Kiwi cross-country mountain bikers reset for world championships


The New Zealand cross-country mountain bikers will reset for the upcoming UCI World Championships following the final European race in the World Cup at altitude in Switzerland.

Anton Cooper was the best of the Kiwi riders in 21st place after starting 24th on the grid, finishing with a strong final lap at Lenzerheide which is nestled at 1500m in the Swiss Alps.

The Trek Factory rider said he is focussing on building towards the world championships, with his world ranking of 14 giving him a second row start in Canada, while World Cup grids are determined with the result of the quick-fire sprint races on the first day of competition.

Subway Performance Hub rider Ben Oliver finished 62nd while Sam Gaze withdrew on the second lap after feeling unwell.

“It happens to me at altitude sometimes. I’ve felt ordinary this week and woke up this morning not feeling any better,” said Gaze.

“I decided to start but, after the first lap I felt worse and decided it was smarter not to carry on.”

He started 81st on the grid, pushing up to 55th after the first lap.

“I didn’t realise I had passed so many riders. Honestly I had no idea and was feeling quite light-headed.”

Gaze heads back to near sea level for a Swiss Cup race in Basel this weekend before flying to Canada to prepare for the world championships at Mont Sainte Anne, near Quebec City starting on 31 August.

Superstar Dutch rider Mathieu van der Poel, equally adept in cyclocross and on the road, cleared away on the final two laps to win from Olympic champion Nino Schurter. It is his fourth win from just five starts to move within 21 points of Shurter with the final race at Snowshoe, West Virginia next month.

Rio Olympic champion Jenny Rissveds (SWE) made an emphatic return to the sport to win the women’s race. She struggled with mental issues after Rio, taking time away from the sport, before returning this year.

Results, elite males: Mathieu van der Poel (NED) 1:17:50, 1; Nino Schurter (SUI) at 25s, 2; Mathias Flueckiger (SUI) at 1:13, 3. Also: Anton Cooper (Trek Racing) at 4:05, 21; Ben Oliver (Subway Performance Hub) at 9:07, 62; Sam Gaze (Specialized) dnf.

CAPTION: Massive crowds for the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup cross-country racing at Lenzerheide, Switzerland today. (Credit: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool)