Published: 18 July 2012
Report: Scott Hobro/Simon Powers
Dave Brailsford has commended Annie Last for qualifying a British woman to the Olympic mountain bike event for the first time since Sydney 2000 and backed her to continue her rapid improvement at the London Games.
Last, who is 21 and on British Cycling’s Olympic Academy programme, rode her way through a grueling schedule over the past three years in order to succeed in booking a place for the cross-country event at Hadleigh Park in Essex on Saturday 11 August.
In that time, the Milka Brentjens rider - who deferred her place in medical school to join the programme in 2009 – has constantly improved. A fifth place under 23 finish in the 2009 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships acted as the foundation for Last’s rise, who went on to record a number of top three under 23 finishes in the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Cross Country series as well picking up silver medals in the 2010 and 2011 world championships in the same age category.
This season, Last has become a regular top 10 finisher in the UCI World Cup Series, recording successive ninth places in June’s Mont Sainte Anne and Windham rounds respectively. In Sunday’s BMC Racing Cup in Davos Switzerland, Last won ahead of current Olympic champion Sabine Spitz and silver medalist Maja Wloszczowska.
“Qualifying the first woman to the mountain bike race was very, very pleasing,” said British Cycling Performance Director and Team GB Cycling Team Leader Brailsford.
“We want riders at the highest level competing for Britain at an event where we’ve been so successful in the past – we’ve had some fantastic female mountain bikers in the past. We’ve had a bit of a drop but Annie Last is certainly flying the flag now and she is coming strong.”
Last, whose trip to Switzerland forms part of the final build-up to the Games which Olympic mountain coach Phil Dixon hopes will see her arrive at Hadleigh Park in ‘the best shape she has ever been’, will be the first woman in the mountain bike cross-country event for Great Britain since Caroline Alexander and Louise Robinson turned out in 2000.
“She’s a great rider - great technically, has a great attitude and I think her progression is gaining momentum all the time and it’s fantastic to watch,” Brailsford said.
“The question is, her progression is really on the up, and is it going to be enough to get her in the medals in London? Without doubt she can be competitive on the world stage going forward and I’m sure she can be competitive in London. I think she seems to have the mental edge to have that belief and compete in front of a home crowd and I’m sure she’s relishing the opportunity and she’ll do fantastically well I’m sure.”
Last is the only British competitor in the women’s elite event, whilst Liam Killeen – who competed in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, will ride for Great Britain in the elite men’s race, which takes place on 12 August at 1.30pm.