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Woodends' favourite son Anton Cooper carried on his Mountainbike World Cup winning ways overnight in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa at the season opening round. After winning the last two World Cup rounds of 2011, Cooper made short work of the Cascades MTB Park Junior Mens race to win comfortably by four and a half minutes. Now racing for the Trek World Racing Team, Cooper delivered a performance that is more than familiar to his New Zealand counterparts - getting away to an early lead with an unleashing of serious power from the start gun, and then stretching that lead throughout the rest of the four laps with sheer pace and technical riding prowess. Cooper gave the rest of the Junior field absolutely no opportunity to challenge at the front of the race with a typically dominant performance, and he will line up at the next World Cup round at Houffalize in Belgium wearing the World Cup leaders jersey. 
Results Pietermatizburg World Cup XCO Junior Men
1. Anton Cooper (NZL) 1:09:48
2. Victor Korestzky (France) 1:14:17
3. Nicolas Sessler (Brazil) 1:15:42
Downhill Elite Men - Kiwis Solid
The Elite Mens Downhill race was also run overnight at Cascades MTB Park. Renowned on the World Cup circuit as a tough course due to a sustained flat section through the middle stages of the descent, the four New Zealand athletes competing didn't fire as well as they hoped at this first round of the series. Justin Leov (Trek World Racing, Dunedin) was the best performer in 17th, with Brook MacDonald (MS Mondraker, Napier) in 19th. MacDonald had a very heavy fall in qualifying on Friday after over jumping one of the massive features towards the bottom of the course, and while the effects of that crash could have been a lot worse, for the 2009 Junior World Champion this is a solid start in his quest to repeat his regular podium appearances of 2011. George Brannigan (Devinci Global, Hawkes Bay) and Sam Blenkinsop (Lappierre International, Wanganui) raced to 40th and 58th respectively, Blenkinsop in his first race back after recovering from a broken leg earlier this year.
The downhill part of the World Cup now takes a long break before the next round in Val di Sole, Italy at the start of June, where a fully fit Cam Cole will also make a World Cup return from injury joining teammate Blenkinsop.
Results Pietermatizburg World Cup DHI Elite Men
1. Greg Minaar (RSA) 3:57.98
2. Aaron Gwinn (USA) +0.632  
3. Michael Hannah (AUS) +0.994 
17. Justin Leov (NZL) +8.579 
19. Brook MacDonald (NZL) +9.036  
40. George Brannigan (NZL) +14.515  
58. Sam Blenkinsop (NZL) +18.106 
Issued for MTBNZ Performance
Chris Mildon 021 2309120
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Smutok Smutok 3/19/2012 7:32 AM

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