New Zealand mountain bikers Anton Cooper and Sam Gaze face a frantic two weeks as international racing returns in Austria tomorrow.
The cross-country riders will compete in back-to-back UCI World Cup cross-country races at Nove Mesto da Morave in the Czech Republic with four races in six days. They will then drive six hours across the border to Leogang in Austria for the UCI World Championships next week.
Cross-country riders will compete in the first short course race at Nove Mesto overnight (NZ time) ahead of the World Cup race on Friday, before repeating the process with the second short course race on Saturday and long course on Monday.
They begin training at Leogang on Thursday 8 October with the elite men’s cross country race on Sunday 11 October NZ time while the Altherm Cycling New Zealand downhill riders, without the luxury of a world cup shakedown, race on Monday 12 October.
“It is a pressure-cooker couple of weeks after so little racing this year,” said Cooper from his base in Germany.
“For everyone it will be tough with two world cups in the same week and then the worlds the following week. It will take a toll on all the riders.
“It’s important to do them because they all carry important points, rankings and prizemoney and it also affects your contract negotiations going forward.”
He is pleased with his form since returning to Europe and his base in Germany.
“I had just been ticking over with base miles when I came here and keeping the engine running but with no race condition. I had some tough trainings and made some good gains.”
He enjoyed a win two weeks ago in Austria to boost his preparation.
“I have done some good finishing and I am where I need to be right now.”
Cooper said he has coped well with the covid regime.
“You get used to it. The races we have done are very strict on rules – limits on team staff, limits on training time. I have a test to get in to Austria and a test every three days with the team. It’s very strict but the same for everyone. It’s like the new normal.”
There is no soft start to this unique two weeks of racing with the top-15 riders on world rankings all competing in the Czech Republic, with the only key rider missing is Gaze’s Alpecin Fenix teammate, Mathieu van der Poel who is focussing on the road with the Ardennes Classics.
CAPTION: Anton Cooper leads Maxine Marotte (FRA) and world and Olympic champion Nino Shurter at Nove Mesto da Morave two years ago. (Red Bull Content Pool).