PhotoMarius Maasewerd/Cannondale.

Cooper runner-up in final mountain bike World Cup

Teenager Anton Cooper has claimed an outstanding second place in the final round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Norway today.

The 19 year old Cannondale Factory Team professional forced his way through the field over the second half of the race to finish just 37 seconds of winner Jordan Sarrou (France) with Michiel van der Heijden (Netherlands) in third.

The result elevated Cooper to eighth place overall in his first year in the under-23 division, which is all the more impressive given he missed half the season with illness, coming back to win the penultimate round in Canada, fourth just off the podium in the world championships and now second at Hafjell today.

The North Canterbury rider had a solid start to be ninth after the first of six laps but by the halfway mark he was up to third. He was the fastest rider on the course in the second half of the race.

“It was a great weekend to finish up a tough season,” said Cooper. “It was a perfect day for the team with Cannondale winning the team category.”

Meanwhile Queenstown cross-country rider Kate Fluker finished 34th in the elite women’s race, on the same lap as winner Irina Kalentieva (RUS).

Results, Under-23 men cross-country: Jordan Sarrou (FRA) 1:15.40, 1; Anton Cooper (NZL) 1:16.17, 2; Michiel van der Heijden (NED) 1:16.46, 3.


Blenkinsop grabs another mountain bike podium

New Zealand mountain biker Sam Blenkinsop from Wanganui has finished on the podium for the third time this season at the penultimate round of the UCI World Cup in Norway today.

The Lapierre International rider finished in fourth place at the tricky Hafjell course in Norway which moves him up to sixth overall on the World Cup rankings with one round remaining.

Blenkinsop, who qualified seventh fastest, was in third place after his run down a wet and treacherous track at the Hafjell Mountain Bike Park. However he was pushed back to fourth after Canada’s Steve Smith powered to the overall win.

“It was a good day in the office with a fourth. The track was so sick,” Blenkinsop tweeted.

It matched Blenkinsop’s fourth placings at the World Cup round in Fort William, Scotland and at the recent world championships in South Africa in what has been an outstanding season for the Kiwi.

Compatriot George Brannigan (Trek World Racing) showed he was back to top form following major knee surgery in the summer, qualifying sixth fastest. He was enjoying a strong run on the course where he was second past year, but fell on the slippery rock section to finish 41st.

Of the other Kiwis to qualify Ed Masters (Taranaki) was 57th and Reon Boe (Queenstown) 67th while Matt Walker (Rotorua) and Wyn Masters (Team Bulls) did not finish.

Meanwhile Queenstown’s Alanna Columb finished 14th in the elite women won by the seemingly unbeatable Rachel Atherton (GBR) while Dunedin’s Raphael Kammlein-Cutler was 13th in the junior men.

The final round of the World Cup is this weekend in Austria.

Results, UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, Hafjell, Norway, downhill elite men: Steve Smith (CAN) 3:40.174, 1; Danny Hart (GBR) 3:41.815, 2; Andrew Neethling (RSA) 3:42.957, 3. Also NZers: Sam Blenkinsop (Lapierre International) 3:44.039, 4; George Brannigan (Trek World Racing) 3:58.075, 41; Ed Masters 4:02.848, 57; Matt Walker, Wyn masters dnf.

Elite women: Rachel Atherton (GBR) 4:09.858, 1; Manon Carpenter (GBR) 4:17.489, 2; Myriam Nichole (FRA) 4:17.939, 3. Also: Alanna Columb (NZL) 4:54.008, 14.

Junior: Michael Jones (GBR) 3:46.870, 1; Graham Innes (GBR) 3:50.352, 2; Mark Wallace (CAN) 3:51.268, 3. Also: Raphael Kammlein-Cutler (NZL) 4:08.190, 13; Kyle Lockwood (NZL) 4:31.873, 32.

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