The young Anton Cooper will arrive at the Motatapu mountain bike race this weekend as the favorite despite his youth.
The 16-year-old Cooper narrowly lost to Marcus Roy in last year's Motatapu and has recently secured himself a spot on the New Zealand team to go to the world championships later this year. Last weekend, he won the Karapotic Classic in a sprint finish.
"Without Marcus Roy or Kashi Leuchs it is difficult for me to see anyone emerging from the pack to challenge rising star, Anton Cooper," said Mountain Bike Iconic Adventures Director Geoff Matthews.
Roy, who has won the event five of the six years running and holds the course record at 1:57:47 was 20 when he first won in 2005. He is not competing this year.
"The race record is there for the taking, and my money would be on Cooper," said Matthews, who also commented on the course conditions. "It is like a world rally championship track. It has a layer of fine crumbling dust and dirt over a hard pack."
"I predict that the leaders will scatter the loose surface and leave a hard pack for competitors following their wheel tracks. Later once the dry crumbling layer has gone, the hard pack will become slippery for the back of the field as water from the creeks gets added to the mix."
For this year's race, there is a completely new section of track on the Soho descent. "This new section of track is extremely fast; but a word of caution, it is not as hard packed as the rest of the course."
Weather is expected to be typical of the past six years and get hot in the high alpine valleys in the middle of the day.
Following the main event, Christchurch earthquake appeal concert will be held at the finish line, starting at 4:00 pm and wrapping up at 8:00 pm. Donations can be made on the day or at www.fundraiseonline.co.nz/MotatapuChChAppealConcert. All donations collected from these fundraising efforts will go to the Red Cross 2011 Earthquake Appeal.