Commonwealth Games coverage
Published: 29 July 2014
Written by: Eddie Allen
Image: Alex Broadway/SWPix.com
Annie Last took fourth place in the Commonwealth Games mountain bike cross-country race, with first-year British Cycling Academy Programme athlete Alice Barnes recording her best-ever result in fifth. In the men's event, Grant Ferguson was the best of the home nations riders, finishing fifth.
Last was in third place in the opening stages and settled into fifth behind Barnes for much of the race before Barnes ran out of gas in the last lap, as Canada’s Catherine Pendrel took an impressive solo victory ahead of compatriot Emily Batty and Australia’s Rebecca Henderson.
It was Team England’s Bethany Crumpton who led in opening stages of first lap before Karen Hanlen of New Zealand briefly took the lead, with Scotland’s Lee Craigie on her wheel.
But it wasn’t long before Pendrel emerged from the lead group on one of the course’s steep climbs and quickly began to build a lead ahead of Henderson and Last.
Last dropped to fourth as Canada’s Emily Batty and Australia’s Rebecca Henderson began a race-long tussle for silver, the pair trading places throughout the six laps of the Cathkin Braes course.
As Pendrel forged ahead, 19-year old Barnes began a charge and it wasn’t long before she was locked onto Last’s rear wheel, challenging for fourth position.
At the halfway point, Barnes had overtaken her more experienced teammate and began to open a gap while behind, Scotland’s Lee Craigie has settled into sixth place, completing a trio of home nations riders in the top six.
As the race reached its concluding stages the gaps began to widen and at the bell, Barnes was a minute and a half behind the tussle for silver but looked secure in fourth.
However, the pace had taken its toll on the youngster as Last dug deep, passing her Barnes teammate to take fourth, three minutes and five seconds behind Pendrel.
Barnes took the chequered flag almost a minute later, with early leader Hanlen hot on her heels. Scotland’s Lee Craigie was seventh, four minutes back on the winner while England’s Bethany Crumpton took ninth.
Commenting on her performance Annie Last revealed that her run-up to the race was far from ideal.
“I'm quite pleased with that,” said Last. “I've had a back injury for the past 18 months and this is only my third race back from injury.
"So for me to get here is great. Thursday and Friday I was feeling pretty good and coming into this race the best I've felt for such a long time.
"But unfortunately I got food poisoning over the weekend which wasn't ideal preparation for a bike race.
"I went from thinking that maybe I be able to sit in the back of the front group and see if I could stay there to knowing that actually I was going to have to look after myself a bit more and see how I was feeling.
"I had to ride a little bit more within myself for the first part of the race and then squeeze on. So all in all with the preparation, I'm really happy with fourth and I'm looking forward to continue racing and progressing."
Alice Barnes was equally pleased with a top five performance in her first Commonwealth Games.
“That last lap was so hard," said Barnes. "Annie came past and I could feel them coming for me so I just had to grit my teeth and go as hard as I could but I'm really happy with that.
"I think I'm probably the youngest in the race. In February I broke my collarbone so it was a bit touch-and-go with how I was going to qualify but with some good world cup results I managed to get my place and do a good ride so I'm really happy."
Scotland’s Grant Ferguson was the highest-placed home nations rider in the men’s event, taking fifth place and holding off a late challenge from England’s Liam Killeen.
Killeen finished sixth at Cathkin Braes , with teammate Paul Oldham ninth and Scotland’s Kenta Gallagher 10th as New Zealand’s Anton Cooper won gold.
Ferguson slotted into fifth early on in the race as a quartet of riders forged ahead and began a thrilling battle for the medals.
After overtaking early leader Philip Buys of South Africa, the foursome of Australia’s Dan McConnell, New Zealand’s Anton Cooper and Sam Gaze and Canada’s Max Plaxton quickly formed and took control. Ferguson was 20 seconds back on the leading four at the start of lap two, ahead of Scotland teammate Gareth Montgomerie.
The leading quartet’s lead increased with Ferguson 53 seconds adrift after a lap and a half of a Catkin Braes course that was hit with strong winds for the men’s event.
At the start of the third lap, the four were locked together up ahead with Ferguson still just under a minute behind. Montgomerie held sixth while England’s Liam Killeen had ridden up to seventh after a poor start.
As the laps continued to countdown the leading four’s lead continued to increase as Gaze, Plaxton, Cooper and McConnell swapped places at the head of the field. Ferguson crossed the line to complete lap four one minute and 28 seconds back and a hard-charging Killeen was up to sixth and homing-in on Ferguson.
With two laps to go, Ferguson ploughed on in fifth, now two minutes and six seconds adrift of the leaders with Killeen still applying the pressure behind, now just fifteen seconds back.
As the leaders took the bell the moves began with New Zealand’s Cooper applying the pressure and pace shelling-out Paxton. The top three remained locked together and a grandstand finish beckoned until Cooper took a long lunge for the line, distancing his race-long rivals to take gold. Teammate Gaze took silver with McConnell bronze.
But as the chequered flag waved, the home nations interest lay behind and their questions were soon answered as the home crowd noisily welcomed home Ferguson, three minutes and nine seconds back, with Killeen 22 seconds further back in sixth.
England’s Paul Oldham took a fine ninth place with Scotland’s Kenta Gallagher rounding out the top ten.
After the race Ferguson said, "I would have liked to have been in that group to be honest.
"We knew it would be quite hard as expected but I found myself behind the South African and I let the wheel go a bit and he just got that gap. It was only 15 seconds and then Gareth (Montgomerie) tried to help me get across on the climb.
"I was trying to get into it and McConnell came around and I tried to use his wheel and he just hit it that hard to get across and I didn't quite bridge it. Then I found myself in no-man's-land. The gap was just growing at the front there.
"The crowd was awesome. I want to say thanks for that, it was really loud, it was amazing."
Liam Killeen paid tribute to Ferguson's performance and like the Scot, was disappointed to miss the early move.
"It was pretty windy and quite a lot the time I was on my own, probably trying a bit harder than I would have been if I'd been in that front group but it was just too hard a first lap," said Killeen.
"I'm still recovering from my ankle injury so I haven't got that peak power. That's the name of the game off the start line.
"I did my best but I'm still a few watts off on my weaker leg. I was pleased to hang in there.
"I gave it a good shot today. Top five would have been nice but Grant took that place. I'm really pleased for him, he's got a promising career ahead of him.”