Teenage young guns fire in mountain bike

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Teenage young guns Anton Cooper and Sam Gaze did New Zealand proud when they won gold and silver in the men’s mountain bike cross-country race.

Cooper beat Gaze by three seconds in a barnstorming finish. It was New Zealand’s first gold-silver scoop of the Commonwealth Games, and the first since road cyclists Brian Fowler and Mark Rendell in 1994.

Cooper, who turns 20 next month, was never out of the top three and when he came through over the final few kilometres of the testing Cathkin Braes course, he was too strong for all challengers.

The Cantabrian won in 1h 38min 26s, just three seconds ahead of countryman Gaze.

Gaze, only 18, was also always near the front and rode well near the end to hold out Australian Daniel McConnell, the pre-race favourite, for the silver medal.

Cooper said he and Gaze had not worked together during the race.

“I knew I had to catch him off guard,” Cooper said. “I like to have a lead. You get bloody nervous when there are four riders [in the front bunch]."

He said it was great to share the podium with a Kiwi.

Cooper, a former junior world champion, said it was not an easy race.

“Saying that, I felt quite fresh through the whole race. I knew that I had fresh legs. I felt like I could go another lap.

"I conserved energy by drafting. It was pretty hard coming down to the last lap, but I pushed right through to the finish line.

"I tried to pull away, but they didn't let me. They had a good punch in them."

In the women’s race, New Zealanders Karen Hanlen and Kate Fluker were sixth and eighth in a field of 21.

The race was won by Canadian Catharine Pendrel in 1h 39min 29s. Hanlen recorded 1h 43min 31s and Fluker 1h 44min 56s.

Hanlen, who has recently completed surgery on a constricted femoral artery in her leg, was pleased with her showing.

“The build-up has been different and limited. But I was pleased with my fast start and I finished strongly but I needed to have hung in there through the middle laps,” Hanlen said. 

CAPTION: A victorious Anton Cooper crosses the line. Credit: Guy Swarbrick

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