Canterbury's mountain biking whiz-kid Anton Cooper has capped an excellent year by signing a two-year deal with international professional team Cannondale Factory Racing (CFR).
The 18-year-old from Woodend will be based in Germany for five months each year during the New Zealand winter, racing UCI cross-country World Cups across Europe and in North America, he announced today.
"The team at Cannondale are such high class, with a couple of top Olympic riders on their roster and Keegan Swenson also, who I get along with quite well, so it seemed the right fit for me," he said.
"Also it'll be good for me to be riding more of the European season rather than in the US, because for me to keep improving, I need to be in Europe."
Cooper is moving up to the under-23 race category next year with confidence having dominated the international under-19 circuit in 2012.
"If you perform well in the under-23 races in Europe, you can get invited to compete in some of the elite World Cups, so I'll be trying to do that, especially in 2014," he said.
This announcement follows a successful year for Cooper, in which he became the first New Zealander to win a UCI cross-country mountain bike world championship at any level. He was this week named as 2012 BikeNZ People's Choice Award winner and male Mountain Biker of the Year.
Cooper was forced to explore alternate options after his previous team, Trek World Racing, decided to forgo their cross-country commitments to focus solely on downhill racing.
Of these accolades, which would you like to win most?