There were some good learnings for Anton Cooper and Sam Gaze from the latest round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup at Val di Sole in Italy.

Cooper (Trek Factory) finished 13th and Gaze 47th with Subway Performance Hub rider Ben Oliver 61st.

Cooper had not expected to start following illness that wrecked his efforts at the last race in Les Gets, France. But after extensive tests he got the green light from doctors, given the clearance to race late in the week.

He took a more conservative approach from the third row to be 20th mid-race but finished strongly, with the ninth fastest time for the final lap to jump to 13th.

“I was not expecting much but was using this race to set a stake in the ground as to where my form is at after illness. From here it’s all about building momentum forward to World Champs in less than four weeks,” said Cooper.

After missing much of last season and this year with injuries, Gaze – who has joined Deceuninck-QuickStep as a stagiaire for the remainder of the 2019 season – started back in 115th spot on the grid and blasting his way past 80 riders to be 34th with two laps remaining. His efforts took a toll on the climbs in the final two laps, dropping back to 47th, and finishing 7:51 behind winner Mathieu van der Poel.

“There were some good things to take away from today,” said Gaze. “The climbing sent me backwards in the final two laps but the hardest part of my recovery is over, and day by day I feel like I’m improving. I am one step closer to coming back to my best,” he said.

Oliver was one of those riders passed by Gaze, finishing in 61st place, 9:50 behind the winner in his debut season at the elite level.

Cooper is now 12th in the world rankings with Oliver 59th and Gaze up more than 30 spots to 81.

The riders head to Lenzerheide, Switzerland this week for the penultimate World Cup stop for both cross-country and downhill before crossing the Atlantic for the World Championships at Mont Sainte Anne in Canada and the final World Cup at Snowshoe in West Virginia, USA.

Photo: Robert Jones

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