XC rider and Olympic hopeful Anton Cooper shares 2020 goals
Kiwi cross-country rider Anton Cooper sped off to a successful start this year by defending his regional Oceania and New Zealand national champion titles. That makes five national and six Oceania titles for Cooper, and unquestionable status as one of the best on Oceania XC tracks. He reflected on top moments in 2019 and where he’s headed in 2020.
Q: What were your highlights from 2019 racing?
Anton: I started out quite well and had some good results in February, March, and April. I won my first five races or so. I also really enjoyed my final race at the Tokyo Olympic test track. I was really happy with what I saw there and getting some time on the track. I felt fit and healthy and had a good result. I think it’s a course that suits me. I liked how I felt and it gave me good confidence to have a strong finish for the year.
Q: How do the 2020 Olympics features into your goals for this year?
Anton: Getting to the Olympics and racing in Japan again are my big focus for the season. I have to get there first and foremost, so the first World Cup race in Nové Mesto, Czech Republic is a key target for me. Performing well at World Championships at the end of June will also be a big goal. Those are my three main events of the year. I think consistency in my ability has to be a big focus, not doing too much early in the season and think hitting my peaks at the right time.
Q: What would it mean to you to be able to compete in the 2020 Olympics?
Anton: It’s a childhood dream. I first remember watching the Olympics during the 2004 games in Athens. I was young and in school and I didn’t know what I wanted to go for, but watching fellow Kiwis, I thought it would be so cool to go to the Olympics. Once I found out my sport would be mountain biking, I thought, this could be my way to get there. Over the years, it became more of a reality. Now we’re knocking on the door.
Q: What other sports did you try out before you settled on cross country mountain biking?
Anton: I started out playing a whole lot of sports when I was younger. Soccer. Tennis. Cross country running. I did my first mountain bike race when I was 11. I won that, and I decided I liked winning. I used to just ride with my dad. Once I started racing and kept improving, I started going through the ranks and got to my first World Championships in 2011 as a junior.
Q: How did it feel to defend your regional and national titles again this year?
Anton: It was a great way to start the year. Oceania was on a Friday and two days later I had Nationals. At Oceania, it was a similar course to what we raced two years ago in 2018. It’s a fairly solid course, fair bit of climbing. The descents were dusty and freshly cut. It kept you on your toes. The race was dry and hot. At Nationals, it was a whole different race. I took the lead and pushed hard but I wasn’t able to get away early like I did at Oceania. There was one other rider on my wheel who was my main competition. I was able to open a gap on the climb and take the title again.