Anton Cooper earned his second career World Cup bronze medal on a great day of racing for TFR
Anton Cooper put an emphasis on his career season start with a bronze medal in Sunday’s Olympic-distance World Cup race in Leogang. With a gritty ride, he secured his second elite World Cup medal, and complete a double podium weekend for the first time in his career.
Cooper rode near the front of the race for all six laps. He started on the front row after taking fifth in Friday’s short track race, and sat in second position behind Ondrej Cink after the start loop. As the race settled into rhythm, he trailed just behind the leading duo of Cink and eventual winner Mathias Flückiger, riding mostly solo without the benefit of a wheel to draft.
“It was probably mentally one of the toughest but strongest races I’ve done,” Cooper told Red Bull TV after the race. “I started well and tried to stay on Ondrej’s wheel. I was surprised that I was in touching distance for a lot of the race. It didn’t work too badly for me.”
On Friday, Cooper’s breakaway mates contested the short track race almost entirely by themselves, riding away early in a duel. On Sunday, Cooper didn’t become fully untethered until the second-to-last lap, eventually crossing the line 31 seconds behind Cink and 41 seconds ahead of fourth place Thomas Griot.
Cooper last won an elite World Cup medal in 2017, when he took third in Albstadt. Until Friday, he hadn’t stood on a World Cup podium since 2018. This year, he now has five Top 8 finishes in World Cup races.
After Sunday’s race, the New Zealand national champion credited a light early season load with his strong start in XC’s biggest races this year. Clearly, Cooper’s program is working, and with so many big events still to come, we can’t wait to see what he does next.
Jolanda Neff finishes fourth in a thrilling battle for medals
Jolanda Neff once again played a major role in the podium battle after taking third in Friday’s short track race. On Sunday, she couldn’t quite secure a second medal, but she was a key character in a entertaining race as she finished fourth, 12 seconds behind third place Laura Stigger.
Just like Friday, Neff was one of the leaders of the chase group that formed behind Loana Lecomte, who once again led wire-to-wire to continue her dominant season. On the first climb of the third lap, the chase group became five when Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Stigger joined Neff, Jenny Rissveds and Haley Batten.
At the start of the last lap, Neff was in fifth place on the course at nine seconds behind second-place Ferrand-Prevot. But Neff maintained a strong pace as Ferrand-Prevot fell back into fifth place by some distance on the final lap, finishing 28 seconds behind Neff on the day.
After the race, Neff revealed she suffered a broken hand during a crash that wasn’t caught on camera. She was still able to finish the race strong.
Evie Richards also had a great ride on a difficult, hilly course where riders traded places frequently. She started on the third row after finishing 18th in Friday’s short track event, but was able to pick her way quickly through competitors to put herself close behind the chase group for most of the day.
From the start of the second lap to the start of the final lap, Richards moved up from 12th to sixth place. She finished in that position just 12 seconds behind Ferrand-Prevot after passing Batten (fifth in short track) and Rebecca McConnell (second).
Like her fifth place finish in Nove Mesto just a few weeks ago, Richards’ result came from a strong end-to-end effort on a day when many riders struggled late in a grueling race. On Sunday, both she and Neff proved they are in top form as they keep their focus on ambitions this summer.
Riley Amos wins men's U23 event
Before his first ever World Cup race in Albstadt last May, Riley Amos was aiming to be one of the fastest handful of 19-year-olds in the men’s Under-23 category. On Sunday, he was the fastest man on the course, beating 21-year-old Martin Vidaurre Kossmann by 12 seconds to secure the biggest win of his very young career.
Amos has been steadily progressing with each race this season, going from fifth, to second to first across three World Cup U23 starts. He is a product of Bear Devo, a mountain biking program developing elite talent by emphasizing the joys of cycling and giving back.
Amos is doing Bear proud and more as he races against the world’s best as part of collaborative program with Trek Factory Racing.