UCI Mountain Bike World Cup XCO
Round 6: Nove Mesto Na Morave, Czech Republic
Posted August 16 2011
Words And Photography By Luke Webber
The best performance by a British woman in a World Cup and the season-ending injury of Oli Beckingsale were the headlines from round six of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup.
British Cycling's Olympic Academy athlete Annie Last produced the best international performance by a British woman in a World Cup since 2002, finishing sixth in Nove Mesto.
Last - still an under-23 but riding in the senior category - took a career-first top-ten position and was only seconds off of the poidum.
Speaking exclusively to British Cycling following the European Championships, Last focussed on the difference racing at the front of a World Cup could make to the finishing position and immediately heeded her own advice.
Moving into the top ten on the opening lap, Last entered the final lap looking for a podium position, riding alongside Eva Lechner in fifth position. Ultimately, Last lost a couple of seconds before the line to finish sixth, but demonstrated her podium potential at the highest level of the sport for the first time.
Having already collected a string of top thirty and top twenty placings, the significance of the British Cycling Olympic Academy rider one year out from the London 2012 is remarkable; such progression could provide Britain its first female representation in the Olympic mountain bike race since Sydney 2000.
Last also competed in Friday's Pro Sprint Eliminator event, qualifying second, but getting knocked out in the quarter final, rolling her tyre while in the lead.
In the elite men's race Oli Beckingsale - one of Britain's key Olympic qualification points scorers - faced a premature end to his season, crashing and breaking his femur. Following the crash, Beckingsale went to hospital and had the injury plated and pinned, before returning home. He will now miss both the Val di Sole World Cup and the World Championships.
British Champion Liam Killeen made his return to the World Cup circuit, but was caught up in a start-line crash. Languishing outside the top fifty on the start loop, Killeen later put together a series of top-30 worthy lap times to finish the race 38th.
In the under-23 competition, British Cycling's Olympic Academy athlete Kenta Gallagher recovered from a poor start to ride into the top-30, before dropping back on the final lap to finish 38th - this the day after racing the Pro Sprint Eliminator and recording his best result to date - knocked out in the quarter final.
The World Cup continues this weekend in Italy.