Cambridge mountain biker Sam Gaze has taken out the under-23 cross-country victory at the UCI World Cup in Germany. The 20 year old from the Specialized Racing team made it two wins from two starts after the win in Albstadt that followed victory at the opening round in Australia.
Gaze was locked in a tight battle with Frenchman Titonan Carod as the pair opened a break on a142-strong under-23 field before the young Kiwi made his move two laps from home. He went on to win in 1:19:23, with Carod 37 seconds back in second and Marcel Guerrini (SUI) third a further minute behind in a commanding performance from the young Kiwi.
North Canterbury’s Anton Cooper could only manage 51st placing in the elite men’s race, finishing 8min 25sec down on winner Nino Schurter (SUI), the four-time world champion, and Julian Absalon (FRA), the double Olympic champion. Cooper, who started 38th on the grid, was unable to show his usual form after falling ill last month for the opening world cup in Cairns. “Obviously it’s a very disappointing day at the office. The legs weren’t there from the beginning and it looks like I’m still not recovered from whatever has been troubling me this season,” Cooper said. “It’s hugely frustrating when the power and heart rates are nowhere near what they should be. Every choice this season has been made with the best intentions in mind but for some reason it hasn’t worked out and I can’t change the past. I will rest up this week and try my best for a good result in one week’s time in France.”
The two young riders Cooper and Gaze are locked in a battle for the likely one spot that New Zealand will qualify for the Rio Olympics, with the qualification period finishing after next week’s third round of the world cup in La Bresse, France. North Canterbury’s Ben Oliver finished in 31st place with Jack Compton one lap down in 57th while Craig Oliver did not finish.
Meanwhile Queenstown’s Kate Fluker finished 23rd in the elite women’s race in one of her most impressive performances in a stacked field. Starting 37th on the grid, Fluker rode consistently and strongly on the demanding Albstadt circuit, noted for his steep and challenging climbs and highly technical descents, to finish less than seven minutes from runaway winner Annika Langvad (DEN). Fluker was the leading rider from outside of Europe and North America, finishing ahead of Oceania champion Rebecca Henderson (AUS).