British Champions Liam Killeen and Annie Last both prevailed at the opening round of the British Cross Country Series at Sherwood Pines on Sunday - Last with a dominating performance and Killeen edging a sprint.
In Olympic qualification year, both riders made their first domestic appearances of 2012. For Last - who came off the back of another top ten World Cup performance - it was a comfortable win.
The 21-year-old from Great Longstone led virtually from start to finish of the four-lap race, and eventually crossed the line almost five minutes clear of her nearest rival.
From the gun Last was at the front, with a chase group fragmenting before the end of lap one. At the end of the first circuit, Last had a 30 second lead over Scotland’s Lee Craigie (Lapierre UK), while behind, Mel Spath (Cycleways), Maxine Filby (Velocity), Jessie Roberts (RW Brakes Factory) and Katy Winton (Kinesis Morvelo Project) were all in the hunt.
Last continued to power clear of her rivals and by the end of the second lap she was already more than two minutes ahead the win secured. Behind, Lee Craigie and Mel Spath rode in alone to round out the podium.
Following her win, Last remained focussed on the Olympics and the forthcoming World Cup competitions.
"I've come into the season feeling strong but I've still got a lot of race conditioning and fitness to get. This was my third race of the season but there's still a long way to go to and hopefully I'll get faster as the season goes on. The Olympics are part of my overall season, but qualification doesn't close until May 23 and we still have to qualify a place. To do that I need to be the best I can this season. As for today the race went very well, today was a good day."
1 Annie Last Milka-Brentjens MTB Racing Team 01:26:13
2 Lee Craigie Lapierre UK +00:04:56
3 Melanie Spath Cycleways +00:07:01
4 Melanie Alexander Cardiff Jif +00:07:45
5 Joanne Clay WXC World Racing +00:08:10
6 Maxine Filby Velocite UK +00:08:22
7 Jessie Roberts RW Brakes Factory Race Team +00:08:31
8 Katy Winton The Kinesis Morvelo Project +00:09:26
9 Gabriella Day - Horizon Fitness RT +00:09:43
10 Katy Simcock Team Scott UK - St Ives CC +00:10:12
Killeen rode in an international field, with the final top ten positions containing just four British riders. The Worcestershire rider had been tussling for much of the race with Mathias Wengelin (Herbalife), and just edged him out at the end of the five-lap race.
A group of 12 riders quickly emerged at the front on the first lap, with Killeen and Wengelin being joined in the opening exchanges by Kenta Gallagher (Boardman Elite), Hans Becking (Milka Superior) and Oli Beckingsale, who crashed early and was forced to withdraw.
By the third lap Killeen was beginning to pull away with Wengelin, Gallagher and Magnus Darbell (Herbalife), with Wengelin at the front and Killeen right on his wheel.
But on the final lap Killeen got a jump on his rival, and edged him out by inches, while Robbie De Bock (Waasland MTB) took third.
Following the race Killeen admitted he was still recovering from a heavy crash at the opening round of the World Cup and that the win took all his energy.
"I had to give it everything I had to beat him, it was pretty close on the line. I'm still recovering from last week, I'm still feeling the effects of that crash. The racing is always close round Sherwood so I was expecting today to be a group race until the last couple of laps where the stronger riders tend to pull away from the bunch. It's been a great weekend, the training for this season is progressing nicely and I'm looking forward to this season
1 Liam Killeen (Giant CC) 1:32:53
2 Mathias Wengelin (Herbalife) +0:00:01
3 Robbie De Bock (Waasland MTB) +0:00:55
4 Magnus Darbell (Herbalife) +0:01:09
5 Kenta Gallagher (Boardman Elite) +0:01:25
6 Dave Fletcher (Orange Monkey) +0:01:57
7 Hans Becking (Milka Superior) +0:02:00
8 Jens Schuermans (Versluys Pro MTB) +0:02:03
9 Steve James (Hargroves Cycles) +0:02:06
10 Didier Bats (MTB Team Langdorp VZW) +0:02:10
PRO SPRINT ELIMINATOR - Result
Saturday evening saw the first Pro Sprint Eliminator of 2012, which was won by Magnus Darvell, who edged Kenta Gallagher and David Fletcher with Robby De Bock fourth.
A total of 26 competitiors rode off through heats on a 700 metre course, with Gallagher and Fletcher entering the final as favourites having won every one of their heats and beaten both of De Bock and Darvell in their semi-finals.
The final was different however, as De Bock overturned Gallagher's record.
British Cycling would like to thank the organising team, officials and everyone else who helped promote this event. Our sport could not exist without the hundreds of people, many of them unpaid volunteers, who put in many hours of hard work running events, activities and clubs.