Illness keeps Cooper out of U-23 world champs

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 05:00 28/06/2013

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Junior world champion mountainbiker Anton Cooper will be sweating on the results of a blood test on Monday to see whether he can resume riding overseas.

The North Canterbury 18-year-old has had a frustrating time lately because of illness - which forced him to miss the last two rounds of the UCI World Cup under-23 series in the Czech Republic and Italy.

Cooper picked up a stomach bug before the first round of the season in Germany on May 19, but opted to compete. He struggled through the discomfort to finish 85th for his Cannondale Factory team - a lap behind the winner.

Cooper's stomach bug developed into a viral illness, thought to be gastroenteritis, which has prevented him from training or riding for the past seven weeks.

He had blood tests upon returning to New Zealand, and it was discovered his C-reactive protein levels, which rise in response to inflammation, were high.

"The tests were promising, but I've got to wait until that comes down. I was a 13, and it's meant to be below five. It shows I've been battling away and I'm not quite ready to be pushed too hard yet."

Cooper will have a further test on Monday and if he has improved, could be cleared to start training fully. He is hoping to be healthy for the fourth round of the World Cup series in Andorra on July 28.

"I do plan to come back then, but I don't expect a result. My team expects me to be there. I need that racing intensity as well.

"It will be a good test. A couple of weeks after that, I've got another World Cup event [in Canada]."

He's been limited to a one-hour spin session a day, and admitted the illness had heavily disrupted his season. "It's a big setback really. Originally, I planned to have a week off, when I was back in New Zealand, but I've ended up having five weeks, where I've hardly done anything. It's the worst illness or setback I've ever had."

Cooper said competing in the under-23 age category had been a huge step up from the under-19 ranks, where he comfortably won last year's world championship.

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