British cross country national champion Annie Last is excited about returning to Dalby Forest in the United Kingdom to race the second UCI World Cup of the season on May 22. Just over one year ago in Dalby Forest, Last logged her best-ever career World Cup performance, a 19th place.
"I'm looking forward to it, and I want to make sure I'm in the best shape possible when I get there," Last told Cyclingnews. "I don't have to travel, I know the course and it suits me quite well."
The Dalby Forest World Cup is the only "home" World Cup for British racers. Many of them, including Last, had a chance to get reacquainted with racing the course earlier this spring at a round of the British Cross Country Series. Last finished second to Frenchwoman Julie Bresset in that round. She also finished an impressive second to Lene Byberg at the Sherwood Pines round of the national series.
"I've been happy with my results this year," said Last, who races in the colours of the British National Team. "I've done well. It was good to have Lene and Julie at those rounds - that made for good races."
Last enjoys the Dalby Forest course and gets to ride it often. "The course is going to be similar to how it was last year. It's a good mixture, with a bit of technical riding and some good climbs. It's a good all-around course, and a good one to race. You can move forward through groups, so it's good for passing. It's also good for spectators."
Last is just 20 years old; she will turn 21 in September. 2011 marks the first year during which the under 23 cross country World Cup racers have been permitted to chose between racing in their own category or stepping up and racing together with the elite women. Last has committed to racing with the elites. She enjoys the tougher competition and how it pushes her to be a better rider.
"I had the option to race in the Under 23 race. Because I was in the top five last year, I could go either way. I wanted to do the elite races because it's a bigger field," said Last.
"It's a better opportunity to experience the elite level racing, and I can keep improving." She said she can also get used to racing among the elites before she has to make the official move upon graduating from the Under 23 ranks.
At the opening World Cup round in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, in April, Last finished 20th, 8:40 behind winner Ren Chengyuan.
"It was good to see where I was at the first World Cup in Pietermaritzburg. It went as much to plan as possible, and I was pleased with it."
After the Dalby World Cup, Last will race the Offenburg World Cup one week later and then the rest of the series. She's also got the European Championships and the British national championships on her calendar, but her biggest target event is the 2011 World Championships, where she hopes to go one better than the silver medal she won in 2010 at Mont-Sainte-Anne.