Annie Last backed up last week’s strong showing in Albstadt with another top-20 performance as the 2018 Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup swept into the Czech Republic.
The World Championship silver medallist has had a fine start to the season, finishing 11th in the cross country season opener in South Africa, before claiming ninth in last weekend’s round in Germany.
And the form continued in Nove Mesto for the Team KMC EKOI SR Suntour rider, 20th place her reward after five gruelling laps amidst sapping conditions.
She wasn’t the only British rider in the elite race with Kerry MacPhee placing 49th in what was her first World Cup race of the season.
The men’s race also had plenty to focus on with Grant Ferguson and Jason Bouttell both completing the race, finishing in 65th and 117th respectively.
Last keeps her strong form going
Commonwealth champion Last has ridden the crest of a wave in recent weeks, with a trip to the Czech Republic providing an opportunity to keep her strong form going.
She did exactly that in the early stages too, sat poised in 11th place after the first of five main laps, a minute behind the leading group with plenty still to ride for.
A lap later and Last found herself in 13th yet still within striking distance of the top ten, though the tough crowd-favourite course at Nove Mesto took its toll on the Brit and the majority of the riders.
Yet Last kept fighting and with two laps to go had hauled herself back into that coveted tenth spot, though a tricky last lap saw her unfortunate in slipping down the rankings, 20th by the time she crossed the line in a time of 1:25:47.
After a terrible start in the world cup today, I came away with my best finish yet & the first time I've not been pulled! So cool high fiving down the finish straight Raced way too conservatively for fear of blowing & finished with a tank desperate to hurt more. Good signs !! pic.twitter.com/VI4a3gSpm5— Kerry MacPhee (@KerryMacPhee) May 27, 2018
That proved five minutes behind winner Annika Langvad who ousted Jolanda Neff in a dramatic sprint finish, with Neff having led after every lap until the very last of the race.
British hopes also saw MacPhee make her much anticipated first appearance of the World Cup season, squeezing her way into the top 50 after a gutsy ride.
Indeed it was a position she largely held from the opening lap, reaching as high as 45th while never exiting the top 50 – edging out Samara Sheppard on the closing lap.
Just completing proved to be a breakthrough moment on the World Cup circuit, with MacPhee visibly delighted as she crossed the finish line.
Ferguson and Bouttell benefit from tough outing
Ferguson (CST Sandd American Eagle MTB Racing Team) would have arrived in the Czech Republic hoping for better fortune from his last race, finishing in 71st place last week in Albstadt.
And this weekend provided a similar result, in 65th in his latest World Cup outing in a race that saw a photo finish to bring to an end the weekend.
Ferguson started on the front foot, in 23rd after the introductory lap, though as the race pace intensified, the going got tougher throughout as the laps increased.
Meanwhile Bouttell also got the chance for invaluable experience on the World Cup circuit, eventually finishing two laps down by the time his race came to an end.
Nino Schurter took yet another World Cup win while Anton Cooper was denied his first by a photo finish.
The next leg of the Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup will see back-to-back downhill weekends in June, with the popular home round in Fort William followed by a trip to Leogang, Austria.
The final four rounds feature all three disciplines, with race weekends in Val di Sole, Italy and Vallnord, Andorra in July followed by Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada and La Bresse, France in August.
Riders will do battle to be crowned World Cup winners in their individual disciplines.