Cups in Mont Saint Anne and Windham in early August.

Cooper

June 10th, 2015

BMC Racing Cup Granichen, Switzerland

The week following Albstadt was another big race in Granichen, Switzerland as part of the BMC Racing Cup. It was a stacked field but with HC Elite points up for grabs I set my goal as a top 15 finish in the Elite Men. The mercury soared north of 30 degrees which made racing just that little bit more uncomfortable. I had a solid start entering the single-track inside the top 15. I managed to find a good group to ride with making up positions 9 through to 12 and sat with them for the majority of the race. On the last 2 laps I faded a bit but managed to hang on for 12th position in Elite and 2nd U23 picking up some valuable points. Now I’m looking forward to 3 weeks good solid training before the next World Cup in Lenzerheide, Switzerland on the 5th of July. I’d love to be back on the podium by then!

Cooper

June 1st, 2015

2015 World Cup # 2 Albstadt, Germany

I had managed a few good training sessions the week following Nove Mesto and was feeling in better shape physically and mentally. I slept well leading into the race and managed 7.5 hours the night before the race instead of just 4 hours the night before Nove Mesto.

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Racing at 9.00 am is something I still have to adjust too. I’m definitely not a morning person so a 5:30 am alarm sure isn’t my favourite way to wake up on the morning of a World Cup. I started on the third row after my poor performance the week prior and managed to enter the single-track around 10th position. I made a concentrated effort to not push too hard early on and midway through the race I was around 15th position. I had my sights locked on a top 10 finish and pushed hard over the last few laps crossing the line in 10th position. I was much, much happier with my performance and to be heading in the right direction once again. It just comes down to training and needing more time on the bike.