An early puncture in horrendous wet conditions derailed the UCI World Cup season start for New Zealand champion Anton Cooper in Germany today.

The New Zealander had to be content with 36th place, 5m48s behind Swiss national champion Mathias Flueckiger who prospered in the conditions as the favourites faded to claim only his second World Cup victory.

Cooper started on the front row for the cross-country race in Albstadt run in torrential rain that turned the track into a quagmire. After racing in the lead group, the Trek Factory professional punctured and dropped back though the field as he gingerly tip-toed his way through the carnage in the muddy and slippery conditions back to the service area to change wheels.

North Canterbury’s Ben Oliver, part of the Subway National Performance Hub, rode strongly in the conditions to finish 51st from 140 starters in his first elite start with Rotorua’s Sam Shaw in 112th two laps down.

Earlier Hub rider Jessica Manchester was 56th in the under-23 women’s race, while yesterday fellow Hub riders Sammie Maxwell was 13th from 54 starters in the junior women and Connor Johnston 79th from 134 riders in the junior men.

American world champion Kate Courtney was an emphatic winner of the women’s race from Cooper’s Trek Factory teammate Yolanda Neff (SUI), the 2017 world champion.

The New Zealand contingent will make a speedy recovery ahead of the second round of the World Cup this weekend at one of the most popular rounds at Nove Mestro na Morave in the Czech Republic.

Photo: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool

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