September 10th, 2014

2014 MTB World Championships, Hafjell, Norway

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My 4th World Championship event didn’t end up as I had dreamed. After finding my form again at the Commonwealth Games I had high hopes for the World Champs but I didn’t have the legs I needed to be truly competitive on the day. I had a great start entering the single track first which allowed me some clear trail and breathing space for a few minutes. After one lap I was starting to feel pretty smashed and had to back off to prevent blowing up completely. I was able to find my rhythm riding in around 5th position. The riders at the pointy end of the race kept chopping and changing and with one lap to go I was still fighting for the 5th spot.

The American Howard Grotts flew past me on the last lap and he eventually came home in 3rd position. I couldn’t hold his wheel and finally crossed the line in 6th position. Not the rainbow stripes I had dreamed of but I left everything out on the track so can be satisfied knowing that I made the most of what the body could give on the day. Very motivated for next season and to put my bad luck from the past 2 years behind me! For now it’s time to relax and hit the reset button. A huge thanks to my family, supporters, and my main sponsors; Cannondale, Oakley, SKY Next and also BikeNZ for all the support they have provided and giving me such a great platform to go forward off. Looking forward to proving what I’m capable of next season! Bring it.

  Cooper

August 30th, 2014

2014 World Cup #7 Meribel, France

Cooper

We arrived in Meribel, France for the final World Cup of the year on Wednesday evening to prepare for the race on Sunday morning. The race was at altitude, with the course climbing to around 1,600m. Our accommodation was at 1,800m and I immediately felt the effects of the altitude. Headaches, dry eyes, burning lungs and legs made training and sleeping hard, but by Saturday I was feeling a lot more acclimatised and after an easy spin on the course I was feeling reasonably confident I could achieve a solid result. I had an okay start, slotting into the single-track in around 7th position. 

I made a concentrated effort to ride at a steady tempo early on and then build into the race as it entered the final laps. Near the end of the 3rd lap I lost my chain which cost me around 25secs and the group I was with. I slipped back around 3 places and had to try and regain my composure and get back into the race which was difficult without another rider to ride with. I managed to catch and pass the 8th and 9th placed riders on the next couple of laps and then set off in pursuit of the 6th place rider who I almost caught on the final lap, eventually finishing in 7th position. Not my best day on the bike but 7th is still a solid result considering my dropped chain and the altitude which seemed to affect me a bit more than some of the other riders. It was only my 3rd race at altitude, so it was a good learning experience as to how it affects me and what measures I need to take in the future to minimise those effects. I live at around 5m above sea level at home in New Zealand so altitude always seems to hit me hard! I guess the body isn’t used to it. I’m looking forward to World Champs which are only around 200m above sea level in Norway. Only one week to go until the final XCO race of the year!

Cooper

August 15th, 2014

2014 World Cup # 6 Windham, USA

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The last time a World Cup was held in Windham, USA was in 2012 where I competed as a junior. I rode to the win then but I knew coming back as an U23 in 2014 would make it a tougher result to repeat, especially on a course which doesn’t play to my strengths particularly well. It is basically one big climb followed by a fast open descent. After my Commonwealth Games performance I was feeling confident in my current form and pushed hard early on to maintain pace with the leader Jordan Sarrou of France. Near the top of the climb on the 2nd lap I decided the pace was too fast for me to maintain over the remaining 3.5 laps so I eased back and settled into my own race rhythm. Our fast pace at the beginning meant that I had some distance to work with the chasing group of 5 or 6 riders. I tried to maintain a solid tempo each lap and dug deep on the last climb to come home in a solid 2nd position, 40secs off the winner and about 20secs ahead of third. It was another confidence inspiring result before the all-important World Champs in just a few weeks time. Feeling good and happy to have some more UCI points in the bag.

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August 8th, 2014

2014 Commonwealth Games, Glasgow

What a crazy week it’s been! It’s a little hard to believe I’ve just won a Commonwealth Games gold medal. It literally is a childhood dream of mine come true and the perfect result to get what has been a real roller coaster of a year back on track. Not to mention a big boost of confidence heading into the World Champs in just 4 weeks’ time. I spent 5 weeks building up to the race at home on Christchurch which I believe contributed to my success, along with the support of my team in Europe. It had been a sort of rush and bust start to the season, a lot of travel and races with no chance to retain my form and keep training patterns going which showed in my results. Mistakes that I’ve learnt a lot from! I enjoyed the stability and familiar pattern of training week in week out on the Port Hills in Christchurch.

The weather was very kind to me considering it was the middle of winter with little rain and temperatures reaching between 10-15 degrees most days which made life a lot easier. I flew out of Christchurch on the 14th of July to the Cannondale Factory Racing team base near Stuttgart where I stayed for 10 days to recover from the jetlag and squeeze in a few more quality training days. I was stoked to be given a special new bike to first use at the Commonwealth Games. I then flew to Glasgow to join the rest of the New Zealand team in the Athletes Village about 5 days prior to my race. The atmosphere in the Kiwi camp was electric whenever a fellow athlete was competing with all eyes glued to the TV screens in the Athlete’s lounge.  The track team was hugely successful raking in numerous medals across a range of events, so the bar was certainly set very high for me and the other 3 Kiwi mountain bikers, Sam, Kate and Karen. I had felt great on the track and my legs seemed to have recovered well from the travel so I definitely felt like the win was going to be a possibility, and a medal a realistic prospect. The race didn’t start very fast but felt like it grew in intensity around the 2nd or 3rd lap. I felt really fresh the whole race and never like I was near my limit so with one lap to go I decided to put the acid on the others on a few of the climbs. I was able to open up small gaps but with such short climbs it was hard to establish any real sort of distance between myself and the opposition. 

With 500m to go it was down to just 3 riders, myself, Sam Gaze and the Aussie Dan McConnell. With about 200m to go I hit the gas from the front and immediately got a gap, which I was able to maintain until the finish line! It was a little hard to believe really. I had worked so hard the past few months with my sole intention of performing well at the Commonwealth Games so to cross the line in first place was really a dream come true.  Thanks to everyone for your support. Now my attention shifts to the World Championships in Norway on the 5th of September. I will use the World Cup rounds in Windham ,USA and Meribel, France to help finalise my build up for the World Champs so don’t have huge expectations for those events but would still like to achieve some good results of course! We are well and truly at the sharp end of the season now.

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June 12th, 2014

2014 World Cups # 3 & 4 Nove Mesto and Albstadt

After a couple of weeks at home it was time to return to Europe for the third World Cup round of the year in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. I had recovered quickly from the jetlag and my legs felt reasonably good but I’d only had about 10 good training days after returning home from Australia so wasn’t expecting to be at the pointy end of the field. I had a solid start, and felt quite good on the start loop and opening lap, making a concentrated effort not to push too deep early on and sitting within 30 secs of the leaders. Halfway around the second lap I got the ‘stitch’ in my stomach and had to slow right down to help it go away which lost a lot of time and places. It was all downhill from there and I eventually crossed the line in 16th position.

One week after Nove Mesto was the fourth World Cup of the year in Albstadt, Germany. Keegan and I both woke up on Wednesday morning with a head cold which was incredibly frustrating for me as I had hoped to be able to train hard and recover well in the days building up but instead I had to take things cautiously to avoid the cold spreading into my chest. I felt a little better on race day and came through after the first lap in 4th position with the leaders. Halfway around the second lap I started to drop back but came strong again for the last couple of laps, eventually taking 15th place which I was pretty happy with considering my health. I am now back home in NZ for 5 weeks to complete my build up for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on the 29th of July.

May 16th, 2014

2014 World Cups # 1 & 2 South Africa and Australia

Cooper

I was unsure what to expect from my performance in South Africa leading into the first World Cup race at Pietermaritzburg. I had felt great at the Oceania Championships held at home in New Zealand but far from my best at the 3 following races I had competed in in the USA and Italy.  This was due to a busy schedule of racing and travelling which I still hadn’t fully recovered from leading into the few days before the race. The course designers had made some major changes to the track which made it a lot better than the previous years I had raced there. There were more interesting and challenging sections added which made it a much more varied course than before.  I knew that the pace would be very fast on the first lap so I focused on getting a clean start and trying to make it into the single track first. I was able to do just that and set about riding at my own tempo for the duration of the race. I spent most of the race settled in around 4th or 5th position eventually crossing the line in 5th position. I was reasonably satisfied with that result considering the 30 plus degree heat and my form coming into the race. Damage control had been successful!

So then it was time to fly back home to New Zealand for a week before heading to Cairns, Australia for World Cup round #2. After the race in South Africa I’d suffered from severe stomach pain for about 3 days and on a whole felt pretty average for the next two weeks. About 2 days before the second World Cup race in Cairns, I came down with a terrible fever, vomiting and diarrhoea forcing me to sit out the race which was gutting. My team was very understanding about this and changed my flights back to New Zealand so that I could get a range of tests done to determine what had hit me.  The tests revealed that I had contracted a rare form of food poisoning, which was a relief to know that it wasn’t linked to any of the illness I faced last year. Luckily within a week all symptoms had passed and over the past two weeks I have been able to get in some solid training. I am now back in Europe for the next two World Cups. Hopefully the training I did at home will allow me to get some respectable results in the next two World Cups in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic and Albstadt, Germany. Following these races I will then return home from Europe for about six weeks to finalise my preparations for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on the 29th of July. Fingers crossed I can keep it all on track this time and won’t be derailed by any more illnesses!

Cooper

April 3rd, 2014

Summer Racing

I have had a great summer spent in New Zealand this year, with plenty of time to train, relax and catch up with friends and family. After returning home from Europe I spent some time off the bike, relaxing after a long and stressful 2013 season. The time to rest was soon over however and I was back to doing long hours on the bike to lay the foundation for the upcoming World Cup season. My coach and I decided that I would compete in only a few races during summer in New Zealand, most notably the 2nd National Cup round in Nelson, National Championships in Rotorua, the Karapoti Classic in Wellington, and the Oceania Championships held close to home at Mt Hutt, Methven.

I had no idea really what to expect going into the National Cup round in Nelson after experimenting with some very different training methods (better to experiment now then during the World Cup season). This worked well for me in Nelson where I took the win by close to 5mins but unfortunately a few days after I suffered a lot and was unable to train to any real intensity and felt quite tired in general for approximately 3-4 weeks. Unfortunately Nationals were raced during this flat patch of mine and the legs I had in Nelson 2 weeks earlier were nowhere to be found in Rotorua. I finished 2nd in a sprint finish which was disappointing but I was able to soon put that performance behind me and move on to my bigger goals that lie ahead later in the season.

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The day before the Karapoti Classic was the first day I had felt good in a long time and this gave me confidence heading into the race the next day. The Karapoti Classic is the longest running MTB race in the Southern Hemisphere and perhaps the most prestigious in the country outside of the National Championships. I was able to not only take the win comfortably but also break the course record set in 2007 by Clinton Avery by 6mins which gave a great boost of confidence just two weeks out from Oceania’s. Oceania’s were held at Mt Hutt this year which is close to home. Half the course suited me and the other half didn’t but I was able to play to my strengths early on and held the lead for the first half of the race before Dan McConnell came past at a great rate of knots. I couldn’t hold his wheel and suffered over the remaining laps coming home in 2nd place in the elite men’s field. I was happy with how I felt early in the race but frustrated to die so much over the last few laps, especially when I felt like I was riding at a good steady rhythm early on.

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After Oceania’s I spent a day at home packing before flying out to California for the 3rd round of the US Cup Pro series. It was also time for plenty of photos for our new team sponsor Sho-air who were great hosts for our visit to California. I felt jetlagged all week but managed to come away with 7th position in a very strong elite field and was also the first U23 rider which I was pleased about. The next day we flew out to Germany where I spent two nights before heading to Italy for a race in Montichiari. I placed 2nd at Montichiari last year so I was hoping for a strong result but unfortunately after a strong start I faded over the 2nd half of the race. I felt like I had the speed but not the freshness needed to hold that pace throughout the race, most likely due to a very hectic past two weeks. I finished 13th overall in the end against some very classy competition and was still the first U23 which was some consolation. I will now stay in Italy until next weekend for another Cat 1 race, this time in Nalles where I also placed 2nd last year, before heading down to South Africa for the first World Cup of the season on the 13th of April. Then it’s back home to New Zealand for a week before heading to Cairns, Australia for World Cup #2 after which I will return to Europe.

January 6th, 2014

2013 End of Year Wrap Up

2013 was a very up and down season for me. What started out looking promising after winning the Elite New Zealand National champs and building turned to disaster just one day before the first World Cup in Albstadt, Germany.  I fell ill to a virus, most likely gastroenteritis which was subsequently followed by a bad chest infection and then a head cold after arriving home in NZ to seek treatment.  After finally regaining my health 2-3 months after first falling ill I was able to return to Europe to begin my assault on the remainder of the season. I managed to get some good weeks training in in Spain before heading to Andorra for my first World Cup back. Unfortunately I came down with some terrible food poisoning a few days before the race so was far from my best but managed to piece together a solid race anyway to finish 18th.

A couple of weeks later was the Mt Saint Anne World Cup which I was finally healthy for and feeling great. It was a feeling of immense relief more than anything when I crossed the line first and in doing so became the youngest male ever to win an Under 23 World Cup. World Champs were a couple of weeks after Mt Saint Anne and things were finally looking good for me again. 1.5 weeks out from race day I felt incredible but unfortunately in the 5-6 days building up to the race I felt well below my best.  After an early race slump to down to 13th place I had to settle for 4th place just 7secs off a medal. Eager to improve on my World Champs performance I dug deep at the final World Cup of the year in Hafjell, Norway coming home in second position and rounding off an extremely hectic XCO season full of highs and lows. After Norway I found some time to relax before heading to Italy for a bit and then onwards to Southern France for the famous Trans Provence Enduro stage race. I had one of my most enjoyable weeks on the bike ever, riding some amazing trails in spectacular scenery and making some great new friends. I also managed to finish up in 7th place overall in a stacked field even after a puncture on the first day, a result which I was satisfied with in my first ever Trans Provence. I joined the team in Roc D’Azur, also in Southern France, doing some promotional work before returning home to NZ. In December I raced in the Three Peaks Enduro in Dunedin which I finished 3rd overall. I rode perfectly in each stage but on the final stage of the event, less than 1min from the finish I had a mechanical, losing my chain which cost me the overall lead putting me back into 3rd overall. I was very happy with my times though and how I performed in what is a new discipline for me, but one that I am proving to be very competitive in, even against some of the world’s best riders.

The NZ summer will be spent predominantly doing long base training rides and having fun on my bike, before kicking off the 2014 season in February with the Nelson National Cup round and the NZ National Champs where I will be back to defend my title on the 15th of February in Rotorua. I’ve been working hard as usual and hopefully 2014 will prove to be a successful season without any major hiccups along the way! I’m looking forward to joining up with the Cannondale team again in early March for some races in the USA and Europe before kick starting the World Cup season once more in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

September 14th, 2013

2013 World Cup # 6, Hafjell, Norway

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This year the final round of the World Cup series was held 2 weeks after the World Championships in Hafjell, Norway, which has also been confirmed as the venue for the 2014 MTB World Champs. The weather was surprisingly good during the week building up to the race with no rain which made course practice pleasant. The course wasn’t particularly to my liking but I knew that come race day the most important thing would be how well my legs were working. You can only focus on the things you have control over! Race day came around and the weather looked threatening right from morning. With a late start (4:30pm) I slept in a bit and then went for a short 30min spin with my team mate Keegan in the morning to wake the legs up. After lunch I headed down to the venue to warm up. The rain had still held off until this point and it only started to deteriorate halfway through the race, which didn’t affect the course all that much. I decided to be a bit more conservative during the early part of the race in comparison to World’s where I felt I suffered a lot during the middle sector of the race. This tactic soon started to pay off as one by one I reeled in riders in front of me, and with a couple of laps to go I found myself in third position not too far behind the two riders in front. I dug deep and on the last lap I moved into second position coming home approximately 30secs behind the winner.

This year has been a real roller coaster with its many ups and downs, twists and turns but stepping on the podium once more was the perfect way to end the World Cup season. To put the icing on the cake, team mates Manuel took a strong 3rd place and Marco 5th in the elite men’s race which also made us the number one team! It only seemed fitting for how hard we all have had to fight this season and a great reward for all the hard work the CFR staff have put in this year. On the 28th of September I will start in my first ever Trans Provence Enduro stage race which I am really looking forward to. A few days after that I will head back to France for the Roc d’Azur. I will just be having fun at these events; it’s time I gave my body a break before getting back to some longer base miles once I return to summer in NZ. Looking forward to the weeks ahead!

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September 2nd, 2013

2013 World Championships, South Africa

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I had big hopes heading into the World Champs in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa coming off the back of a win at the previous World Cup round in Mont Sainte Anne. During the week building up the race my legs didn’t feel at their best so I eased things off a little bit in training during the week hoping they would come right. I felt far from my best in the team relay just two days before my race and decided to not push it quite to my limit, to conserve a little for the big race which was the XCO. Rain looked imminent prior to the start of the XCO race but it managed to hold off until about halfway through the race. I had a brilliant start entering the first single-track in 3rd wheel, exactly the sort of position I knew I had to be. The pace was really fast and halfway through the first lap up the second main climb my legs decided enough was enough and I slowly dropped back throughout the next few laps sinking as low as 13th position, until I was finally able to regain my legs and find a solid rhythm. I managed to piece together a very strong second half of the race to come across the line in 4th place, only 7 seconds off a medal. The first half of the race was one of the toughest mental challenges I have had to overcome on the race track but I knew I had to keep on pushing if I wanted the chance of a decent result.

When I look back at my race 4th place is something I am proud of even though I had hoped for more. I gave it everything I could on the day. I’ll be super motivated to take the rainbow jersey next year! Thanks to my friends, family and supporters for getting me through a tough year. There is only one more big race to go, the final World Cup round in Hafjell, Norway and after that I have a month or so to chill out in Europe riding my Cannondale Jekyll and doing a few Enduro’s. Hopefully I am able to go out on a high note in Norway! Can’t wait.

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