Great Britain’s young mountain bike athletes gained vital international experience today, as five talents competed in their first world cup competition.
The squad of seven racing on day one of the event in Albstadt, Germany competed in junior and under-23 races.
In only her second world cup appearance Isla Short finished sixth in the junior women’s race, with first year Ffion James 16th in a field of 53.
Dylan Kerfoot Robson led the British finishers in the junior men’s race, improving on his 34th place in Nove Mesto last week with 29th in Albstadt.
The other four junior men – all in their first year in the category and their first world cup – posted respectable finishes.
In a field of 125, Thomas Craig progressed the furthest moving from 105 on the start line to 49th by race end, while from the same row Frazer Clacherty, Mark McGuire and Harry Johnstone finished 30 seconds later in 54th, 60th and 61st respectively.
British Cycling’s mountain bike Olympic Development Programme coach Simon Watts was encouraged by the performances of such an inexperienced group.
“Compared to this time last year we’re further ahead than I expected to be” Watts enthused, after the race.
“This time last year we came to Albstadt – with a different group of riders – there were some positive areas and some areas to work on.
“When I returned this year I was hoping to see some progression and this group conducted themselves brilliantly, far ahead of any Olympic Development Programme group to date.”
When reviewing the results, Watts was happy with a group of junior men – all of which started at the back of the grid – something he described as a huge disadvantage.
“From the starting gun firing, all of the guys waited 25 seconds before they could move. Dylan only lost 40 seconds to the race winner on the entire final lap.”
But despite such a disparity, Watts was unconcerned by the relevance of the results, in comparison to the performances on display and the history of athlete development.
“The last thing today is about is results.
“The programme has proved that you can take Annie Last from ninth at the junior world championships, to second, two years later at the under-23 world championships.
“We’re working to produce that package of a bike rider at junior level, giving them opportunity to be accepted to the Olympic Academy – and based on the progress so far the future looks bright.
“The only problem is that in 18 months time, we could be presented with a bit of a headache with how many could make that mark.”
Already making the most of that Olympic Academy opportunity is Alice Barnes, who was the sole representative in the under-23 category – Beth Crumpton not starting due to injuries sustained in Nove Mesto.
Barnes followed up 18th place on her under-23 world cup debut in Nove Mesto, with a 21st place finish in Albstadt.
Competition continues tomorrow as Grant Ferguson and Kenta Gallagher compete in the men’s under-23 race.