Professional riders only to line-up at UCI Mountain World Championships
Cycling New Zealand has named a seven-strong team to compete in next month’s UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Austria.
Anton Cooper in action at last year’s UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Mont Sainte Anne, Canada. (Photo: Robert Jones)
All seven riders are contracted to professional teams who are able to operate under the strict UCI protocols for mountain bike competition amid the coronavirus pandemic. This includes a current negative Covid test to enter Austria, and various health measures including tight team bubbles.
World No 19 ranked Anton Cooper (Trek Factory Racing) and Commonwealth Games champion Sam Gaze (Alpecin-Fenix) will contest the elite cross-country competition while Brook Macdonald (MS Mondraker), Sam Blenkinsop (NORCO Factory), George Brannigan (Propain Factory), Ed Masters (Pivot Factory) and Wyn Masters (GT Factory) will compete in downhill racing.
It will be a remarkable return for Macdonald, who suffered serious spinal injuries at last year’s world championships which initially threatened his ability to walk again.
Cycling New Zealand announced last month that only riders with contractual obligations with a UCI listed mountain bike team would be considered for selection, given the current health situation in Europe and the strict protocols demanded by the UCI.
Due to the New Zealand Government advice not to travel internationally, Cycling New Zealand is unable to provide any New Zealand-based staff to support these events, but is collaborating with the relevant trade teams.
The build-up for the World Championships will be markedly different for cross-country and downhill riders.
Cooper and Gaze will face a frantic two weeks of competition including back-to-back world cup rounds in Nove Mesto na Morave in the Czech Republic from 28 September to 4 October ahead of the World Championships starting on 7 October in Leogang, Austria.
However the five downhillers have no world cup racing ahead of the world championships with training from 8 October and finals on Sunday 11 October.
They will have two rounds of the world cup following Leogang, scheduled for Slovenia and Portugal later next month.
“Having two world cups so close together will have an effect on everyone, it is going to be tough and will take a toll on riders as well,” said Cooper.
“The races we have done are very strict on the rules around Covid, a limit on staff numbers, and limited practice times but you just get on with it. It is the same for everyone. You get on with it and it is the new normal.”
Cooper has been listed as a potential starter in the e-bike race at the worlds but with the packed schedule, he is an unlikely starter. However Taranaki’s Wyn Masters, better known as a gravity rider for his GT Factory team, will contest the e-bike race after competing at the debut race at Mont Sainte Anne last year.
Cooper has also been selected to race in his first UCI Marathon World Championship set for Turkey late next month, if suitable travel and logistics can be worked out.
“I am quite keen because it is something I’ve never done and will be a good experience especially in a year with such limited race experiences.”
The Cycling New Zealand Altherm Window Systems team for the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships is:
Downhill: Sam Blenkinsop (NORCO Factory), George Brannigan (Propain Factory), Brook Macdonald (MS Mondraker), Ed Masters (Pivot Factory), Wyn Masters (GT Factory).
Cross-Country: Anton Cooper (Trek Factory Racing), Sam Gaze (Alpecin-Fenix).
E-Mountain Bike: Cooper, Wyn Masters.
Marathon World Championship (Turkey, 24-25 October): Cooper.