What a way to finish an amazing 2017 season!
Annie Last rode a technically and tactically superb race to take the silver medal, while Mariske Strauss came back from a physically and mentally tough year to claim a strong 24th position.
Riding in their national team colours of Great Britain and South Africa, Annie and Mariske both got great starts as the race got underway in Cairns, Australia. The start loop was flat out but both ladies slotted into the top ten which set them up for a great opening lap in the natural, dusty and rocky trails of the rainforest.
At the end of lap one, Annie had made her way to the very front of the race and led through the finish line and out onto lap two. She pushed eventual winner, Jolanda Neff, on the opening climb and matched her on the notoriously tricky descents. However, Neff was just too strong and began to pull away. Annie settled in second as Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Irina Kalentyeva both challenged but then faltered with flat tyres.
Meanwhile Mariske was proving she is back to her best. Surrounded by many of the sport’s top names, she held her position inside the top 15 and settled into a fast pace. Unfortunately a small crash cost her some time and positions, and a knock to her rear mech meant she then had to deal with skipping gears. However, despite this she rode really strongly throughout the race and finished with a fine 24th spot.
By the final lap of the race all Annie had to do was keep it safe and smooth, and the silver medal was hers. We held our breath as she rocketed down the rocks and swung through the dusty berms of the jungle. And then the tarmac appeared and finish straight opened out ahead of her. What a ride! Annie became the first ever British Elite Woman to win a medal at an XC World Championships. With obvious delight she crossed the line, hands aloft and wearing a huge smile.
We couldn’t be more proud of Annie and Mariske and the way they rode this weekend; they are so deserving of their success. Congratulations ladies. Now let’s enjoy a drink. Cheers!