New Zealand Mountain Bike Champion Anton Cooper has given a thumbs-up to the cross-country course to be used for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
Cooper, the Trek Factory professional, finished ninth in the official test event on the cross-country course at Izu, around 110kms from Tokyo, which will also be the base for track cycling at the Olympics.
Swiss star Nino Schurter, the Rio Olympic gold medallist, out-sprinted Frenchman Victor Koretzky for the win in 1:17:18 with Cooper less than a minute behind.
“The track is very cool. It rode really well and I felt good on it. It is a tough course – nothing crazy technical but it is always challenging and there’s a lot to think about. The climbs are steep but that suits me,” said Cooper.
“I felt confident on it and raced really well. Obviously, it is off-season so I had not done much training but I felt really good.”
The heat was not an issue at the weekend although the July race date next year is expected to be extremely hot.
“It was even cool and heat was not an issue. It was hot earlier in the week. But in July next year it could be up to 40C deg and 80 to 90 percent humidity which will be something to focus on, whether it be where to base yourself in the lead-up, how early you come, all the heat acclimatisation and then cooling strategies for the race itself.
“There’s a lot to think about with this event. That is the beauty of it and if you get it right it will be very sweet.
“If I could design a course for myself, then this is pretty close to it and then having a hot race as well is another thing that tends to bring the best out of me,” said Cooper.
Fellow Kiwi Sam Gaze, who decided to start despite a hand issue, succumbed to the injury and did not finish. He is currently racing as a trainee road rider for the Deceuninck Quick Step World Tour team.
Nino Schurter (SUI) 1:17:18, 1; Victor Koretzky (FRA) at 2sec, 2; Luca Braidot (ITA) at 12s, 3; Jordan Sarrou (FRA) at 14s, 4; Henrique Avancini (BRA) at 18s, 5. Also: Anton Cooper (NZL) at 54s, 9.