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Former Junior world cross-country mountain bike champion Anton Cooper, of Christchurch, NZ, will take on some of the quickest racers in the fast-emerging sport of enduro in the first week of December in the hills above Dunedin.

 

Cooper will be joined by Trek World Racing downhill professional George Brannigan, of Hastings, World Cup downhill racer and Bulls Factory Racing team rider, Wyn Masters, of Taranaki and Nelson's Jamie Nicoll, who stormed the Enduro World Series in 2013 proving himself as the fastest privateer in the series.

 

The event is organised each year by local club Mountain Biking Otago with Olympian Kashi Leuchs managing the event.

 

"Enduro mountain bike racing started in little pockets around the world and has now grown into one of the mainstream disciplines in the sport," offers Leuchs.

 

"Its success is easy to trace: it's on bikes that everyone can ride and the races take place on trails that everyone rides - this just adds that competitive element to it all and that has fuelled its growth."

 

Cooper has just returned from his first season racing in the U23 World Cup XC series in Europe and on his way home he competed in the Trans Provence Enduro stage race "just for fun".

 

The talented rider finished seventh at the Trans-Provence.

 

"Enduro racing is a lot of fun and it's great for skills," Cooper said. "This race is in my off-season, so it's a great time for me to build-up my downhill skills, which are also very important in World Cup cross-country racing."

 

Cooper said the event was about having fun on the bike primarily, but he would like to win. He said Jamie Nicoll was his biggest rival.

 

"Jamie's really very talented and he has just had a full season racing in the Enduro World Series - he knows what to do to ride fast in enduro competition."

 

Cooper would be riding a Cannondale Jekyll in the event - a 160/150mm travel bike that he said would be perfect for Dunedin's trails.

 

Leuchs said the new discipline was the best of both worlds.

 

"Enduro is attracting many of the best riders from cross-country and downhill racing now."

 

He said the Urge 3 Peaks Enduro was an important one for Dunedin.

 

"This event puts us on the map as a hotspot for mountain biking. People come here to ride this event and experience all the great trails and the media attention it gets globally is amazing."

 

One of the leading women in the sport, Anka Martin, of South Africa, will also be competing against local favourite Anja MacDonald and the event's inaugural women's champion and Olympian, Rosara Joseph, of Wellington.

 

New for 2014 is the addition of an urban prologue stage - a mostly downhill run that starts near the top of Tennyson Street and ends in the Octagon.

 

"We think the urban stage will be a big hit with the crowd - it will be easy to find a great spot to watch and see the action," Leuchs said.

 

Mountain Biking Otago president Gareth Hargreaves said the event was at the forefront of what is happening globally with the enduro trend.

 

"It fits with our style of riding with fun, social climbs to the top and then racing each other back down - it's what we all do," Hargreaves said.

 

"What could be more fun than that?"

 

"It brings in riders from throughout the country and that's a great way to showcase the city's mountain biking trail assets," Hargreaves said.

 

Leuchs said the global rise in popularity of mountain biking was evident in the entries for the event.

 

"We have doubled the entry numbers from last year so we anticipate twice as much fun."