Anton Cooper will wear the silver fern for a seventh (!) year
Anton Cooper cruised to a fifth straight and seventh overall New Zealand cross country mountain bike national championship in Christchurch on Saturday, winning by more than three minutes over second place Ben Oliver. Cooper is just 26 years old, but he barely knows elite racing without the iconic silver fern kit.
The result puts Cooper on the right foot for a season that includes Olympic ambitions.
“It was great to race my first ever home National Champs at a venue just down the road from my house,” Cooper said after the race. “The level of competition in New Zealand has been getting stronger each year so I knew I would have to bring my ‘A’ game if I was to retain my title.”
Cooper dominated from the opening gun. After one lap, he had a roughly one-minute lead over Oliver, and he only widened that gap over the remaining five laps.
“Once I’d built out a sizable gap I was able to button off a bit and knock out some nice smooth and controlled laps to claim title number seven and make it five on the trot,” Cooper said.
A cheering greeted Cooper at the finish line — a sign of New Zealand’s progress in controlling its outbreak of Covid-19. The atmosphere added to the special feeling of the win.
Cooper is currently ranked as UCI’s No. 17 men’s XC rider. World Cup racing doesn’t begin until May, but he’s already looking forward to what could be a big season.
“It was special to race in front of a big home crowd,” Cooper said. “I can’t wait to return to the World Cups in my National Champions jersey once again!”