Annie Last and Grant Ferguson were victorious in the North Yorkshire Moors as they won the elite races at round four of the HSBC UK | National Cross Country Series in Dalby Forest.
Following a tenth place finish in a recent World Cup, Last was the woman to beat on Sunday and she did not disappoint, with a comprehensive victory from gun to tape.
Ferguson had a much more of a race on his hands but came out on top to claim his second win of the series, with just one round left to ride.
First for Last
The London 2012 Olympian took off from the start and was soon in a smooth rhythm, tapping out the five long laps around one of the country’s most popular cross country courses.
She steadily improved her lead over the chasing pack and only her own OMX Pro Team colleague Isla Short was capable of laying down the pace for a chase.
But her pursuit was in vain and Last eventually took the win by a margin of six minutes as Short finished second, ahead of Jane Barr – who held off an attack from Mel Alexander to take the vital series points that see her take the overall lead heading into the final round.
The day belonged to Last, though, as she took her first win of the series in her first appearance of the year.
"That was a good race on home soil for me today. I’ve missed the other rounds due to racing commitments abroad, so it was nice to be able to race here at Dalby on the World Cup course,” said the 26-year-old.
“They missed out a few technical sections but ultimately it is the same as the World Cup course and was really good fun.
“It was a long race, but we knew at the start that was going to be the case, so I just went out there and focused on getting a good rhythm, looking after the bike, because it’s muddy you don’t want to take too many chances and suffer a mechanical, looking after the body and just enjoying it.
“It’s a good technical course that keeps you thinking the whole way round. There was one section where I lost concentration for a second and I came off, I think my brain was already thinking about the next corner before I finished the one I was on!”
Ferguson doubles up
Scot Ferguson got his second win of the series after taking his chance and riding away from the group midway through the race.
Gareth McKee led in the early stages of single track, before he was chewed up and spat out by a compact group of riders that would vie for the win.
Series leader Phil Pearce, Ferguson, Dave Fletcher, Jason Bouttell and Alex Welburn were the leading five, but around the half way stage the Scot tested their legs and got a gap.
Pearce followed but as the final lap approached he kicked again, getting a small gap that he maintained to the line.
The series leader came home second – enough to extend his gap at the top of the standings – with Iain Paton finishing strongly to come through for third.
But after a series of mishaps on the Dalby Forest course, Ferguson was just relieved to get round the track unscathed.
"I’m happy with how that race went,” said the 23-year-old Olympian. “We started off with a bit of a group of us riding round taking it in turns on the track.
“It was pretty muddy out there and made the technical sections even more intense so it was good to ride with the group early on. Then mid race I thought I’d see if I could get a gap on the long fire road climb, and Phil [Pearce] was the only one that came with me.
“On the drag up to the finish I kicked again to get a gap from Phil, he was just there, dangling off my wheel a way, so I just tried to hold him off.
“I don’t know what the gap was at the end but he was still there and was so strong.
“Dalby has been a bit of an interesting course for me in the past. I liked it last year but there have been a few times I’ve snapped chains here, so to get a good result here today is very pleasing.”