August 10th, 2013

2013 World Cup # 5, Mont Sainte Anne, Canada

Mont Sainte Anne was a track and venue that I loved racing last year so I was really excited to return once again. The course had changed a lot from a last year with the first kilometre or so of the track being cut to shorten the lap and make for a faster paced race. During the week building up to the race the track wore in and became faster and faster. I found it was super important to hold my flow the whole way around the lap as the course was moderately technical the whole lap and mistakes were really easy to make if you suffered a short lapse in concentration. My legs had felt great all week and I knew anything was possible in the race. Prior to the race I expected to finish in around 3rd to 8th position but knew that I could possibly to something really special on the day. I had a great start and defended my position near the front of the group during the start loop entering the single-track in 4th position. As the laps wore on riders fell off the pace one by one until eventually it was just me and the German rider Julian Schelb left at the front.

With 1.5 laps remaining in the race I opened up a small gap in a tight single-track section and decided it was my time to go and put my head down and opened up a sizeable gap eventually crossing the line to win my first ever Under 23 World Cup by 1min 7secs. After a very tough last few months due to illness and trying to build my form back up as quickly as possible this win makes it feel all worthwhile. I live for days like these and for it to happen on my 19th birthday makes it all the more special! Thanks to everyone who has stuck by my side and supported my throughout all the ups and downs. It feels great to repay your support and belief in me by taking the win. The biggest race of the season is still to come though, the World Championships in South Africa in just a few weeks’ time which will be a massive challenge. I am feeling super motivated for the World Champs and as always I can’t wait represent my country at the highest level.

Bring it!

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July 26th, 2013

2013 World Cup # 4, Vallnord, Andorra

The 4th round of the World Cup circuit was held in Vallnord, Andorra at approximately 1,900m above sea level. This was to be my comeback World Cup after suffering for nearly 2 months from illness.  Having also never raced at this altitude before I had no idea at all as to how I would feel during the race. I had a bit off a rough week leading up to the race but was feeling reasonable on race today. My plan was to take a more conservative approach at the start of the race and try ride a consistent pace each lap. I rode a very solid race to finish in 18th position, which left me feeling very satisfied with how far my fitness had progressed over just a couple of weeks solid training. After the race I then returned to Germany for another week of training before making the trip to Mont Sainte Anne, Canada for the 5th World Cup round of the year.

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July 8th, 2013

Testing Times

The past couple of months have been made very challenging due to illness but I can now finally say that I am healthy once more! A week after Albstadt I also came down with a bad chest infection and took 2 weeks complete rest and then started up again with some easy 1hr rides. I had the feeling that I was well enough to race again and started an Italian National series race in Vermiglio but had to pull out early in the race as I realised I was still far from 100%. I still hoped I would be able to return to World Cup racing the next weekend but early into the week I realised that it would not be wise to race and I could potentially end up doing more harm them good, especially not really knowing what was wrong with my body.

I talked with my Personal Manager and my Team Manager and came to the agreement that it was best I headed home to New Zealand a few days earlier than planned for a range of tests and to try return to full health. Early blood tests suggested I had initially caught a viral infection, most likely gastroenteritis which was then followed by a chest infection and as I was returning to health a head cold which knocked me back once again. About 7 weeks after I first fell ill, my blood results have finally all returned to normal and I am able to resume training once again. I will fly to Spain on the 13th of July for a week’s training before heading to Andorra for the 4th round of the World Cup series which will be used mainly for training. Enjoying being back on the MTB!

May 25th, 2013

2013 World Cup # 1, Albstadt, Germany

Albstadt turned out to be a big disappointment for me. I knew my form leading into the race was red hot but unfortunately I fell ill the day before the race and spent the night with vomiting, diarrhea and a terrible stomach ache. I didn’t manage to get much food in me at all and on the day of the race the only thing my stomach could handle was bread and fluids. By the morning I had stopped vomiting but my stomach still felt terrible so I was running on little sleep and food. I decided I would start the race just in case a miracle occurred and I felt okay in the race. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and half a lap into the race my legs blew to pieces. My body was completely unable to recover from any effort and from there rode the race out with my main rival last year Victor Koretzky who had a chest infection; disappointing for us to both have such bad days. I had a few questions afterwards as to why I didn’t pull out and for those who wonder there are a few reasons…

The main one being pride and that once you allow yourself to pull out it is very easy to get into the habit. I kept going in the spirit of racing and my belief that if you feel you can start then you should be able to finish. On the day my mind was much stronger than my body and in hindsight I shouldn’t have started the race. On Wednesday my condition wasn’t much better so I took a visit to the doctor for a variety of tests confirming I have picked up a virus and therefore need to rest up so will not be racing the second World Cup round in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. A tough choice but I’m sure in the long run it will prove to be the best decision. While this throws my hopes of overall World Cup success out the window I am still targeting some big results at the upcoming World Cup rounds and World Champs. A temporary step back now to achieve many steps forward soon. Every athlete goes through rough patches, the ones that have the mental fortitude to cope with it will come out the other end stronger than before.

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May 10th, 2013

Chies d’Alpago, Italy

The week building up to this race I had slept very poorly for some reason and this combined with a big training load and a long day’s travel meant the legs felt well below their usual self on race day. On the morning of the race my stomach didn’t feel right and I wasn’t able to eat my usual pre race nutrition and I still had this feeling when I started the race.

I managed to make up some places off the start but quickly realised my legs had nothing and that this was not a day to push my body hard as it was only going to put myself in a hole for the weeks ahead. Instead I sat up and just rode the 6 laps at a steady tempo to the finish, not wanting to pull out. At the end of the day I know this was the best decision to make, you have to learn to understand your body and know when you can and cannot push it. The World Cup season starting in just over a week is the priority and where my focus lies. I will now spend the next week back home in Esslingen before heading to Albstadt most likely on Wednesday.

My race is on Saturday at 3:30pm.

April 29th, 2013

Montichiari, Italy

The Italians certainly know how to put on a good race! Montichiari proved to be yet another great race course with an amazing atmosphere thanks to the passionate spectators. I started on the 3rd row and was able to make up a few positions on the super fast start to put myself around 10th position into the singletrack. When you start on the 3rd or fourth row you need to be both patient and super aggressive. You need to know when the right time to seize an opportunity is and be completely in the moment or you will lose the chance of picking up another position on the congested start/first lap. Each position is crucial so the first 10 minutes of the race are always super hectic as everyone jostles for position.

After the first lap is over everyone has found their rhythm and usually continues at that intensity/pace for the rest of the race. Once again I felt really strong in the race and was able to attack up all the short punchy climbs and pick up time on the riders in front of me each lap, also managing to ride the muddy downhills smoothly and consistently to put myself in 2nd position by the end of the race. In my opinion this was my best race of the season and I look forward to coming back to race in Italy again next weekend!

April 24th, 2013

Heubach, Germany

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I had never raced on the famous Heubach course before and everyone had been telling me how brutal it was. They weren’t wrong! Put simply the course is one steep long climb followed by a nice flowing singletrack descent that was made interesting by the muddy conditions. For this race I was in the Under 23 category and faced some tough competition especially from the Belgians.

The conditions certainly leveled the field making for some tight close racing. I had plenty of position changes throughout the race due to mechanical issues caused by the mud but persisted and rode a smart race to take the victory with my team mate Keegan Swenson having a great day and coming home in 3rd position to round off the final podium position. This was a race that was won not entirely by my legs but also a composed head. I was very, very happy with how I rode.  Another race ticked off the list and more points gathered as the first World Cup draws closer.

April 20th, 2013

Nalles, Italy XCO Cat 1

It was great to escape the cold German weather for a few days to head to Nalles in Italy for another race.  After a very picturesque four hour drive we arrived in Nalles to a stunning 26 degrees and blue skies. Perfection. I rode 3 laps of the course the evening prior to the race before settling in back at the hotel for some delicious food and drink, good fuel for the long race the next day! Race start was at the usual Sunday afternoon race time of 2 pm so I was able to have a nice lazy morning and enjoy breakfast and the scenery before rolling down to the pits for the start of the race.
 
The course was super fun once the big climb was out of the way! It was basically a long switchback climb up and then some nice single track descending on the way down where the spectators were crowded. I started on the 3rd row and was able to pick up a few spots on the tight congested start loop to sit around 12th into the singletrack. From there the leaders quickly disappeared up the track    so I had to be patient and wait until I had a passing opportunity once out of the singletrack. For the remaining 7 laps I was able to lay down consistently fast laps and reel in riders one by one, eventually finishing in 2nd position behind my team mate Manuel Fumic exactly the same result as the last time we raced in Italy, I think we might have to race there more often!
 
With this result I collected 40 more valuable UCI points something that will come in handy especially later down the track once the World Cups start. After the race we took a short drive a little further up the Vinschgau valley to the town Latsch were we would spend almost all of Monday being shuttled up hills and riding down some of the best singletrack in the world on our Cannondale Jekylls. We also found time to try plenty of beautiful local foods all in all the perfect weekend!  

April 7th, 2013

BMC Racer Bikes Cup round 1 Schaan, Lichtenstein Cat 1

After suffering very badly at the Motatapu from jet lag I almost chose not to race in Schaan as I had only arrived in Europe a few days beforehand and jetlag would be sure to play a part in my performance once again. I had made a few variations to my recovery from the trip this time that I hadn’t done for Motatapu and I was keen to test out how these would work.  UCI points go down to top 15 for a Cat. 1 race and in a stacked Elite Men’s field this was going to be a tough ask on any given day but I decided that a top 15 was still within my reach so I decided to give it a nudge. I had a great start and moved my way up to around 12th position after the 1st lap but started to fade badly on the 3rd lap and lost a lot of positions. The race was a long 9 laps and in the end I settled for 21st position, satisfied as I wasn’t expecting an incredible result so close to all the travelling I had done.

My fast first lap showed that I have the speed but I just couldn’t continue at that tempo due to my fatigue. I’m still glad I chose to race as each time I am learning how to combat the effects of jetlag better. You can never expect to perform 100% within the week of arriving in Europe but with proper recovery methods you can up your chances of achieving better results. A mixed bag for the team as a whole, Manuel took 2nd place only 2secs behind 1st place and current World Champion Nino Schurter while Marco crashed on the first lap and tore his arm open requiring a trip to hospital and a lot of internal and external stitches to bring the gash back together. Next weekend we will race in Nalles, Italy in another Cat. 1 race and against a very classy field. I can’t wait to test the legs yet again!

22, Cooper, Anton, Cannondale Factory Team, , NZL

March 30th, 2013

2013 Oceania Championships Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

After a tough week trying to recover from jet lag and the heightened effects of it after the Motatapu I had managed to put in 3 good solid weeks training. I was starting to feel in a lot better shape heading into what was destined to be a tough race at the Oceania Champs in Hobart, Tasmania. I was well looked after the week leading up to the race by the top Aussie junior rider Ben Bradley and his Dad which made life nice and comfortable and we also managed to fit in a couple of swims at the beach to cool off during my stay. Something I wasn’t going to get the chance to do once back in Europe! The course was very bland and basic but had a fine gravely surface on top of the hard pack base which meant you had to keep focused and on your toes down the descent. The course was basically one big zig-zag climb up and then a zig-zag descent down, nothing special. Because of the good UCI points on offer I decided to play this race safely and win in the least risky approach possible. That basically means not going off the front too early in the race and then facing the possibility of blowing up and getting reeled back in and also not pushing too hard on descents etc. or leaving it to a tight sprint finish. I played a good waiting game and waited for the other riders to tire before making my move on a very steep fire road towards the top of the final climb. I made a 10-15 second gap and then held that gap down the descent without taking any risks to the finish.

The Australian rider Jack Haig took 2nd place and Kiwi Dirk Peters rounded out the podium in 3rd. I was very happy with how the race panned out and the UCI points will be of great benefit in the big European races I have coming up. Thanks to Ben Bradley and his Dad Leigh and Sid Taberlay for making me feel at home and showing me all the good tracks! Also Russ Baker for the photos.

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