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Sam Gaze upsets Anton Cooper in New Zealand cross country championships

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Sam Gaze wins the elite men's cross country national championship in New Zealand

Sam Gaze wins the elite men's cross country national championship in New Zealand (Image credit: Fotoengineers)
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Kate Fluker earns the New Zealand elite women's cross country national championship

Kate Fluker earns the New Zealand elite women's cross country national championship (Image credit: Fotoengineers)

Sam Gaze out-sprinted defending champion and former junior world champion Anton Cooper to claim the title in a thrilling elite men's cross country race at the New Zealand national championships on Saturday. In the women's event, 26-year-old Kate Fluker from Queenstown withstood the charge from London Olympian and defending champion Karen Hanlen on a testing course in Whakarewarewa Forest.


The elite men’s race was expected to be dominated by super-talented young riders led by 19-year-old Cooper, Rotorua’s 22-year-old Dirk Peters and Gaze.

Cooper (Cannondale) put the hammer down from the get-go with a withering 14:25 opening lap of the 5.6km circuit as the trio stretched the elastic to the rest of the field on the first of six laps.

By lap four, Peters has lost touch as Cooper and Gaze pushed on and last year’s Oceania junior champion then managed to out-sprint Cooper to the final corner and hold on for the victory with the pair given the same time.

"It's unbelievable. It's my first year out of under 19s, and so I didn't know what to expect," Gaze said. "As the race went on, I felt stronger and could not believe I was able to match it with Anton."

"The result is incredible and really exciting. Anton and Dirk are world class riders and that helps get the best out of me. This has given me real confidence now for my first big campaign on to the World Cup, and I want to push for a spot in the Commonwealth Games team."

Cooper, building for a big season in Europe with his eye on the world championships and the Commonwealth Games, pushed from the front to break his challengers.

"I just don't think I had the legs today. It was a tough, tough race," Cooper said. "I just couldn't quite drop them. I was putting little gaps into them on some of the climbs, but they’d just sneak it back."

"I let Sam lead down the final straight hoping I’d come round him. I almost got it but he closed me out and full credit to him."


Fluker, who enjoyed a strong first season on the World Cup circuit last year, opened up a telling lead of more than a minute on the field on the first lap

Hanlen, who had considered retiring after the race, re-found her form to push through the field, closing the gap to seconds going into the final lap.

However, Fluker held on to claim her first national elite title and the relative newcomer saw the race as a confidence boost towards her international aspirations. "I am so excited for my first national title. I'm so new to the sport that I know I have a lot more to give," Fluker said.

"This has given me confidence as I look to head to the World Cup circuit. I'd love to make the team for the Commonwealth Games. The key will be to find enough back to get to Europe for the World Cup to get the results I need."

Hanlen was far from disappointed with second place, and will now reconsider retirement plans to chase a birth for Glasgow.

"For two years now I've been plagued with being unable to get on the pace in the first lap. Just this week it's been finally diagnosed that I have asthma and already with a few days medication I felt so much better.

"Good luck for Kate, she was fantastic today and deserved to win. But this has given me the boost to stay in the sport and give it everything – that means the Oceania Championships, World Cup and hopefully Commonwealth Games."

Full Results

Elite men cross country
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Samuel Gaze1:32:30
2Anton Cooper
3Dirk Peters0:00:59
4Carl Jones0:04:05
5Samuel Shaw0:06:09
6Josh Parkin0:07:49
7Tom Bradshaw0:08:35
8Mathew Waghorn0:08:57
9Craig Oliver0:09:39
10Adrian Retief0:10:41

Elite women cross country
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Kate Fluker1:31:56
2Karen Hanlen0:00:42
3Fiona Macdermid0:04:15
4Katherine O'neill0:05:56
5Amber Johnston0:06:45
6Ingrid Richter0:07:55
7Samara Sheppard0:08:29
8Sonia Hill0:14:07
9Myra Moller0:15:14
10Jeanette Gerrie0:15:22

Junior men cross country
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Ben Oliver1:21:16
2Gareth Cannon0:00:50
3David Ashby-Coventry0:01:06

Junior women cross country
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Harriet Beaven1:20:11
2Jemma Manchester0:02:59
3Shannon Hope0:06:23
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