Annie Last can add a Commonwealth Games gold medal to her trophy chest after a convincing win overnight at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games XCO race in Nerang, Queensland, Australia.
In a dominating performance on the dry, dusty and highly technical 4.5km long race course, the 27-year-old took first place ahead of team-mate Evie Richards. Last and Richards quickly asserted their dominance early on, leading the bunch out from the very first climb. By the fourth lap, Last had established a substantial 30-second time gap, all but securing the top step on the podium.
Not only did Last go one better than her stellar silver medal performance from the 2017 UCI World Championships in Cairns, her victory represents the first-ever Commonwealth Games gold medal in women’s mountain biking for England.
Canadian rider Haley Smith had an incredible race to take home the bronze medal, while countrywoman Emily Batty, one of the pre-race favourites, placed 4th.
— Annie Last (@AnnieLast1) April 12, 2018
— simon wilkinson (@swpixtweets) April 12, 2018
For the Sheffield-based mountain biker, it would appear that the momentum is heading in the right direction. Last is on terrific form following her victory at the Lenzerheide World Cup last July, where she also broke records, becoming the first British woman in 20 years to win at the UCI Mountain Bike Cross-Country World Cup.
And thanks to raising the profile of XC racing in Britain, Last’s impressive race season was capped off with a nomination for the ‘Personality Of The Year’ at the 2017 Singletrack Reader Awards.
And if you’re a fan of Annie Last, just as we are, then you’ll want to get yourself a copy of Singletrack Issue 118, where we have an exclusive interview with the Commonwealth Games winner. We’d like to say we had something to do with Last’s recent successes, but it was more likely a result of her being exceptionally talented and very, very fast!
To read how it all went down in Australia, check out the full race report below from the Commonwealth Games Team England!
Annie Last and Evie Richards have secured a brilliant 1-2 in the women’s mountain biking, winning Gold and Silver respectively to mark the perfect start for England on Day 8 of the Commonwealth Games.
On a very technical course, the pair were head and shoulders above their competitors throughout the race and within the first lap it was already apparent that it would result in English medals.
It was a race of perfection for Last, and alongside teammate Richards, they quickly opened up an unassailable gap on the rest of the field which became an intriguing battle for Gold in the first few laps.
However, it was the pre-race favourite from Sheffield, who finished fourth at Glasgow 2014, eventually working her way in to an impressive lead and after lap four she had already opened up a 30 second lead on the field and she never looked like releasing her stranglehold on the gold medal.
Last won silver at the 2017 World Championships – a first ever medal for a British female at the global gathering – after she won gold – the first by an English woman for 20 years – at the XC World Cup round in Lenzerheide, but the Gold medal here represents arguably the biggest victory of her career.
“I am really happy with the race. You never really know how it’s going to play out, but everything went to plan and I rode a smooth race without any big mistakes and I managed to position carefully so I’m delighted and it was great that Evie is second as well.
“There’s quite a bit of singletrack on this course so I wanted to be in a position where I was near the front at least with the potential that if you have gone in too far back that you weren’t too far back and out of contention.
“I stayed up there and by doing that it is easier to ride your own race and especially as there are so many steep sections, you don’t want to be closely packed where you might get stuck because of other riders, so I wanted to make sure I had the best chance by staying up there and it went to plan.”
Evie Richards, who wasn’t considered to challenge the podium, rode superbly throughout and the World Junior Mountain Bike Champion finished a comfortable second as she battled hard throughout the challenging six laps.
“I knew that I needed to get in the front to start with and hang in there as long as I could and it paved out well, I’m so pleased I held on until the end.
“I had no idea whether I could medal, I dreamed of getting a medal in these Commonwealth Games but I just didn’t think it was realistic really because I know how good Emily Batty (my team member) is and all the other girls and so I was worried I might not even make top ten, so to get a medal I am so, so happy.
“I didn’t want it to come down to a sprint finish or anything so I knew I needed to maintain that gap and you can see that with the placings further down in the race and so I just wanted to nail that gap and ride my own race really.”
She finished way over a minute ahead of Hayley Smith from Canada in the bronze medal position to cap a brilliant performance and an impressive 1-2 for England.