Kiwi world champion 'stoked' by race win
Newly-minted mountain bike world champion Anton Cooper ended his time in the junior ranks as most expected he would - on top and with his eyes now set on bigger prizes.
Yesterday's world beating cross country win was a monkey off the 18-year-old's back.
Though Cooper had the horrors of last year's second place in the back of his mind he crushed the opposition in Austria this weekend by more than two minutes.
He avoided the early trouble that plagued his world championship bid a year ago in Switzerland and beat defending champion Victor Koretsky of France.
Cooper and Koretsky were close during the first of five laps, but the Kiwi pulled away and won in a canter.
"I am just so stoked to finally become the world champion," he said.
"It's very special to me, it's one of those things I dreamed of as a kid. To finally achieve it . . . it's taken a lot of hard years, a lot of work, a lot of dedication and commitment."
Cooper was favourite for last year's world champs but got boxed in early and it took a ride described at the time as "sublime" to recover and finish second.
Speaking to The Press last year, the Christchurch Boys' High student and Trek World Racing team member sounded more like a rider who'd crashed out of the race rather than the second best under-19 rider in the world.
"I'm kind of happy to have won the silver medal," was the best he could eventually muster.
So despite winning all three lead-up World Cup events and being a hot favourite to win the Rainbow Jersey for the world championship title this year, the weekend's win meant plenty to the talented teen who is shaping as a superstar of the sport.
His four titles in four starts this year have all looked easy, but Cooper said it was a result of "a lot of hard work back in New Zealand", before he went to Europe.
When asked what came next, Cooper sounded upset his winning season was coming to an end. The fact he's returning to New Zealand for his NCEA Level Three exams may have something to do with that.
"Then next year I plan to race the full World Cup circuit as an under 23 and try to take the under 23 World Cup overall title then go from there."
It would be a brave person to bet against him doing it too, Cooper's lap times in Austria were better than all but the very top riders in this year's under-23 field.
Tauranga's Vanessa Quin is the only Kiwi mountain biker to win an elite title, claiming the women's downhill title in 2004. New Zealand downhill riders have also won three junior world championships, with Scarlett Hagen in 2004, Cameron Cole in 2006 and Brook MacDonald in 2009 .
Meanwhile, both Rosara Joseph and Karen Hanlen finished in the top half of the women's elite field in 22nd and 24th places respectively.
Joseph began safely off the packed start from the third row to complete a solid race to hold her position through- out.
Hanlen made the most of her second row start to be in the top-10 after the start loop but a crash pushed her back to 37th on the second lap.
The London Olympian then worked her way gradually back through some of the field.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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