Annie aims for World Cup gold

Annie Last of Great Britain Cycling Team holds a masterclass for Sainsbury's UK School Games hopefuls. Wheata Woods, Sheffield

Annie Last of Great Britain Cycling Team holds a masterclass for Sainsbury's UK School Games hopefuls. Wheata Woods, Sheffield

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Mountain biker Annie Last is convinced she can upgrade world silver to gold after chalking up a best-ever World Cup finish in Dalby Forest.

The 20-year-old finished 19th and 20th in April’s opening World Cup event of the season in South Africa but made considerable improvements on home soil to secure a lifetime best result of 14th.

The Matlock Cycling Club star will now head to Canada for the next round of the UCI World Cup series riding the crest of a wave while she will also compete in New York prior to touching down in Champery, Switzerland for the World Championships.

Such are her tender years that Great Longstone-based Last, who won under-23 world silver last year, will again compete in the age restricted category – and she’s convinced she can go one better this time around.

“Everything is going really well for me at the moment, especially after my performances in Dalby Forest ,” said Last, speaking at the launch of the Sainsbury’s UK School Games mountain bike event in Sheffield.

“It was great to compete in front of a home crowd and do well there and hopefully it’s a taste of things to come at the London 2012 Olympics next year.

“That was the first race where I really thought I was clinging on to the leading girls and I could still see them ahead of me and that bodes well for the future.

“I’m heading to Canada for some training soon and then there are a couple of World Cups before the World Championships and hopefully I can continue my form at the moment.

“Last year I won silver and I look at things in the sense that any improvement would be great and that would mean getting gold. But I’d be happy if I got on the podium.”

Mountain biking is one of the few Olympic sports where Great Britain are not afforded the luxury of a home nation spot and while the men’s ranks have the likes of Commonwealth champion Liam Killeen and Ollie Beckinsale accruing the qualification points, Last is effectively ploughing a lone furrow.

For she is already the British senior champion and is in the box seat for what is likely to be the one female British spot – and while she admits she’s envious of her fellow British sportsmen and women who are automatically granted an Olympic spot, Last is determined to prove she belongs at London 2012.

“It is a bit annoying that we don’t get a home nation spot whereas most other sports do but then it would be great to know that you’re there on merit,” she added.

“There could be the argument that some Olympic competitions are not as high quality as they could be if the hosts don’t deserve to be there on merit but for us we know that can’t happen.

“At the moment I’m the British senior champion and I’m hoping to get the one British spot – if we manage to qualify two then all the better.”

To find out more about this year’s Sainsbury’s UK School Games visit www.ukschoolgames.com