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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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.