Grant Ferguson and Annie Last were crowned champions of the elite categories of the British Cycling National Mountain Bike Cross-country Championships on Sunday.
Grant Ferguson took his fourth consecutive senior British Cycling National Mountain Bike Cross Country title earlier today at Caithkin Braes.
Ferguson, riding for Betch.NL.Superior Brentjens, broke away early in the race with Dave Fletcher (Pine Cycles-Felt-Enve) who took a fine second spot and a charging Liam Killeen (Malvern Cycle Sport) who took bronze.
It was Ferguson who made the early move on the opening lap, along with Fletcher and Phil Pearce (Specialised Racing), the trio set the tone of the race with a brisk pace that strung the field out.
An in-form Jason Boutell (X-RT Elmy) left the start line with a mechanical and was unable to make up ground on the quick course having to retire a few laps into the race.
As the race settled the lead trio looked to have the measure of the tricky course and had a decent gap on a chasing Adrian Lansley (Pedalon.co.uk). Hope Factory’s Paul Oldham, wasn’t far off the pace and with Killeen set about chasing the race down through the switchbacks at Double Dare drop.
Pearce suffered a rear puncture and dropped away from the leaders, Killeen had chased down Lansley and by the third lap was some 30 seconds off the pair of Ferguson and Fletcher.
The field was now strung out across the course but Pearce, Oldham and Tom Bell (DELV) were all in shouting distance of a podium.
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With half the race completed Ferguson was making the course his own, the Scotsman looking for that fourth title on his home course. Fletcher flew through the technical zone and pegged the gap to some 30 seconds.
Killeen was chasing Fletcher down whilst Pearce was crawling his way back to fourth place. As the laps counted down, the race remained almost procession like, the fast course not allowing any chasers an inch.
Ferguson eased slightly on the final lap but still allowed enough space for any mishaps and the champion crossed the line some 35 seconds ahead of Fletcher.
Grant Ferguson said after the race: “Pearce was out of sight and was really unfortunate to get a puncture because he was really strong.
“That left me and Fletcher and I just took it on. I built a bit of gap on the finishing straight and was trying to ride my own race and keep the gap, building on it when I could. Today was fine for me. It was a good race but I’m happy with how it went.”
Annie Last (Novus OMX Pro Team) proved too strong in the senior women’s race, taking her to a fifth National Women’s National Mountain Bike Cross Country title.
Last, who has been dogged by injury over the last two years, got it all together when it mattered to dominate the race, taking victory by over seven minutes from Kerry MacPhee (Rock & Road) and some 13 minutes over Maxine Filby (Cannonade Girls).
It was Last who got a fast start off the line and led the field out towards Propeller Point. Filby and MacPhee locked on her back wheel as the field weaved up the twisty narrow path towards the high point of the course.
Last’s acceleration proved too much for the chasers and as the field came through the technical zone, the OMX rider was alone.
Gaps were already beginning to show across the field but MacPhee was holding a steady 30 seconds in second place.
Filby and Jane Barr (Velocity 44) were on each others’ wheel some way behind but the race was now about the lower placings.
Hope’s Annie Simpson was looking to emulate her performance of the previous year and challenge for third place. With half the race elapsed she was up into fourth, a position she held until the line.
Last, barring any incident had sewn the Championship title up, arguably on the opening lap, and wasn’t going to be caught.
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The race remained almost an off road time trial for the top six, such was Last’s dominant ride. MacPhee took the silver medal whilst Filby took bronze.
Last said after the race: “I’ve had a tough couple of years to be honest, I had lots of illness so I’ve not been fit or in shape but touch wood I’ve not had any problems recently and I’ve started to get back into the rhythm and while I’m not quite where I was, I am getting there.
“I was at the front from the start then it’s just about just riding the race yourself but you’ve still got to be focused, paced and not make mistakes.
“This course has had some changes, there’s a couple of technical sections now, which can trip you up and if you just miss the top of the steep climb, it can slow you down and it takes a while to get back. I really enjoyed the course, the changes made it fun.”