Commonwealth Games: Sheffield’s Annie Last is first as she strikes gold

Champion: England's Evie Richards, silver, and Annie Last, gold, take a selfie with their medals.
Champion: England's Evie Richards, silver, and Annie Last, gold, take a selfie with their medals.
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There was a cycling one-two for England at the Commonwealth Games as Annie Last won the women’s mountain bike cross country race ahead of team-mate Evie Richards in Nerang.

The England duo dominated the race, pulling clear on the first of six laps around the Nerang forest, building a comfortable advantage as Sheffield’s Last won by 48 seconds from Richards, with Canada’s Haley Smith a further 96 seconds back to take bronze.

Canadian Emily Batty, who took silver four years ago in Glasgow and was among the pre-race favourites, had to settle for fourth place ahead of Scotland’s Isla Short.

For Last, this is a first major international title after years of hard work. The 27-year-old deferred her medical studies to pursue her cycling career and showed promise with eighth place at the London Olympics before suffering injury disruptions and failing to qualify for Rio four years later.

After a second place in the world championships last September - not too far from Nerang in Cairns - she is now on the top step of the podium.

“It was absolutely amazing,” she said. “I’m still waiting for it to sink in. The race went really smoothly. My legs were good and it all just came together.”

Last and Richards made their intentions clear from the start, pulling out a small gap at the top of the first climb.

“There’s quite a lot of single track on this course so I wanted to be in a position where I was near the front at least,” Last said.

“There’s the potential if you’re too far back that someone in front messes up and you could lose contention. I wanted to make sure I was near the front. You can ride your own race.”

Richards’s result was every bit as impressive as Last’s, as the 21-year-old still rides in the under-23 category in the World Cup series.

“I knew I needed to get in the front to start with and then hang in there as long as I could,” she said. “It played out well, and I’m so pleased I hung on to the end.

“I’ve always dreamed of getting a medal in the Commonwealth Games, since I was a child. I really wanted a medal so bad but I didn’t actually think it was realistic.

“I was really worried I wouldn’t even come away with a top 10 it was such a good field. To get a medal I’m so happy, so chuffed.”