May 25th, 2015

2015 World Cup # 1 Nove Mesto, Czech Republic

Cooper

I was really unsure what to expect in Nove Mesto. I’d had a pretty rough build up at home in New Zealand due to falling ill after returning home from the USA. My original plan was to wind back the training after Oceania’s and then do the races in the USA without expectation. But as it turned out I arrived fresh and fast in the US and had some great races. Upon my return home I had to continue to rest up for a further for 2-3 weeks to try and get healthy. I managed to cram a couple of weeks training in before developing a sore throat again and having to take things easy for the 1.5 weeks prior to my departure to Europe. I then had 9 days to try and recover from the travel and jetlag before racing. 

Three days out from the race I started to feel reasonably good again but after a terrible couple of nights sleep before the race for reasons unknown I wasn’t in a good position to perform well. As soon as the starter’s gun sounded I realised I had no energy in my legs and suffered for the whole race, eventually rolling home in 30th position. To say I was gutted would be an understatement, but at least I now had a benchmark to work from. With the second World Cup just one week later in Albstadt, Germany I was under some serious pressure to turn the ship around quick!  

March 23rd, 2015

2015 Bonelli & Fontana US Cups

After Oceania’s I spent a week at home before jumping on the big bird to head Stateside. I arrived on Wednesday afternoon and tried to settle into daily routine as quickly as possible. Not made particularly easy by the time change and a packed schedule but I had to make do nonetheless. Come race day at Bonelli on the Saturday I felt more recovered but still not at 100% so I wasn’t expecting much. The mercury had soared to north of 35 degrees Celsius by the time the race started so staying cool was always going to be a huge priority of mine. I had a great start from the second row and hit the front early on leading into the first single-track. After half a lap I decided the pace was too fast to maintain for the remaining 6.5 laps and eased back a little to the main bunch. As the race wore on my legs felt better and better and with two laps to go I found myself fighting it out for 3rd position.

The last lap was flat out and I was very happy to come home in 3rd position especially after such a short turnaround after the long flight and the heat. The lungs took 4 days to recover after breathing in so much dust throughout the course of the race. One week later it was time for the Fontana round of the US Cup series and with HC points up for grabs instead of Cat 1 points like the week  prior it was bound to be a tough day at the office! I felt amazing right from the get go and set about sticking near the front and keeping the pace high.

With 3 laps to go the race was really starting to break up as riders started to get shelled out the back. My legs still felt great and I was very confident I could take the win so I kept the pace up on the second to last lap with the intention of opening up the taps up the climb on the last lap. Everything fell into place and up the last climb I gave it beans to open up a 10 sec gap by the time we reached the descent.  I kept it smooth down the hill to reach the last flat section with 1.5 km to go. From there it was a straight out drag race to the finish line where I took the win by a safe distance! I was over the moon with the result and it was great feeling to put out another world class performance against a stacked international field. Now time to head home and regroup before entering the second phase of the season. So far so good!

March 7th, 2015

Marriotts Hadlee Sports Awards 2015

It was a lovely evening at the Canterbury Sports awards, with plenty of the regions sporting, administrative and coaching talent up for recognition. I had been nominated in the sportsman of the year category and was up against some serious competition from numerous codes of sport. It was a nice surprise and a huge honour to be named as Canterbury’s sportsman of the year and to also take home the supreme award! I’m really looking forward to this upcoming season and hopefully ticking off a few more of my goals!

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March 4th, 2015

2015 Oceania MTB Championships, Toowoomba, Australia

After Nationals I spent the week at home to finalise my preparations for the Oceania Champs in Toowoomba, Australia. I knew I was on good form so was keen to make the most of it and bag plenty of the UCI points that were on offer! I was happy to have received a dispensation to race in the Elite category instead of Under 23 but this also meant to race was going to be absolutely brutal as I would be going up against Dan McConnell the number 3 ranked rider in the world. The temperatures had soared into the 30’s and at around 80% humidity I knew it was going to be a long, tough day at the office. I had a great start and lead into the first single track. From there I kept the pace at a steady tempo as the field started to string out behind. Fellow Kiwi Sam Gaze came through on the second climb to keep the pace high and on the 2nd lap Sam, Dan and I had established a lead over the chasers as we took turns at the front of the race. On the 3rd lap Dan started to ramp up the pace and Sam dropped off, eventually withdrawing from the race. I managed to stick with Dan until halfway through lap 4 of 6. From there I eased up and conserved my 2nd position along with my legs which I still needed for another 3 days of racing! Overall I was very happy with my second position in such a stacked field of riders.

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Day 2 was the Oceania Eliminator Champs. I knew it would be a tough race to win but with UCI Cat 3 points up for grabs I thought I’d may as well give it a nudge! I was the fastest qualifier and progressed through each round easily. In the final I came up against the 2013 Eliminator World Champion Paul van der Ploeg and we had a great battle the whole way around the course. He had too much power in the end and outsprinted me to the line. Happy enough with that!

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Day 3 was the final round of the Subaru Australian National Series, also held in Toowoomba on a very similar track to what the Oceania Champs were held on. I had another good start, slotting second into the single-track behind big man Paul VDP. I managed to overtake him before the first downhill section and started to open up a gap on the chasers before a dropped chain cost me precious time and dropped me back to around 5th spot. I was quickly able to regain my position at the head of the pack before a couple of riders starting launching their own attacks which I was able to follow. I took it easy on the rough descents to prevent my chain from falling off again and lap by lap the field whittled down to just a few remaining riders. On the 4th lap Dan took the front again and powered away from the rest of the pack. I chased hard to eventually come home in second position less than a minute back. Very happy with how my legs felt after such a short turnaround between races.

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The final days racing was a UCI Cat 3 Short Track Race, 25mins + 3 laps. I kept amongst the top 3 at the head of the race as the laps wound down until with 3 laps to go it was just Dan and myself left to battle it out. I played my cards perfectly and led into the last lap before opening up the taps on the final descent to open up a 10m gap on Dan but heartbreakingly my chain dropped off JUST before exiting the single track onto the finishing straight. I popped it back on and crossed the line in second, pretty disappointed not to grab a gold medal on the last day of completion but nonetheless happy with how I rode! We then rushed back to our accommodation to shower up, pack our bags and bikes and escape to the airport. Time to replace a worn drivetrain I think!!

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I will spend the next week at home taking it easy before jetting off to the California for 2 more races as part of the Sho-air US cup. Can’t wait!  

February 14th, 2015

2015 National Championships, Rotorua

After all the hype in the media and my 2nd placing last year on the identical track in Rotorua I was feeling particularly nervous for this one! Having said that I was also feeling confident as I knew I was in a good run of hot form. I really wanted to regain the national champions’ jersey so I could wear it on the world stage once again. The start of the race went to plan and I felt great on the first lap, keeping a fast pace as the field whittled down to just 3 riders at the head of the race, myself, Sam Gaze and Dirk Peters. On the 2nd lap Dirk couldn’t maintain the fast pace and dropped off to leave just Sam and I to duke it out for the remaining 4.5 laps. It was a very tactical cat and mouse game just as it was last year and I was unable to get away from Sam until halfway around the final lap when he made a small mistake which gave me a 10 metre lead which I was then able to capitalise on. I pushed hard to the finish and crossed the line with a solid gap to reclaim the Elite National Champion’s title! Stoked! I can’t wait to wear the jersey both locally and on the World stage.

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February 8th, 2015

2015 Kaiwara Classic

It had been 3 years since I last raced the Kaiwara Classic and I was excited to make a return to an event that had helped spark my passion for mountain biking when I first raced it at 12 years old. The course features some serious climbing and the hot weather made for a testing day at the office. I covered the approximately 45 km in around 1hr 44 to take the win in a new record time and got in a good solid hit out before Nationals in a weeks time. It was a great day at the office and I loved catching up with plenty of old cycling friends, not to mention the Fresh Harris Meats Butchery sirloin steak that I won as a prize!! I could never marry a vegetarian!

January 24th, 2015

2015 St James Epic

The St James Epic has been a favourite of mine ever since I first raced it 3 years ago. The race travels 103km through the beautiful St James Station and with plenty of climbing and rugged terrain it is a true test of ability. I decided to treat this year’s race as a long training ride and slipped off the front of the lead group down the back of Mailing Pass, the first big descent. From there I just kept riding a steady tempo, finishing in 4hrs 51mins to take my 3rd win in a row. It was an extremely hot day with temperatures in the high 30’s so I was grateful I didn’t have to push hard the whole race and could just ride a steady tempo. My average heart rate in the end was 136bpm which was a lot less than last year where I pushed a bit harder. Hope to be back next year for my 4th year in a row, schedule permitting.

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January 17th, 2015

Hanmer Hammerhead

It was a last minute decision to head up to Hanmer Springs for this race. I hadn’t raced it in over 3 years so I decided on the morning of the race that it would be a fun event to do once again. My coach had me on a 4hr steady pace training ride so I made it tried to ride as conservatively as possible with an average heart rate in the end of 147bpm. Nice and low! The course was great fun and I ended up riding for another couple of hours home on the road bike to round off a good solid day on the bike. Hopefully I’ll be back next year.

January 11th, 2015

NZMTB Cup, Wanaka

The race was held up at the Cardrona ski resort which had only just recently been opened for mountain bike access. It was my first time up there so I was a little unsure what to expect. The ski resort was much bigger than I had imagined with plenty of accommodation, chairlifts and mountain bike tracks. Although there was sunshine and blue skies, our lofty 1,800m altitude along with a cold mountain breeze cancelled that out with temperature on race day being in the low teens. It was actually a lot better than the forecasted weather which predicted 2 degrees and rain in the morning!

During my warm up I must have incurred a slow leak on my rear tyre as when the race started I immediately noticed it had a very low pressure. I nursed it around the first lap, pushing hard up the climb to ensure I had enough of a lead before the rough and rocky descent back down to the start finish and the tech zone. I changed my rear wheel in the tech zone and exited onto the track in 4th position approximately 15 secs down on the leaders. I worked hard to quickly bring back the gap and re-establish my lead. I maintained a solid tempo through to the finish, eventually winning in close to 3mins. Overall I was very happy with how I rode. Looking forward to Nationals!

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December 26th, 2014

2014 Wrap Up

After a disappointing World Champs it was finally time to hit the reset button and relax. We hung around a bit longer in Norway to watch the downhill and chill out before jumping on the plane to head back to Germany. The weekend after Worlds I travelled Austria for an Enduro race, the Ischgl Overmountain Challenge, a great event which is very well supported by Cannondale. After a few days riding on my new 27.5 Jekyll I started to get back the Enduro buzz and my speed.  I raced smoothly and came home with 4th position in a stacked field, a result I was very happy with. After the race in Ischgl I flew to Martin Whiteley’s place in Granada, Spain for a couple of weeks rest and relaxation in the Spanish sunshine and plenty of good food. I had a great time there with lots of fun riding on the Jekyll high up in the Sierra Nevada mountain range which was good training for the upcoming Enduro World Series round in Finale Ligure, Italy.

The Enduro World Series race didn’t start out to well after I sustained a partially dislocated thumb in practice. This meant I didn’t practice a couple of stages as much as I would have liked. I had my thumb well taped up but on the first stage I was far too cautious and lost a lot of time. I decided to man up and push through the pain and the next 5 stages went reasonably smoothly, apart from a pinch flat on stage 4 which I was luckily still able to nurse to the finish line. I end up finishing around 32nd I think, with times so tightly packed and with the most star studded field to ever take the start of an Enduro race I was pretty stoked to end up so far up the final results sheet! After Finale it was finally time to come home after a very busy 3 months in the Northern Hemisphere. I’d had some huge highs and big lows but overall I was satisfied with how things had panned out and that I’d tried to make the best out of each situation I found myself in.  It was great to be able to catch up with all my mates once more and to see my family. There wasn’t much time for rest though as I soon had to jump in my car and drive up to Auckland for meetings with Sky Next, and other sponsors. 

I also had to meet with BikeNZ in Cambridge and spent some time training in Rotorua. It was great to be able to catch up with plenty of mates up north along the way also! Something I don’t get the chance to do during the season. I have also managed to escape into the backcountry a couple of times with a few friends for a bit of an adventure in our great backcountry. It’s good to escape the hustle and bustle of town for some fresh mountain air every now and then!  I’ve also competed in a few local events to keep the base fitness level ticking over, The Christchurch Singletrack club’s Mini XC series at Halswell Quarry and the Longbeach Classic. I also raced in the 3 Peaks Enduro in Dunedin which is probably my favourite event in NZ. Amazing tracks and fun genuine people make for a great weekends racing. I improved on my 3rd place overall last year to take home first place overall, pretty stoked! I’ll be back next year. It was also an honour to receive the award for North Canterbury overall Sportsperson of the year based on my results this season. I have re-signed with Cannondale Factory racing for 2 more years commencing on the 1st of January. I’m excited about what lies ahead and know that some of the bad luck I’ve had the past two years is due to turn around. I’m looking forward to giving it my all once again and hopefully collecting plenty of race wins in the process! That’s always the goal anyway haha. Thanks to all my sponsors for making life a lot easier and to my parents, friends and coach for keeping me in line and training hard.

I’ll keep you all updated, cheers Anton.