Woodend's Anton Cooper has signed a two-year deal with international mountainbike team Cannondale Factory Racing.
Cooper, who will now ride fulltime after completing his education at Christchurch Boys' High School, will be based in Germany for five months during the New Zealand winter and compete in UCI cross country world cups across Europe and in North America.
The 18-year-old was forced to look for a new team after his previous outfit, Trek World Racing, decided to focus solely on downhill racing.
"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," Cooper 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."
This announcement bookends a fine year for Cooper.
He become the first New Zealander to win a UCI cross country Mountain Bike World Championship in September, and was named as 2012 BikeNZ People's Choice Award winner and Male Mountain Biker of the Year.
Cooper is moving up to the under-23 race category, having dominated the international under-19 circuit this year.
"If you perform well in the under-23 races in Europe, you can get invited to compete in some of the elite world cup's, so I'll be trying to do that, especially in 2014," Cooper said.
- © Fairfax NZ News