25 Feb 2017

Cooper and Sheppard mountain bike champions

6:21 pm on 25 February 2017

Anton Cooper and Samara Sheppard have won the men's and women's titles at the national mountain bike championships in Wanaka.

Cooper, the former junior and under-23 world champion, missed much of last year with illness.

Anton Cooper.

Anton Cooper. Photo: Barking Cat Photography

His winning time at Cardrona Alpine Resort of one hour 23 minutes and 21 seconds was four minutes clear of second placed Ben Oliver.

He takes on the Oceania Championships in Australia in two weeks.

"That's the next stepping stone and then off to California and then Europe and it will be non-stop from there," said Cooper.

"I am feeling good but I have a lot of room to improve which is a good thing. The amount of time I had off due to my illness is very significant for an elite athlete. It may take the whole season gradually building up and I will take it carefully to keep finding form."

In the women's race, the Australian-based Wellingtonian, Sheppard won her first elite national title.

Samara Sheppard

Samara Sheppard Photo: Barking Cat Photography

Her time of 1:26:41 was five minutes clear of the second placed defending champion Kate Fluker.