Living in New Zealand and still finishing up school, junior rider Anton Cooper doesn't make it all the World Cups, but when he does, he wins. Cooper has won every World Cup he has entered, with the most recent victory coming on Sunday in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. His victory on Sunday brings his unbeaten World Cup tally to three, after winning at Nove Mesto and Val di Sole in August, 2011.
His victory was also the first-ever cross country World Cup win for his Trek World Racing team. The squad is well known already for its success on the downhill front thanks to many wins last year by American Aaron Gwin and former team member Tracy Moseley.
"The race went really well for me as I had such fresh legs, so it was fun to race today," said Cooper after finishing. "Honestly, I could have gone for another lap I enjoyed it so much! There are some other big races coming up this year so I'm really looking forward to them."
In Pietermaritzburg, Cooper won the first UCI Mountain Bike World Cup of the year, putting four and half minutes into the reigning junior world champion Victor Koretzky (Bikepark.Ch Scott). The young rider from Christchurch attacked decisively on the second climb of the first lap, putting 15 seconds into the Frenchman and continued to stretch his lead over the four-lap race.
Lapping around one-minute a lap quicker than his nearest opponents, it was clear that Cooper had brought his main game to the race in South Africa after a great summer of racing in New Zealand. His lap times, considering the course was still wet from the overnight run (so much so that some of the shorter more technical sections of the course were closed off), were fast enough to draw comparison to the elite men's field from Saturday.
"Watching Anton race is very special, and we couldn't be prouder of what he did today, that is a big milestone for the program," said Trek World Racing team owner Martin Whiteley, who signed Cooper during the off-season. "Anton has slotted into the team brilliantly and we're all excited about what the future holds for him."
Cooper is returning to New Zealand to continue his schooling and some local racing before joining the team once again for the Mont-Sainte-Anne and Windham rounds of the World Cup. That means he will miss the next three European World Cup rounds.