Five-time national champion Anton Cooper finished 23rd in the second UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in the Czech Republic.
The Trek Factory rider, who was seventh in the first race four days ago, battled with a cold which sapped some energy for the second race in a pressure-cooker Mercedes Benz World Cup at Nove Mesto da Morave.
The ranked riders, including Cooper, faced two short track and two full races in five days but the New Zealander is hoping to be back at 100 per cent for this week’s UCI World Championships in Austria.
Fellow kiwi Sam Gaze had his best World Cup performances for over 12 months, pushing up to 43rd place after starting back in 105th on the 13th row. The Alpecin Fenix professional overtook 38 riders on his first lap and a further 17 on the second before settling mid-pack with consistent laps amid a packed field.
Cooper, starting off the front row after finishing seventh in the short track race, stayed with the leaders over the opening two laps with the drying surface and re-configured course encouraging a super-fast race which was nearly 10 minutes faster than the first world cup race.
“I just didn’t have the energy to push on through the middle of the race and so I did what a could given it has been a big week and we have the world champs this week.,” said Cooper.
He did make his trademark strong finish to pass eight riders on the closing two laps to be two minutes behind the winner.
Brazil’s Henrique Avancini (BRA) took a bold outside line through the forest on the final lap to grab the lead and went on to bag his first World Cup win over Dutch champion Milan Vader and Olympic and World Champion Nino Schurter.
The world championships at Leogang in Austria begin mid-week with the men’s cross-country on Saturday and downhill on Sunday.
UCI Mountain bike World Cup, Nove Mesto na Morave, elite men, race 2: Henrique Avancini (BRA) 1:25.03, 1; Milan Vader (NED) at 1s, 2; Nino Schurter (SUI) same time, 3. Also: Anton Cooper (NZL) at 1.59s, 23; Same Gaze (NZL) at 4.21, 43.
CAPTION: Eventual winner Henrique Avancini (BRA) leads the pack at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Nove Mesto Na Morave. (Bartek Wolinski – Red Bull Content Pool)