IF YOU’D gone down to Wharncliffe and Wheata Woods the other day, you’d have been sure of quite a surprise.
Around 50 young mountain biking hopefuls from around the country were being given a sneak preview of the course they hope to be riding when the Sainsbury’s UK School Games come to the city in September.
Mountain biking is a new addition to the Games programme - and who better to give them hints and tips than London 2012 Olympic hopeful Annie Last?
The 20-year-old, from the Peak District village of Great Longstone, is not much older than many of the elite athletes who will be competing at the prestigious event but she rode the course and gave them a real insight into what’s required to make it at the elite level.
British Cycling officials marked out a number of fast and technical sections which Annie feels sure will prove testing for the competitors.
She said: “I really enjoyed it. I’ve done quite a bit of training in Wharncliffe Woods so I know my way around, and I feel the course is a good one.
“They all seemed to enjoy the session and they’re all looking forward to competing.
“It’s good to see mountain biking being recognised at this sort of event.
“Giving young people the chance to compete in a multi-sport event like the UK Games gives them a real head start in knowing what it’s like to compete at the very highest level. I hope that by passing on my advice they can work and train hard, perfect their technique and go on to future success.”
Annie started cycling with her brother and after trying her hand at cyclo-cross she found her niche with mountain bikes. She represented Great Britain in the Youth Championships at the age of 15 and is now a member of the GB Academy which is based in Manchester.
Her speciality is cross country and last year Annie really came to the fore when she won the Elite National Championships and finished runner-up in the Under-23 World Championships.
She is currently competing in the World Cup race programme - New York and Quebec are next on the list - where ranking points in this and the World Championships, which take place in Switzerland at the end of August, will play a large part in her bid to gain selection for next year’s Olympics.
Sainsbury’s UK Games will be held in Sheffield from September 1-4 when over 1,600 elite athletes will be competing in 12 sports.