Anton Cooper surprised himself in taking out the elite men’s title at the Oceania Mountain Bike cross-country race in Queensland at the weekend.
Cooper, the Trek Factory professional, cast aside recent illness to push clear on final lap to win his sixth Oceania title at Mt Cotton, 45km south of Brisbane.
He was locked in an early battle with fellow North Canterbury rider Ben Oliver, Rotorua’s Sam Shaw and Australians Cameron Ivory and Sam Fox.
By mid-race Cooper, Oliver and Ivory had broken away, before the Australian was dropped on lap four. Cooper found enough in the legs to push clear on the final lap to win by 11 seconds from Oliver in 1:24.52. Ivory was a minute behind Oliver in third.
“That was a real surprise to win after what has been a horrid few months of injuries, illness and recently glandular fever,” said Cooper.
“I am beyond stoked to stand on top of the podium again as continental champion.”
Cooper returns to his home in Christchurch for a further month of training before heading to Europe for the season.
The women’s race resulted in a fifth straight win for Australian star Rebecca Henderson ahead of young New Zealand champion Sammie Maxwell and Australian Zoe Cuthbert.
Maxwell rode with Henderson until mid-race when she dropped back with the pace too demanding, but the kiwi recovered and took more than 30 seconds out of the Australia in the final lap. Henderson won in 1:23.21 with Maxwell just 16 seconds behind, with five minutes to Cuthbert.
Canterbury’s Ethan Rose produced a superb effort to win the under-23 men’s title in 1:10.45, with an emphatic effort to finish 45 seconds ahead of Australia’s Joel Dodds with a further 45 seconds to New Zealand’s Caleb Bottcher.
Kiwis Mia Cameron and Amelie Mackay were second and third respectively in the under23-womens race behind Australia’s Holly Lubcke.
Maria Laurie took out the under-19 women and best of the kiwis in the under-19 men was Ethan Woods in fourth.
Elite men, Anton Cooper (NZL) 1:24.52, 1; Ben Oliver (NZL) 1:25.04, 2; Cameron Ivory (AUS) 1:26.09, 3.
Women: Rebecca Henderson (AUS) 1:23.21, 1; Sammie Maxwell (NZL) 1:23.37, 2; Zoe Cuthbert (AUS) 1:28.37, 3.
Under-23 men: Ethan Rose (NZL) 1:10.45, 1; Joel Dodds (AUS) 1:11.32, 2; Caleb Bottcher (NZL) 1:12.16, 3.
Under-23 women: Holly Lubcke (AUS) 1:12.06, 1; Mia Cameron (NZL) 1:12.27, 2; Amelie Mackay (NZL) 1:14.55, 3.
Junior women: Maria Laurie (NZL) 56:18, 1; Ruby Dobson (AUS) 57:40, 2; Ella Menigoz (AUS) 1:00.42, 3.