Double Under-23 World Champion Sam Gaze will create a slice of history when he wears the No 1 plate in the UCI Mountain Bike Cross-Country World Cup in Germany this weekend.
Gaze scored an upset victory in a sprint finish over World and Olympic Champion Nico Schurter in the opening round of the World in South Africa. It gave the Kiwi Specialized Factory Racing rider the lead in the World Cup elite standings, which is a first for a New Zealand mountain bike cross-country rider.
Fellow Kiwi Anton Cooper (Trek Factory Racing) starts at No 6 to signal the strongest ever New Zealand pairing in elite cross-country on the world stage.
Six New Zealanders line-up for the second round World Cup action for cross-country riders at Albstadt, with Gaze and Cooper in the elite men; Oceania champion Samara Sheppard and Rio Olympian Kate Fluker in the elite women while first round runner-up Ben Oliver and Paul Wright line-up in the under-23 men.
Gaze will be full of confidence after breaking Schurter’s winning record in South Africa and claiming the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, while Cooper has fond memories of this circuit after his elite podium breakthrough performance at Albstadt last year.
Oliver, the Subway National Performance Hub rider, has shown considerable development with fourth place at the Commonwealth Games and will look to follow in the footsteps of Gaze and Cooper, who between them have both won the under-23 world crown every year over the last three years.
The 4km circuit at Albstadt has had some slight changes as the organisers look forward to hosting the world championships in 2020. There is nearly 200m of climbing in each lap and some testing technical sections.
Oliver and Wright get things under way from midnight tonight (NZ time), with the elite women from 9.20pm on Sunday and elite men from 12.30am Monday.