5 Sep 2015

Cooper wins MTB World title in Andorra

12:06 pm on 5 September 2015

New Zealand cyclist Anton Cooper has won the under-23 cross-country title at the Mountain Bike World Championships in Andorra.

The New Zealand cross country mountain biker Anton Cooper wins the under-23 World Championship title, 2015.

NZ cross-country mountain biker Anton Cooper's won the under-23 world championship title in Andorra. Photo: Armin Kuestenbrueck/Cannondale

North Cantabrian Cooper rode from the front in wet and muddy conditions to win in a sprint finish.

It was Cooper's second rainbow jersey after winning the Junior (Under-19) World Championship in 2012.

Compatriot Sam Gaze from Cambridge finished fourth to complete an outstanding performance from the pair, who finished first and second respectively at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last year.

The 21-year-old Cooper produced a brilliant ride from the front in challenging conditions on a brutally tough course at altitude.

"To win both the under-23 title and junior world titles is something to be proud of," the Cannondale professional said.

"I did struggle this year to find the top step of the podium. I had some great results - fourth, fifth and fifth again in the world cups - but not that win, and so to find that at the world champs is truly special."

"I am pretty stoked to do it here. I would trade any world cup for this one."

'My goal was to stay out of trouble'

Cooper, usually a conservative starter, found himself in the lead off the front row at the head of a five-strong bunch including France's Victor Koretzky, the 2011 junior world champion, Great Britain's Grant Ferguson, the world cup winner last month in Italy, and Gaze.

"My goal was to stay out of trouble. I knew it was going to be a race where mistakes would be made but I didn't want to make mistakes because of someone else.

"To find myself feeling so strong for the first few laps, I knew that the win was definitely within reach. So I decided to ride it from the front and keep out of trouble."

Cooper and Koretzky opened up a 13-second gap going into the fifth and final lap with Ferguson mounting a charge from behind, and Koretzky with a noted sprint finish.

"I was pretty nervous. There was one pinch hill before the start/finish straight about 250 metres to go… I just really attacked up that small hill and opened up a five-metre gap and was able to hold that to the line."

Koretzky finished just two seconds behind, with Ferguson 22 seconds back and Gaze held on for a highly creditable fourth placing for the 19-year-old.

"I felt so strong in the hills and just tried to ride the downhills conservatively and limit my mistakes and I was able to do that," Gaze said.

"There is depth and pace in the under-23 field so to win a world title in the under-23s is a huge confidence boost. It is almost like an elite race just the day before," Cooper added.

He has already set his sights on the big prize of selection for next year's Rio Olympics.

"I am really happy with that and a huge confidence boost for Rio. That is really a big goal of mine since I was a kid. I would love to get a medal there that's for sure."