Great Britain are on course to qualify a female rider for the Olympic Games for the first time in 12 and, with one round left of the qualification period remaining, British Cycling’s chief mountain bike coach, Phil Dixon, admits the process has been draining .
Caroline Alexander and Louise Robinson were the last women to represent Great Britain in cross-country mountain biking at the Olympics, finishing 12th and 15th respectively at Sydney 2000.
But, with no representative at Athens 2004, and no rider set to compete in Beijing, Dixon hatched a five-year plan in 2007 to have a female rider on the start line in London.
That has coincided with the emergence of Annie Last, a rising star in the sport, and, with the two-year qualification period to end after this weekend’s round of the World Cup in La Bresse, Great Britain lie 15th in the women’s Olympic rankings – but Dixon won’t sleep easy until qualification is confirmed on May 23.
“We started the plan to qualify a woman to London 2012 back in 2007,” said Dixon. “I knew it would be a very hard thing to achieve because we were starting from zero, but only now can I appreciate how draining the whole process has been.”
Nations ranked first to eighth in the women’s rankings get two spots at the Games in London, while ninth to 18th earn one place on the start line, with Great Britain 15th to all-but-secure Last’s place among the 30 riders set to contest the race over the Olympic course at Hadleigh Farm.
The men’s qualification follows a similar format, with nations ranked first to fifth getting three riders each, sixth to 13th qualifying two, and 14th to 24th earning one, with Great Britain 16th in the rankings.