Buoyed by a strong performance high in the Pyrenees last weekend, Kiwi mountain bike star Anton Cooper is primed for a second UCI World Cup at high altitude France this weekend.

Cooper, the Trek Factory professional, was seventh and impressed with a powerful second half of the race last weekend in Andorra.

The world No 9 ranked cross-country rider now readies for the fifth round of the World Cup at Les Gets, the ski resort perched at around 1500m high in the Alps.

“It’s a massive relief to show that after three years of disappointing performances at altitude I can actually race at a high level, and even more so when I think back to all the time, effort and planning that has gone into helping me to perform well at altitude,” said Cooper.

“The shape seems to be coming together well at this point and I’m excited for the remaining races this season.

“It’s a new course here in Les Gets with lots of grass, some fresh cut, wide taped-trail and a few berms and jumps too. And a lot of climbing.”

After 17 years, the Mountain Bike World Cup returns to Les Gets and while some riders are familiar with the downhill course, the cross-country track will be a new challenge for everyone. Les Gets will be a stop on the World Cup for the next two years before hosting the world championships in 2022.

With the race to be run on the weekend of Bastille Day, organisers are expecting a sizeable and patriotic crowd.

There is a massive 24 Kiwis competing at Les Gets, the biggest turnout so far this season.

Ben Oliver, Sam Gaze and Sam Shaw join Cooper in the elite men’s cross-country field, with Josh Burnett in the under-23.

There are 10 racing elite in the downhill, led by Brook MacDonald and Kate Weatherly who had top-six finishes last week in Andorra. The others in the elite males include Ed Masters, George Brannigan, Sam Blenkinsop, Matt Walker, Wyn Masters, Charles Makea, Boaz Hebblethwaite and Billy Meaclem.

They are joined in the junior men by the Subway Performance Hub trio of Tuhoto-Ariki Pene, Sam Gale and Blake Ross and fellow New Zealand juniors Finn Hawkesby-Browne, Jayd Hawkesby-Browne, Alex Barke, Ethan Blanchard, Albert Snep and Louis Vuleta.

The competition began with the short course cross-country on Saturday, which proved disappointing for Cooper, the only New Zealand starter, who finished a minute down on the winner to push him back to the fourth row of the grid for the cross-country race on Monday morning (NZ time). Meanwhile the downhill riders will race tomorrow.

Photo: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool

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