Oceania champion Anton Cooper, beset by issues that significantly comprised his summer build-up, was pleased with his 18th placing in the opening round of the UCI MTB World Series in the Czech Republic.
Fellow kiwi Sam Gaze could not follow up on his second placing in the short track race on Friday, finishing in 29thwith North Canterbury’s Ben Oliver and Rotorua’s Sam Shaw further down the field at the challenging Nové Město Na Moravě course in cold and wet conditions.
Cooper (Trek Factory Racing), starting off the third row, lost a minute to the flying leaders on the first full lap dropping back to 28th, but then began to move forward consistently in the seven-lap race to push up to 18th. He was the 12thfastest rider over the second half of the race.
“It's a very meaningful result for me after a horrid six months and gives me a benchmark to improve on for the rest of the year,” said Cooper. “I feel fine now but I lost so much of my preparation time over the summer so I am playing catch-up. Ï have the chance for some good training which I am looking forward to.”
His forgettable summer included being knocked off his bike by vehicles, food poisoning, glandular fever and a knee injury, which all left him uncertain of his form, being unable to defend his national title but winning a sixth Oceania Championship before heading back to Europe.
Gaze, who earned a front row start after his short track result, went with the hot start for the opening loop and first lap but felt off as he slowly began to drift off the pace to drop back through the filed. He had to dig deep to steady his way, finishing 29th to be more than four minutes from winner Tom Pidcock (GBR).
Pidcock, the Olympic champion who edged Gaze in the short track race, out-sprinted Frenchman Joshua Dubau for the victory with 10-time world champion Nino Schurter (SUI) edging Jordan Sarrou (FRA) for third.
The next stop in the World Series is in Lenzerheide, Switzerland on June 9-11 which also includes the opening round for downhill riders
Elite men: Tom Pidcock (GBR) 1:22.46, 1; Josh Dubau (FRA) at 5s, 2; Nino Schurter (SUI) at 23s, 3; Jordan Sarrou (FRA) same time, 4; Thomas Griot (FRA) at 48s, 5. Also: NZers: Anton Cooper (Trek Factory) at 3:13; Sam Gaze (Alpecin Fenix) at 4:45, 29; Ben Oliver 1 lap, 89; Sam Shaw 2 laps, 102
Elite women: Pauline Ferrand Prevot (FRA) 1:17.10, 1; Puck Pieterse (NED)same time, 2; Loana Lecomte (FRA) at 5s, 3; Evie Richards (GBR) at 15s, 4; Anne Terpstra (NED) at 28s, 5.