Great Britain’s Evie Richards took an impressive third place in the first round of the 2018 Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in South Africa.
Riding for Trek Factory Racing, the two-time under-23 women’s cyclo-cross world champion got off to the perfect start in Stellenbosch, taking an early lead from the Ghost Factory Racing duo of Malene Degn of Denmark and Sina Frei of Switzerland.
But the teammates overhauled her on the second lap and pulled clear with Richards in a battle for the final podium place with France’s Helene Clauzel (KMC-EKOI-SRSUNTOUR).
Clauzel overtook Richards on the penultimate lap and had a 15-second lead with one lap remaining.
But the British rider dug deep to get past her rival and finish over 30 seconds ahead of her in third place.
Degn took the win, 48 seconds ahead of Richards with Frei in second place, with Britain’s Isla Short taking an excellent ninth place for Habitat Mountain Bike Team.
In the under-23 men’s race, Frazer Clacherty finished 12th on his world cup debut for Silverback OMX Pro Team.
The British rider showed determination and skill to climb the placings, finding himself back in 28th after the second of six laps.
Clacherty finished 3:55 behind Norway’s Petter Faughausen who claimed a dominant victory.
Great Britain Cycling Team’s Cameron Orr and Daniel Tulett - both making their first appearances at under-23 world cup level - finished 45th and 52nd respectively.
World silver medallist Annie Last had a good start in the elite women’s race, sat in fourth place after the opening lap.
In tough conditions, Last slipped down the rankings, in 16th place after four laps of six.
She showed her quality in the final stages to recover to 11th, pipping USA’s Chloe Woodruff on the line, finishing just under three minutes behind race winner, Annika Langvad (Specialized Racing) of Denmark.
Grant Ferguson, racing for CST Sandd American Eagle MTB Racing Team, finished 35th in the elite men’s race.
The win went to New Zealand’s Sam Gaze (Specialized Racing) - his first-ever world cup victory - just over five minutes ahead of Ferguson.