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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March 10th, 2013

Motatapu

2 years ago when I raced the Motatapu I set the race record so this year the expectation was there for me to beat that record but as it turned out jet lag had really taken it’s toll on me. With far from ideal preparation after landing in NZ only 2 days earlier I realised my legs weren't up to the task at hand within the first few kilometres but hung in for as long as possible, only to watch the race disappear up the road in front of me hopelessly a few Km’s later. A disappointing day but in hindsight I think I expected too much from my body after arriving home that close to race day spending a whole day and night making frequent trips to the toilet after arriving home due to some dodgy airline food.

In hindsight I probably shouldn't have raced. Lessons learnt, who knows if I decide to race again next year. It really depends on my schedule and what I value as being worthwhile to my preparation for the big European races or not. My race priorities have drastically changed over the last year and will continue to do so as I head forward. As for now I will spend two weeks at home before heading to Australia to race in the Oceania Mountain Bike Champs in Hobart, Australia on the 31st of March.

March 3rd, 2013

Cannondale MTB Team Camp Finale Ligure and Italian National MTB series race

The Cannondale Factory Racing and Overmountain team camp was this year held in the seaside township of Finale Ligure, in Northern Italy. Everything about the place was amazing, from the sandy beaches, the tight narrow streets, great food and incredible MTB trails. Team Camp involved plenty of interviews and photo shoots as well as a mock Enduro race and also a XC relay race held with the journalists who had travelled from all over the World to be there. It was an incredible week, albeit a cold one!

We decided to incorporate the First of the Italian National MTB Rounds into our journey back to Germany, the unofficial “Italian Winter MTB Champs.” There was a huge field with a lot of big names racing which gave me a great chance to test myself against the best in the business once again. I had a great start and found myself in the lead group on the first lap and from there the race strung out a lot more. I fought hard and by the final lap of seven I found myself in 2nd place overall after Marco suffered a puncture while sitting in second position otherwise it would have finished up as a Cannondale Factory Racing 1,2,3 as Manuel Fumic took a convincing win. All in all a fantastic start to the season for the team and a great 2 week introduction for me to Cannondale!

2013 Team Camp

February 26th, 2013

Cyprus Sunshine Cup XCO Lanarka, Cat 1

This race seemed to come around really fast and it wasn’t really one I had been targeting but yet I was still keen to put on a strong showing wearing my new National Champions jersey at the first major event with the Cannondale Factory Racing team. Plenty of big names were racing due to the Cat. 1 status such as Olympic Champion JaroslavKulhavy, Manuel Fumic, Emil Lindgren and FabianGiger to name a few. The start was super fast and hard as expected and I managed to work my way up well from the 4th or 5th start row to be within the front group at the start of the first lap. From here the race started to spread apart and I was probably sitting in around 15th position at the end of the first lap. I was feeling great and over the next 4 laps I started to pick individual riders off in front of me finishing in 7th place only 1min 19secs behind the eventual winner JaroslavKulhavy with my team mate Manuel Fumic following him home in a close second place.

Straight after the race it was a quick trip to the airport to catch our flight to Italy for Team Camp in Finale Ligure where I will spend a few more days before heading on home. The weather is very cold compared to home but I’m in great company with my team mates and support staff, really happy to be with this amazing bunch of people!

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February 17th, 2013

Halberg Awards and 2013 National Championships

The morning after the National round in Auckland I drove to Rotorua to spend some time on the National Champs course. After a couple of days getting dialled in on the short and dusty lap I had to fly back to Auckland for the prestigious Halberg Awards. The Halberg Awards are the New Zealand sports awards and I was very privileged to be able to attend the awards dinner alongside New Zealand’s finest Sportsmen and Sportswomen as a finalist in the emerging talent category. Unfortunately I didn’t win the award but in consolation the winner Lydia Ko was always going to be a tough one to beat after her huge success at the top of the world’s golf scene. It truly was a night to remember and I had a great time socialising with everyone before flying back to Rotorua the next day after the Halbergs to race the National Champs the following day.

I woke up on the morning of the race feeling quite tired and lethargic probably due to a late night at the Halbergs and the hot weather. I went for a very short warm-up due to the heat and once the gun had sounded and we were off I was completely in race mode. Dirk and I immediately opened up a gap in the first section of singletrack and I was forced to work very hard to hang onto his wheel for the first half of the race. After about the 3rd lap of 7 I had worked out my race tactics and exactly when and where I would attack off the front. I knew that the safest way to ensure the win was to just sit tight on Dirk’s wheel until just before the entrance of the final downhill to the finish and I would just have to endure the attacks that he was regularly throwing at me up until that point. My tactics went exactly to plan other than a crash on a tight dusty corner, literally 30 seconds from the finish which luckily I had opened up a 10 second gap by that stage and was able to re-gather myself and jump back on still in the lead and round to the final corner in the lead to sprint across the finish line in the lead.

I was really impressed with how Dirk rose to the occasion and threw absolutely everything he had at me on his home course. He really pushed me to my limits and made it a true National Championship race and it also provided a great spectacle for everyone who turned up to watch. It was great to be able to win on my new Cannondale F29 Carbon as well. The bike was super light and performed exceptionally well. It was special to be able to take the first major win of the season for my new team. It was also good to see such a huge turnout of Under 15, 17 and 19 rider’s race as well ensuring the numbers across many fields were well up on previous years. The future of NZ Mountain Biking looks very bright heading forward.

SONY DSC

February 10th, 2013

New Zealand XC MTB Cup round 3 Hunua, Auckland

This was my first race in a few weeks so I was very interested to see how my form had progressed since racing in Bluff in early January. I lead into the first singletrack and shortly after up the first climb Dirk Peters came flying past so I jumped on his tail and over the next few laps we opened up a sizeable gap. With 2.5 laps to go I decided it was time to put the hammer down and I left Dirk to take the win by about a 1min 30secs leaving me very satisfied with how far my form had progressed in the time spent away from the race scene. This was also my first win on my new Cannondale F29 so all round it was a good day, with Nationals in a week’s time I was left in a good headspace.

January 6th, 2013

New Zealand XC MTB Cup round 1, Bluff

This race for me was important to get a good indication of where my form was at the beginning of the season. The field was small but strong and I made sure I entered the singletrack climb first so that I could lead into the downhill which I was able to open up a gap each lap on. On the 3rd lap I suffered a mechanical while out in front which lost me around 4 minutes which was disappointing but not the end of the world as this was not a UCI race or anything too important. In the end I finished as the 2nd Under 23 rider, just behind Logan Horn with Dirk Peters winning the Elite Men’s race.

December 13th, 2012

Cannondale Factory Racing

I am very excited to announce that I have signed with the Cannondale Factory Racing MTB team for 2 years starting on the 1st of January 2013. This will be a great step forward in my career as I step up from Under 19 to the Under 23 category and face new challenges. I’m really looking forward to riding alongside my new team mates who have proven themselves to be up with the very best in the world, and I’m sure they will be a positive influence and great role models for me in the years ahead. This year I will be based in New Zealand until early April before heading overseas to base myself in Germany over our winter months with a 3 week break back home in New Zealand over June/July to refresh before the World Champs in late August/early September. I am currently doing some base miles to get back in shape for the New Zealand and Australian races after a long off season focusing on school exams.

I can’t wait to get back into some racing starting with the first National XC MTB round in Bluff on the 4-6th of January. 2012 has been a great year with my first ever introduction to professional mountain mike racing with the Trek World Racing team which was an incredible experience and a taste of what’s to come. Thanks to all those who have supported me up until this point in my career, I look forward to keeping you all updated over the 2013 season which looks to be more exciting than ever as I make the transition from school-kid to fulltime racer!