British Cycling mountain bike coach Phil Dixon thinks the coming years will bring success for Great Britain rider Annie Last after her impressive Olympic debut in London.
The 21-year-old finished eighth at Hadleigh Park on Saturday in the women’s cross-country, leading on the opening lap and demonstrating her impressive technical ability in a ride which Dixon believes was faultless. The British Cycling Academy programme athlete became the first British female to qualify for the mountain-bike race at the Games since 2000 and had endured an arduous four years of competition to earn her place on the start grid in London.
Prior to her Olympic Games entrance, Last recorded a career best finish at a UCI Mountain Bike Cross-Country World Cup event, finishing third in the final round at Val d'Isere, highlighting a season of progress and an indication of things to come.
“Annie had an amazing ride, I was really pleased with Annie,” coach Phil Dixon said. “The plan was to go out fast at the start, to take the race on and be in the race and she did exactly that. She used her technical skills to good effect and she forced the front group and made the race really.
"The progression she has made, she is now one of the best athletes in the world in the sport and she has got an exciting four years ahead."
Coach Phil Dixon
“You can’t fault her for trying to get back in the race, then for laps three and four she was with the Russian rider Irina Kalentieva and they were in contention for certainly bronze and maybe silver. The last two laps she suffered from trying to be in the bike race from the off.
“The plan wasn’t to have a steady start, ride around in tenth and finish further back, it was to try and give her the best opportunity of achieving the best result she has ever had. She didn’t make a single mistake, she executed the race plan and she finished eighth in the Olympic Games, which for your debut in the Olympic Games in mountain bike - where women get stronger with age - I think she should be proud of herself, I certainly am proud of her.
Last will now enter preparations for the under 23 category race in UCI Mountain Bike Cross-Country Championships, which takes place in Saalfelden in Austria from 6-9 September. After winning silver for the last two years, she will be hoping to begin her journey to Rio de Janeiro 2016 with gold.
“She has come a long way in four years. A junior bike rider, ninth in the junior world championships in 2008, and she has just come eighth in the Olympic Games having to qualify herself a spot. The progression she has made, she is now one of the best athletes in the world in the sport and she has got an exciting four years ahead,” Dixon added.
Unfortunately Liam Killeen will not be present at the world championships, having suffered an open fracture of his left ankle after he crashed on a wall ride during Sunday's men’s race. The injury required surgery and Dixon expects it to keep the 30-year-old off a bike for ’12-18 weeks’. He also confirmed there are no plans to call up a replacement for the competition.