Cooper puts tough year behind him

Former junior world champion and World Cup champion Anton Cooper is putting a tough 2013 season behind him. The New Zealand mountain biker entered 2013, his first year in the under 23 cross country ranks fresh off a stellar 2012 season and as a new rider for the Cannondale Factory Racing team. Despite high hopes, the year's racing did not go according to plan.

A stomach virus derailled his intentions for the World Cup opener in Albstadt, Germany. What came next were a stomach virus and chest cold, causing Cooper to pull the plug on living and racing in Europe. Instead, he headed home to Christchurch, New Zealand to recover.

"Sometimes when you go overseas and you're training so hard, you're right on your body's limit and it's easy to actually pick something up then when you're that fit," said Cooper to

A bright spot came for Cooper when he won the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup in Canada, but missing three months of competition meant that his next major goal would be the world championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa in August. While he'd hoped to get a medal or even win, he finished one place out of the medals, in fourth, by just seven seconds.

"I was actually quite disappointed to not be on that podium. But I learned a lot from it I think, and we'll go forward from there."

Cooper wrapped up the year with a second place at the U23 World Cup in Hafjell, showing he is back on track ahead of the 2014 season.

Again back at home again in New Zealand, Cooper is racing the domestic summer season, including some enduros. Last weekend, he raced the 3 Peaks Enduro in Dunedin.

"It's just a bit of fun. Enduro's a different style of racing, something that's really new and exciting and I enjoy it a lot," he told

In 2014, Cooper will focus on the world championships in Norway and the Commonwealth Games in Scotland.

He's optimistic about his chances of winning those races, but also told the Otago Daily Times, "A lot of things have to go right in mountain bike racing. I have to be in top physical condition at the start line and get through the race without mechanical problems. I will have a good shot but it depends on what happens on the day."

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