UCI Mountain Bike World Cup XCO
Round 1: Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Round 1 Results:
Elite Men | Elite Women | Under-23 Men
British Cycling Olympic Academy Athlete Annie Last reignited her quest to qualify for London 2012 at the opening round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, taking an early lead before finishing ninth.
Following her breakout 2011 season, which included two top ten World Cup results and a second silver medal at the under-23 World Championships, Last proved her form has progressed again over winter, leading a World Cup for the first time, building up a 14 second gap on the opening lap.
But World Champion Catherine Pendrel took the initiative to bring back the British Champion on lap two, before a group of seven including Emily Batty, Maja Włoszczowska and Julie Bresset formed on the opening climb of lap three.
As Włoszczowska raised the pace, Pendrel and Batty made a lead group of three, while Last rode in a second group of three.
Last lost further time in the rock garden with a dropped chain, eventually holding ninth position and establishing her place in the top ten riders in the world.
In the Elite men's race, Olympic Podium Programme athletes Liam Killeen and Dave Fletcher looked to get UCI points on the board to solidify Britain's qualification place for the Olympics.
Killeen finished 36th after a huge crash on lap four, having ridden comfortably in the top 25 until that point, while Fletcher narrowly missed out on a top-60 points position, finishing 66th in his first year out of the under-23 category.
British Cycling Olympic Academy athletes Kenta Gallagher and Grant Ferguson both had the makings of top ten performances in the opening World Cup of the season, but were both thwarted by punctures on a rocky South Africa track.
Crossing the line for the final lap, Ferguson in his first year of under-23 World Cup competition came from the back of the grid to ninth, but a puncture cost him not only his career best result, but also precious World Cup points which secure a gridding for future rounds.
Gallagher's punture came a lap earlier but nearer a technical zone and he was able to recover to finish 15th, but it could have been a top ten.