Great Britain’s Annie Last was forced to settle for under-23 silver for the second successive year at the World Championships after finishing behind Julie Bresset in Champery, Switzerland.
French sensation Bresset earned her first senior World Cup victory at Dalby Forest in May and went on to win the overall title, while Last registered back-to-back top ten finishes in the final two rounds.
And it proved to be a two-way battle from the gun in Switzerland, with Bresset edging away from Last by the end of the first lap, before gaining a 40-second lead after two laps.
Derbyshire-born Last began to peg her rival back but hit the dirt on the final descent and lost 30 seconds, eventually finishing one minute, 30 seconds behind Bresset – but more than four minutes ahead of bronze medallist Pauline Ferrand Prevot (France).
“I tried really hard on the first lap to stay with Julie, but she got a gap and carried on,” said Last. “I could see her in front and sometimes tried to get back to her to keep the gap from getting bigger. I was knackered at the end.”
Meanwhile, Grant Ferguson narrowly missed out on a medal in the junior men’s race, finishing fourth, while Victor Koretzky took gold.
Both Bresset and Koretzky were part of France’s victorious team relay quartet on day one. France have now won three gold medals from four races.
Matthew Sumpton was forced to retire after falling on the first corner and breaking his collarbone, leaving team-mate Ferguson to lead the British charge, taking to the front of the lead group on the opening climb.
Koretzky pegged Ferguson back and went on to break clear, not being caught for the rest of the race, while Anton Cooper (New Zealand) and Andrey Fonseca (Costa Rica) secured the silver and bronze respectively, leaving Ferguson, who will also compete at the Road World Championships, to reflect on a career-best finish.
British Cycling’s Olympic mountain bike coach Phil Dixon said: ”I’m really happy with the way both riders performed today. Annie getting second to the best cross country rider in the world is no mean feat. These results will really lift morale in the team – two top five results will really boost everyone with the races to come.”