Great Britain Olympic mountain bike rider Annie Last is peaking at the ideal time for the London Games, according to her coach Phil Dixon.
Last finished her 2012 UCI Mountain Bike Cross-Country World Cup series campaign on a high on Saturday with a season best third in the final round in Val d’Isere. The result comes on the back of her win at the BMC Racing Cup during a pre-Olympic camp in Switzerland.
Academy Programme protégé Last is the first British woman to qualify for the Olympic mountain bike race since Sydney 2000. The 21-year-old British Cycling member - a twice silver medal winner in the under 23 category at the UCI Mountain Cross-Country Bike World Championships - had previously recorded successive ninth place finishes in the world cup cross-country series at Mont Sainte Anne, Canada and Windham, USA.
“I think she’s really pleased and happy with her consistency, she’s finding her legs,” British Cycling Mountain Bike Olympic coach Dixon said.
“Part of the plan in the last couple of years is a June build, it has always shown in August and September in world championship results and last year in August she was sixth in a world cup so it’s really coming through now and it’s exciting in this Olympic Games to see what she can achieve.
"I think she has shown great character and she is really excited for the Games and is looking forward to getting out there.”
Phil Dixon on Annie Last
“We haven’t qualified a female place in 12 years, the qualification process that Annie went through was horrendous really, and it was basically four years of her life that she will probably never have to repeat in her life.
“She was still a development rider and had the pressure of qualifying an Olympic place which she dealt with really well and along the way she got two world championship medals, second place for the last two years as an under 23 bike rider, I think she has shown great character and she is really excited for the Games and is looking forward to getting out there.”
Hadleigh Park in Essex will be the venue where Last will come up against the world’s best on 11 August, including reigning Olympic champion Sabine Spitz. The technically demanding five kilometre circuit is situated on open hillside and will play an influential role in determining who leaves with the medals.
Last, along with Liam Killeen, makes up Team GB’s mountain bike riders and Dixon believes they are well versed in the challenges the course will bring.
“I think the person that has got their preparation right and the strongest on the day will win,” Dixon commented.
“It is physically one of the toughest courses I have seen. There’s no flat transition in it at all, it’s continually up or down and the downs are technical - they’re rock features so you can’t afford to get them wrong or you are out of the running.
“It’s got a mixture of A and B lines but the course is tremendously difficult but I think for an Olympic Games it is a great course from a spectator point of view. You can see a lot of the course from one spot and that bodes well for the sport I think. I do think the race will be quite close as well, I don’t think it will split up too quickly.
“Because the course is open you can see a long way in front of you which is pretty rare for a mountain bike course so the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ scenario is not the case really, you always have something to chase and I think the race will closer and exciting.”
The women’s mountain bike cross-country race takes place at Saturday 11 August at 12.30pm with the men’s race on 12 August at 1.30pm.