British Cycling's Olympic Mountain Bike Coach Phil Dixon has revealed Annie Last started the mountain bike world championships despite being sick all week and has hailed her performance as courageous.
Dixon explained that Last's out of sorts performance was the result of a week-long illness, flu-like symptoms keeping her in bed without food from Sunday through Wednesday.
Last only made it onto the course for the first time on Thursday and decided to race - despite still being ill - because "she desperately wanted to be world champion" Dixon said.
The British Cycling Olympic Academy athlete - who finished eighth at the Olympic Games and third at the final round of the world cup series - started the under-23 race as favourite, having won silver in both 2010 and 2011.
Racing conservatively in second for the first two laps, Last was suffering from the outset and struggled to coordinate herself in the technical sections, crashing every lap.
On the third circuit, Last closed the gap and went into the lead, but crashed again, this time bending her seatpost and brake lever. A stop in the pit to fix the damage cost her the lead and on the final lap the strain of the race caught up with her and she was forced to submit even a medal position, eventually crossing the line fourth.
After the race, Dixon described Last as being "totally gutted."
"It was not the way she wanted to race" he added, "but she almost got away with it."
Tomorrow, Last will decide on her participation in the Pro Sprint Eliminator, but Dixon's final thought of the day was to draw a positive following a tough opening to the world championships. Following the fifth place finish of Bethany Crumpton, he declared the result "the start of the Annie Last legacy."
He continued "Annie doesn't realise what she has done for women's mountain biking in Britain, for women's mountain biking as part of the British Cycling Performance Programme. But today I saw the first signs of what she has achieved and it was a very encouraging sign."