ANNIE Last insists she will be cycling for more than just herself when her London 2012 adventure finally gets underway – with the future of women’s mountain biking in the Great Longstone rider’s hands.
The 21-year-old has sat and watched patiently as Great Britain’s cycling track team have turned up the heat in the capital, with Last having to wait until this Saturday lunchtime for her chance to shine at Hadleigh Farm, Essex.
And when her time does come, she will not be able to call on any help from within, with the two-time world under-23 silver medallist Great Britain’s sole female mountain bike representative – and the first since Sydney in 2000.
This doesn’t mean that Last’s chances are any more diminished, having qualified outright with an individual world ranking of sixth and a nation ranking of 13th.
But Last admits it would be nice to get some internal help in the future, and will be doing all she can to put herself, and female mountain biking, on the map when she kickstarts her Olympic assault.
“I never really thought about the history of women in the sport until last year when I got my first top-ten finish in an elite race at the World Cup.
“People were telling me that was the first time anyone has done that for this many years. I knew there wasn’t really the older women there to train with and learn from.
“But I think for mountain biking in Britain for girls you definitely see a lot more coming through now which is great.
“Hopefully if I can do anything to make it easier for them to make it or inspire anyone to take up the sport then that’s great and I would be really pleased. Winning the World Cup Eliminator event, although it was a much shorter race, shows that you have got the skill, racing ability and power to win.
“After that, you get a few more looks from people on the start line. People mark you and know who you are, and watch you more while you are racing. But I don’t think I am expecting more of myself after winning there.
“You know within yourself what you can achieve and that event confirmed all the hard work I put in was working.”
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This year has seen Last transfer her under-23 form onto the senior stage, winning her first World Cup in April in Houffalize, going on to rack up three top-ten finishes.
And, while that victory came in the inaugural cross country eliminator and not the traditional Olympic event, Last is adamant she is well positioned for London 2012.
“It’s not been easy for Great Britain to earn qualification, let alone me qualifying. I have been working hard over the last two years to make the Olympics and when it was announced we had a place it suddenly made me realise that I had an actual chance of making it,” said Last.
“I think with my absolute best performance, if everything went absolutely perfectly on the day, then there is a chance that I could get a medal.
“I am still a developing athlete but I know I have done everything possible to get in the best shape now for the Games, but in the years to come there’s still more to come.
“It is an exciting place to be knowing I can give it all I’ve got and hopefully have a career in the future as well.”
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