New Zealand champ takes emphatic victory in California
The Sea Otter Classic is typically an early season form-finder, but with a World Cup already in the rear view mirror, the spring time race was a full speed fist fight. Coming out on top was Anton Cooper, who made his move late, and stuck it to the finish line.
But before the main event, it was the prior day’s short track event.
"Overall all it's been a great couple of days racing at the Sea Otter with a second place in the short track and First in XCO. Last year I really struggled with the short track and wasn't able to feature in the race in any way so this year it was nice to be at the pointy end of the field and show good form in that discipline. With World Cup start position soon to be determined by a short track race 2 days out from the XCO event having a good race and result here means I'll have a lot more confidence heading forward. I've only ever done around 5 proper short track races in my life so it's fair to say I'm on a steep learning curve!!"
After the short track event, it was all in for the cross country race.
"The cross country race at the sea otter is a really fast paced race and this often keeps larger groups of riders together," Said Anton Cooper. "With such a large flat section at the end of each lap I knew I had to be careful not to do too much early on in the race even if I was feeling good as a big chase pack would be able to reel me in from behind if they worked together. I decided to be patient and play the long game, and had my first attempt at splitting up the race with 3 laps to go when there was just 3 riders left at the head of the field, Myself, Nicola Rorhbach and Howard Grotts. I was able to string them out but I was very cautious of opening an immediate gap on both and have them work together to catch me on the flatter sections. The ideal scenario would have been that one of them was strong enough to come with me and the other rider dropped back out of contention, leaving me to have another crack at the final rider with me on the second to last lap or the final lap. The plan didn't work out perfectly but my legs were still feeling great so I decided to attack with everything I had from the lead group of 3 on the second to last lap and I immediately opened up a solid gap. from there I was able to solo the final lap and a half to take the win!"
Joining Anton on the podium was team mate Sergio Mantecon, who did enormous amount of work to force decisive separations on both days of racing. Even with that, Sergio showed his abilities by finding enough to climb on the podium.
Evie Richards made her mark in the US as well, taking a strong third place in the short track, and a snagged another podium for the cross country.
"It was so great to come to California and be part of Sea Otter, it’s been on my bucket list for a long time!," said Evie Richards. "The short track was much more tactical than I expected which I found challenging, but it was so good to learn how to move around in a group from some really amazing women. I made a break too early on so I didn’t manage to get away, but held on for a sprint finish to take 3rd."
"My legs were feeling pretty tired for the start of the XC race but I managed to hanging in the front group, after 2 laps I was feeling much stronger and help to separate the gap to just the 3 of us. It was so great to have such a tight battle between the top podium places, I left it all out there and am super happy with how it planned out."
The racing continues in just a few short weeks at the second World Cup! Stay tuned!