National Oceania champion Anton Cooper will start on the front row for the opening round of the UCI Mercedes Benz Mountain Bike World Cup in Germany at the weekend.

The Trek Factory professional finished an impressive sixth place in the short course sprint race in Albstadt that determines the first round starting grid for cross-country riders.

Cooper had remarked of feeling sluggish in his warm-up race last weekend, but the 24-year-old world top-10 rode strongly throughout in the exciting short course race. It was won by the star Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel, arguably the most exciting rider in cycling after winning the world title in cyclo-cross and the famed the classic Amstel Gold Cup on the road earlier this year.

Cooper jumped well from the start of the nine-lap race, settling behind world champion Nino Shurter and ultimately in a sprint finish in sixth only a few metres behind van der Poel.

Taupo’s Sammie Maxwell is the first New Zealander in action when racing proper begins tonight (8.30pm NZ time) in the junior women’s race. Her fellow Subway national performance hub teammate Jessica Manchester competes in the under-23 race on Sunday (7pm NZT) with Cooper, Ben Oliver, in his elite debut, and Rotorua’s Sam Shaw racing from 12.40am (Monday NZT).

The Albstadt is one of the best attended rounds on the mountain bike calendar, set in the Swabian Alps in southern Germany.

The action is live streamed on Red Bull TV.

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