Anton Cooper is fast establishing a reputation as one of the world’s leading mountain bike riders, having won world titles in two age groups and gold at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, he is now all eyes on the podium in Rio 2016 and has announced his preparation will start with a week long ride over the Southern Alps.

An intense competitor with a fierce desire to win, Cooper is also incredibly proud to fly the Kiwi flag around the world. Not surprising then that he has turned to his own backyard to commence his preparations for Rio and aims to turn dreams of gold into reality come August next year.

Cooper has confirmed he will ride the inaugural Pioneer MTB stage race in late January and can’t think of a better way to lay down a base of hours in the saddle in Olympic year.

When I first heard about the Pioneer I was really excited but not sure if it would work with my schedule. But thankfully I will be able to take part in the inaugural event held in what I truly believe is the most beautiful part of the country and one of the most stunning parts of the world – where better to go bike riding!

A big part of the appeal is laying down a foundation for the year ahead, a base of time on the bike that will be the basis for Rio and other World Cup events. When looking at my options to achieve that, I simply couldn’t look past The Pioneer.

Aside from being a perfect week of riding and ticking the box in regards to clocking up the mileage, it is just going to be an amazing event, one that will put New Zealand on the map alongside events like the Cape Epic (South Africa) and TransAlp (Italy) that are renowned the world over for the challenge and the amazing riding through spectacular scenery.”

The imagery is clear and provides great fodder for the headline writers; ‘Kiwi medal hope rides away from home (Christchurch) and over the Alps on his way to Rio’. If that wasn’t enough, the story has added layers with the news that Cooper’s partner for the team based event (riders all ride in pairs throughout the seven days) is himself a world class international mountain bike rider, winning bronze in Glasgow and the first Australian to win an Elite XC MTB World Cup round.

“Dan and I are both looking forward to sharing in the adventure and spirit of the event together and hopefully by using it as a training event it will set us both up well for the World Cups, Champs and Olympics later in the year.“We will be like all the other entries in this race, just as the recreational and social mountain bike rider will need a good mate, someone that is a good fit in terms of ability but also to share a tent with for a week, so I had to find that rider and Daniel fits the bill – we get on well together, we will spur each other on each day and he too will be looking to get a good base week of training under his belt.”

Daniel is equally keen to come and see what all the fuss is about and to ride with his good Kiwi mate without for once having to worry about who crosses the line first!

“I am really excited to be racing The Pioneer, not only is this a great opportunity to ride in some of New Zealand’s most picturesque and beautiful countryside it will be a great training block before the World Cup season starts, and to get to share it all with Anton is going to be special! I have been racing against Anton for years and we are definitely use to being on the same start line together but racing as a team is going to be a great experience and a lot of fun on and off the bike!”

“Mountain biking is a very social sport, but to be able to race with your mate and experience everything that mountain biking offers while riding through some of the most beautiful areas in the world is going to be amazing.”

The Pioneer event director Dave Beeche says having Cooper and McConnell confirmed for the ride not only gives the event expert ‘seal of approval’ but international exposure. “Anton and Dan will prove a formidable pairing towards the sharp end of the field for sure and will generate interest throughout the mountain biking world. But more importantly they will be great for our entire field to have alongside at the end of each day’s riding. The Pioneer is about people of all abilities and backgrounds committing to an amazing week, one that will take huge effort and sacrifice in training and commitment.

“For those riders to be able to share a meal, a drink and a chat with riders like Anton and Daniel, both of whom are very down to earth and approachable is just fantastic. Everyone can say they rubbed shoulders on and off course with a World Champion and who knows, fingers crossed an Olympic medalist post Rio as well – so long as he is wearing a silver fern at the time of course!”

7 DAYS OF RACING – Lose yourself in mountain bike nirvana day after day.

8 HOST TOWNS – Enjoy the legendary hospitality of the South.

546 KMS OF RIDING – Through New Zealand’s untouched Southern Alps.

15,057 METRES OF CLIMBING – With pleasure also comes the pain

DATES: January 31 to February 6, 2016

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