Waikato under-23 mountain biker Sam Gaze has finished a highly encouraging fifth in the opening round of the UCI World Cup in the Czech Republic today.
Gaze, 19, had been in some doubt to start the cross country race at Nove Mesto Na Morave after some recent ill-health, but he found his racing legs today in a typically aggressive ride.
He was second after two laps and third mid-race before slowing on the final lap to be pipped for fourth in a sprint finish in 1:23.25.
While it proved an outstanding start to the season for Gaze, his fellow Commonwealth Games medallist Anton Cooper struggled today, finishing 30th, six minutes from the winner Lars Forster (SUI).
“It was a very tough day today, physically and mentally. My legs just felt like lead. It’s gutting but I know big improvements will happen soon,” Cooper said on Twitter.
Fellow North Canterbury rider Ben Oliver placed 47th and Wellington teenager Jack Compton 51st from the 124 starters.
National champion Kate Fluker had a premature end to her race after a fall in the elite women while Rotorua 19 year old Amber Johnston was 46th in the under-23 race.
The second round is this weekend in Albstadt, Germany.
In the Men's XCO, Jaroslav Kulhavey took the top step from Nino Schurter and Julien Absalon, while Jolanda Neff outsprinted veteran Gunn-Rita Dahle with Pauline Ferrand-Prevot third. Jenny Rissveds took out the U23 ladies.