The UCI World Cup returned to Europe for the penultimate round of the downhill discipline. On a short course at La Bresse Christchurch's Cam Cole (Lapierre) was the form New Zealand rider. Qualifying in 6th, Cole went one better in yesterday's race to claim 5th and another podium for his 2011 World Cup season.
Like most races this World Cup season, La Bresse offered dry, fast conditions through practice days, with a change to heavy rain falling for most of Saturday night before race day. The changing conditions however not affecting Cole in his preparations or focus, a change to mud spikes and tear off goggles keeping him right on pace. Justin Leov (Dunedin, Trek World Racing) also rose to the tough conditions, improving on his qualifying 14th to deliver a 9th place in his race. Brook MacDonald (Napier, MS Evil Racing) had an up and down weekend, with a major off-the-bike crash in practice before qualifying followed by a flat tyre in the qualifying run not the ideal lead-in to yesterday's race. Displaying his customary tenacity, MacDonald still raced strongly, just outside the top ten with an 11th.
Other qualifiers at La Bresse were George Brannigan (Hawkes Bay, Devinci Global) and Matt Scoles (Alexandra, Cingolani Trek) racing to 41st and 42nd respectively. Missing from the race results for the first time this World Cup season was Whanganui's Sam Blenkinsop; a knee injury sufferred in qualifying preventing Blenkinsop from starting Sunday's race.
For the first time this World Cup season, the women's Elite category had New Zealand racers involved, with Wellington's Sarah Atkin and Napier's Madeline Taylor getting some quality race action before the September World Champs. Both are still Juniors. Taylor didn't make the top 20 qualifying cut but Atkin did, and went on to finish 18th. More importantly for Oceania Champion Atkin, this was her first opportunity this season to measure herself against the best European Juniors, and third Junior amongst the Elite field will give her great confidence going into the final World Cup at Val di Sole next weekend.
Other NZ results: 116 - Nick Bygate (Nelson), 155 - Jay Barrett (Napier), 159 - Dan Franks (Christchurch), 209 - Jed Rooney (Oamaru).
Full Results la Bresse Anton Cooper wins at Torgona, Switzerland
Christchurch's Anton Cooper (Giant NZ) started his European Cross Country preparations for the September World Championships with a storming win at the Torgona Bike 'Wind 8' event in Switzerland on Saturday. Cooper, still a first year Junior was the outright winner on course, clearing out to a comfortable one minute lead by race end. Cooper has been waiting for what seems like a long time for this opportunity as an U19 Junior and has been eagerly anticipating his first appearance on a mountain bike in Europe. While Switzerland's top riders were competing elsewhere at the European Continental Championships, Cooper's win was still against a high calibre of competition and will give the young flier a great gauge on where he is at before his first World Cup in the Czech Republic next weekend. Also competing at Torgona was Dirk Peters (Rotorua, Santa Cruz NZ) who raced strongly to a 4th outright, and second in the open men's category.
Chris Mildon for MTBNZ