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Road To 2012
British Mountain Bike Championships
Posted July 25 2011
Words And Photography By Luke Webber
British Cycling's mountain bike performance programme produced a trio of gold medals at the 2011 British Mountain Bike Championships as Liam Killeen, Annie Last and Kenta Gallagher all took cross country titles and a haul of UCI points which will assist in qualification for the 2012 Olympic Games.
For Podium Programme athlete Killeen it was a fourth consecutive British Championship title, winning the Elite men's race by two minutes. Following the race, Killeen was especially happy, considering his travel from the previous weeks UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, held in America.
"I'm really pleased today, because getting back from Windham on Monday has meant I've been trying to recover all week.
"It's nice to retain the jersey, it's the biggest domestic race and it's good to wear it again. Oli Beckingsale was putting the hammer down on the first lap on the steep climbs - but I didn't think that was where the race could be won. There was too much flowing singletrack. Basically it was an all rounder course, but the wind was also factor today. If you could sit on a wheel it was a big help, but once the race was blown apart it was man againt man."
The Olympics are constantly on Killeen's radar but he is unlikely to ride the official Test Event, instead opting to chase races with a more significant UCI points haul.
"I'm now assessing my next races - I'm doubtful over the Olympic Test Event - the UCI points aren't there and I have to be smart about that to actually get to the Olympics. If I train through a weekend and hit a good race for points then that is probably the better bet."
British Cycling's Olympic Academy took a further two medals, completing a clean sweep for the mountain bike performance programme - Annie Last continuing to ride the elite women's race despite still being an under-23.
Last's ride was the most impressive of the day, leading from the outset to win by a six minute margin.
Kenta Gallagher - in his first year as an under-23 and his first year on the Olympic Academy - defied the odds to take the under-23 British Championship. The 2009 Junior British Champion and Olympic Development Programme graduate rode in alone, recording his first win of the season.
Olympic Development Programme rider Katy Winton finished second in the Junior Championship, completing the medal haul for riders supported and funded by British Cycling.
Despite the overwhelming success there could have been more performance programme riders on the podium but absense and injury prevented that; the ODPs Grant Ferguson racing at the European Road Championships instead of defending his Junior title and Academy athletes Dave Fletcher and Lilly Matthees out, injured.
As the team travelled directly from the race to train on the 2011 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships course in Switzerland, British Cycling's Olympic Mountain Bike Coach Phil Dixon summarised the weekend by claiming a set of results essential to the 2012 qualification process.
"It was a successful weekend for the riders in Aske. The British Championships is the race everyone wants to win in the UK. Pre-race Liam and Annie had to deal with the pressure of being favourites and Kenta had the opportunity to step up to the podium in the U23 men's race. On race day they all produced great performances and came away from the event as British Champions and with a new stripy jumper as the riders like to call it.... It is worth mentioning that the riders enjoyed racing the new course at Aske which included steep climbs, technical single track and descents, with a hard headwind straight to finish. This provided the perfect mix of challenges for riders and great racing over the weekend.
"The squad now splits up over the next few weeks in August as the riders prepare for their own individual goals. Grant Ferguson returns to mountain bike racing after an excellent ride to finish 12th at the junior European road race championships finishing within a minute of the win over the 80 mile race. Also the squad await the return of an injured Lily Matthews and now David Fletcher who broke his wrist preparing for the race after his excellent World Cup performances in Canada and the US."