Last time was Caroline Alexander in 1997.
Annie Last won the UCI World Cup XCO event in Lenzerheide and becomes the first British woman to do so since Caroline Alexander way back in 1997.
26 year old Olympic and World Cup elite racer Annie Last romped into the lead with two laps to go and managed to hold off the legend that is Gunn-Rite Dahle Flesja to cross the finish line and make UK MTB history.
Last was clearly on form this weekend. She was placed in the front of starting grid after qualifying sessions, something which is an impressive achievement in itself. It’s very much a rarity to see Team GB colours visible on the start line.
Last didn’t initially manage to get into the opening lead bunch but after three laps she was well up there and in touch with the leaders (Belomoina, Neff, Wloszczowska and Dahle Flesja).
Her choice of a full suspension bike with (relative-for-XC) knobbly tyres looked like it was a wise move. She also made good use of cyclocross-style technique of efficiently hopping on and off the bike to maintain safety and momentum over sketchy sections.
In a post-race interview with Red Bull TV, Annie Last was asked how it feels to be the first British female winner in twenty years: “To be honest with you I’ve no idea right now! I’ve had a tough couple of years and even to be racing at the front [start grid] felt incredible and then to move forward… it’s not sunk in yet. Unbelievable. So happy.”
“You go in the front and go ‘relax, focus’. It’s really just focussing on yourself and what you’re doing. A couple of times in the past when I’ve been in the front or moving up to the front you go ‘ooh, I’m here!’ But today I was just like ‘ride your race, ride your race’ and yeah, it paid off.”
1997 to 2017
Twenty years is a long time in sport. Take a look at this old video footage of Caroline Alexander’s win back in 1997…
Full suspension bikes were around in World Cup back then (almost all Proflex bikes) but most of the pack were on hardtails – some fully rigid. Alexander won her World Cup on a 26in wheel Ritchey steel hardtail with a pair of RockShox Judy forks and a whopping set of bar ends and a stem you have a lie down on. In 2nd place was Paolo Pezzo.