Mountain bike star Anton Cooper scored his second straight top-10 finish in round two of the UCI World Cup in the Czech Republic today.
The 26-year-old Trek Factory professional was eighth in the cross-country race on a muddy and exposed course in Nove Mesto na Morave, following his sixth placing in Germany last week.
The opening two rounds of the Mercedes Benz UCI World Cup complete qualifying for the upcoming Olympics. Selection will be made early next month with New Zealand expected to confirm one elite men’s spot for Tokyo.
Cooper started on the front row in a fast opening loop, settling slightly off the pace before moving back through the field over the closing two laps. Meanwhile upfront Great Britain sensation Tom Pidcock raced clear to win his first World Cup by a minute from fellow cyclocross and road star, Mathieu van der Poel.
The kiwi finished 3:14 behind Pidcock, closing on Olympic and multi world champion Nino Shurter for seventh place over the final lap to be in eighth overall after two rounds of the World Cup.
“Any time you score a top-10 in a world cup it is a result to be proud of and I am happy with how I am going,” said Cooper.
“The track was soft and slow which are conditions I struggle in. I prefer hard and fast but the cyclocross riders racing today live and breathe that stuff and they were absolutely flying.
“For me it was a good performance in those conditions so I will take that as a big positive. It is a result that a year ago I would not have been capable of achieving. I managed to stay under the red line and ride my own pace. I was able to knock out consistent lap times and got faster as the race went on by a couple of seconds each lap. That’s a good sign.”
Cooper said he will now wait for the Olympic selection announcement next month before his next plans.
“If I get the nod for the Olympics, then I will now turn my focus 100 percent to Tokyo. That is the main goal of the season and always has been. I am fit, healthy, fresh and recovering well from training and racing. I feel I have a lot to build on as we target hopefully to Olympics.”
Compatriot Sam Gaze, the Commonwealth Games champion, had his best showing for since 2019 to climb through the massive field from 114th on the grid to 36th place in a powerful display, passing some 46 riders on the opening lap.
Canterbury’s Ben Oliver struggled in the conditions to finish 70th, one lap down on the field.
The next stop in the UCI World Cup is in Leogang, Austria on 12-13 June before Les Gets in France on 3-4 July.
CAPTION: Anton Cooper, in his national champion jersey, in action at the UCI Mercedes-Benz Mountain Bike World Cup in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic. (Credit: Ross Bell Photo)