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2011 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup R2, Dalby Forest
Pro Sprint Eliminator
Words and Photography By Luke Webber
Posted May 20 2011
Britain's Annie Last returned to Pickering and to the podium as British Cycling's Dalby World Cup Weekender opened for competition.
Hundreds of locals and cycling fans flooded the streets of Pickering for a thrilling opening night to the World Cup - with standout performances from Brits Annie Last, Tracy Moseley and Steve James
Following from her appearance on the World Cup podium in 2010, Last returned to race the Pro Sprint Eliminator and impressed by setting the fastest qualification time, going on to finish second in a highly competitive final.
In the early stages Last looked unbeatable, however in the semi-final a missed pedal on the start line could have spelled disaster.
Fortunately, Downhill World Champion Tracy Moseley made it two Brits in the four-rider lineup and as Last got up to speed, a pair of red, white and blue jerseys appeared bac into view and on to Pickering high street.
With Last taking the lead up Burgate, Moseley slotted into second before the garden descent and a final uphill blast to the finish.
Last crossed the line for a place in the final, while Moseley was finally knocked out, finishing seventh after the minor final.
The final itself saw Last come up against Nathalie Schneitter, Alexandra Engen and Katrin Leumann - and from the line the young Brit was to face a big challenge - forced to come from behind on a course which provided few overtaking opportunities.
By the time the race had reached Burgate, Last was already challenging for second, but couldn't find a way past Leumann before the critical downhill. Schneitter had already gained a decisive gap; but Last didn't give up, sprinting the entire length of the high street to take second on the line - closing on Schneitter all the way.
In the men's race surprise winner Paul Van Der Ploeg, lined up in a final containing 2010 Pro Sprint winner Thomas Litscher, crowd-pleaser Marco Fontana and Sepp Freiburghaus.
Van Der Ploeg always seemed in control, ahead of favourite Fontana, who threw away second place when Litscher found an impossible gap on Burgate.
Perhaps the bigger stories of the night concerned a host of early exits by favourites for the win - Nino Schurter out in round one, and Brian Lopes - who qualified third - also going home at the first stage.
Steve James - third at the Junior World Cup last year made it furthest of any Brit in the Pro Sprint - 14th on the night, and in good company in the quarter finals with Geoff Kabush, Manuel Fumic and Lukas Fluckiger.