Cooper fights bravely for top-20 placing at Mont Sainte Anne





Anton Cooper is already looking ahead to a vital 2020 season after a creditable 20th placing in the elite male cross-country at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Canada.

Anton Cooper in action in the elite men’s cross-country race at the 2019 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships at Mont Sainte Anne, Canada. (Credit: Robert Jones).

Coming in under-prepared after a bout of ill-health, the Trek Factory Team professional rode consistently on the ultra-demanding Mont Sainte Anne course and finished strongly for his 20th placing.

“I gave it everything and 20th in the world is not to be sneezed at. I know that with good health and the right training I am capable of much better than that,” said the Altherm New Zealand elite rider.

“But given my situation, I think I have done as well as possible. I gave it all I had and I have to be satisfied with that performance, albeit that it has been a frustrating couple of months in the lead-up.”

Starting on the second row, Cooper was sixth through the start loop and midway through the seven-lap race he was back in 25th before pushing back to 20th at the finish.

“I definitely emptied the tank in the final couple of laps. It was a long race here and is such a tough course with a lot of climbing but also a lot of tricky descents over rocks. You have to be on your A Game all the time.

“A lot of riders crashed. I had several come down in front of me and that stops you dead here. And there were a lot of mechanicals on the sharp rocks. It was a pretty chaotic race but I love this course.

“For some it was an Olympic selection so there was a lot on the line and for me it is always an honour when I can wear the silver fern and race for my country.”

Fellow North Canterbury rider, Ben Oliver, from the Subway National Performance Hub, was 66th in his first elite world championship, after also coming in to the event carrying some illness.

There were no such issues for the Olympic champion Nino Schurter (SUI) who claimed his eighth world championship title - and his seventh in the last eight years - in imperious fashion. He won from compatriot Mathias Flueckiger, who recovered from a wheel change to pass Frenchman Stephanie Tempier on the last lap after he suffered a flat tyre.

After four years out with injury, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (FRA) returned to claim the elite women’s title from 2017 champion Jolanda Neff (SUI) with a rejuvenated Rebecca McConnell (AUS) third.

The focus for the Altherm New Zealand team on the final day turns to the downhill, where hopes were dealt a significant blow after national champion Brook MacDonald crashed heavily in training and he has been forced to withdraw. He was third fastest in official qualification.

Kiwi junior Finn Hawkesby-Black is also out after dislocating his shoulder in a fall in training.

Altherm New Zealand team results:

Cross-country, Elite male: Nino Schurter (SUI) 1:327:05, 1; Mathias Flueckiger (SUI) at 30s, 2; Stephanie Tempier (FRA) at 38s, 3; Titouan Carod (FRA) at 56s, 4; Gerhard Kerschbaumer (ITA) at 1:02, 5. Also: Anton Cooper at 3:50, 20; Ben Oliver at 1 lap, 66.

Elite female: Pauline Ferrand Prevot (FRA) 1:28:51, 1; Jolanda Neff (SUI) at 43s, 2; Rebecca McConnell at 1:17, 3.

U23 Female: Sina Frei (SUI) 1:16:34, 1; Laura Stigger (AUT) at 31s, 2; Loana Lecomte (FRA) at 36s, 3.