Cooper and Hanlen crowed New Zealand national champions

Cross country titles awarded in all categories

Junior world champion Anton Cooper recovered from a crash on the final lap to edge out hometown rider Dirk Peters to win the New Zealand cross country national title in Rotorua on Saturday.

The pair, both still in the under 23 ranks, spread-eagled the combined field of elite and under 23 riders as they fought a tight battle throughout the arduous seven-lap contest in the superb Whakarewarewa Forest.

London Olympian Karen Hanlen also had a fall early in the elite women's race but recovered to successfully defend her title in emphatic fashion.

Men

Peters set the pace from the start as he and Cooper quickly cleared out from the field, eventually finishing three minutes clear of the third placed rider, winning in 1:30:39.

Cooper never got in front until the final lap but fell on the downhill, although Peters could not slip ahead on the singletrack with the junior world champion holding the Rotorua rider off by the slimmest of margins.

"I managed to get a wee break. I knew I needed a break there to hold Dirk off. He was amazingly strong today, and all I could do was sit on and wait for my opportunity on that final lap," Cooper said.

"I fell about 25 seconds before the finish which got the heart-rate going. It was pretty nerve-wracking but I managed to get up and hold on. If he had got in front then he would have won.

"It is such a great feeling to win the national jersey. It means I will be able to wear it overseas at the World Cups and that is of huge importance to me and I will wear it with great pride."

The race attracted a large number of spectators, with the championships part of the inaugural Rotorua Bike Festival.

"It was a great race for the spectators and Dirk on his home track had a lot of support. It felt like a World Cup round, it was amazing," Cooper said.

Peters, who will head to Europe again this year, is buoyed by his strong form on last week's mountain bike cup and the national championships.

"I knew it was going to be pretty close. I think he probably had the edge on me but with the hometown advantage I got lifted that extra couple of percent and nearly got there.

"I kept throwing in attack after attack but couldn't drop him and he got ahead before the final downhill. It was so narrow I couldn't get past when he crashed and it came down to that last sprint."

Peters said to race Cooper provides an international benchmark.

"It is good to have a yard stick with Anton. We know he is world class so if we can match ourselves against him. It gives me an good indication of where I am at compared with other riders overseas and good for my confidence to know that I can be competitive in Europe hopefully."

Women

Hanlen, the remarkable Whakatane mother of two, fell behind Queenstown's Kate Fluker after her fall on lap two. But the Olympian then turned it up a notch, to reclaim the lead and push clear, winning in 1:34:26 for the six laps, with Fucker second nearly three minutes behind.

Wellington's Samara Sheppard, in her first year in the elite category, was third a further three minutes back.

"I am really pleased. It is a special privilege to win the national title. I had to work hard for it. I was pushed really hard in those first two laps before I managed to get a break. It is good to see another really good rider in Kate coming on strongly.

"It was fantastic. The crowd was amazing and I got a lot of support from friends and family from home and the big mountain bike community here. It really pushed me on. It was so cool with all the people out there today."

It was also a special day for former national champion and Commonwealth Games representative Mike Northcott, who finished fifth overall before announcing his retirement from elite racing after 16 years at the top level.

Rotorua's Amber Johnson and Te Awamutu's Sam Gaze both produced outstanding efforts to win the under 19 titles.

Full Results

Elite and U23* men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Anton Cooper*1:30:39 
2Dirk Peters*0:00:01 
3Carl Jones0:02:54 
4Sam Shaw*0:04:20 
5Mike Northcott0:07:26 
6Brad Hudson*0:10:01 
7Edwin Crossling0:10:57 
8Logan Horn*0:11:15 
9Adrian Retief*0:11:17 
10Callum Gordon*0:13:36 
Elite and U23* women
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Karen Hanlen1:34:26 
2Kate Fluker0:02:52 
3Samara Sheppard0:07:28 
4Heather Logie0:08:56 
5Ingrid Richter0:09:27 
6Sasha Smith*0:09:45 
U17 men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Nathan Johnston0:58:09 
2Scott Barr0:00:30 
3Josh Lee0:03:25 
U17 women
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Jemma Manchester0:52:22 
2Shannon Hope0:03:19 
3Lydia Kinsman0:07:26 
U15 men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Eden Cruise0:43:57 
2Jake Craggs0:06:22 
3Alex Young0:06:37 
U15 women
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Jessica Manchester0:36:03 
2Zia Macdeermid0:00:57 
3Kaylee Mudgway0:12:05 
Masters 1 Men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Brendon Sharratt1:12:48 
2Chris Fisher0:01:10 
3Karl Paterson0:01:20 
Masters 2 Men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Garth Weinberg1:14:26 
2Hamish Lane0:01:10 
3Clive Bennett0:02:20 
Masters 3 Men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Paul McDowell1:05:38 
2Geoffrey Notman0:00:46 
3Glenn Wright0:01:27 
Masters women
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Sarah Beadel0:59:20 
Senior men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Tom Lynskey1:07:07 

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