World junior champion Anton Cooper recovered from a crash on the final lap to edge out hometown rider Dirk Peters to win the BikeNZ national cross country mountain bike title in Rotorua yesterday.
The pair, both still in the under-23 ranks, spread-eagled the combined field of elite and under-23 riders as they fought a tight battle throughout the arduous seven-lap contest in the Whakarewarewa Forest.
London Olympian Karen Hanlen also had a fall early in the elite women's race but recovered to successfully defend her title in emphatic fashion.
Peters set the pace from the start as he and Cooper quickly cleared out from the field, eventually finishing three minutes clear of the third-placed rider, winning in 1:30.39.
Cooper never got in front until the final lap but fell on the downhill, although Peters could not slip ahead on the single track, with the junior world champion holding the Rotorua rider off by the slimmest of margins.
"I managed to get a wee break. I knew I needed a break there to hold Dirk off. He was amazingly strong today and all I could do was sit on and wait for my opportunity on that final lap," Cooper said.
"I fell about 25 seconds before the finish which got the heart-rate going. It was pretty nerve-wracking but I managed to get up and hold on. If he had got in front then he would have won.
"It is such a great feeling to win the national jersey. It means I will be able to wear it overseas at the World Cups and that is of huge importance to me and I will wear it with great pride."
- © Fairfax NZ News