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Rachel Sokal spends a day with the British cross-country queen to talk all things Olympics, baggies, cake, and why if you’re not riding cross-country, you’re missing out on the fun.


When I first arranged to meet Annie, we planned to go for a bit of a ride for some fresh air and photos before heading to a café for a chat. As our meeting date neared, I began to question the sanity of this plan – a quick spin with the fourth best female cross-country rider in the world was going to seriously humble me and my out of condition diesel engine, even if it was going to involve regular stops for Olly to take photos. So when Annie contacted me a couple of weeks beforehand to say she couldn’t ride because she was injured, I do confess to experiencing a little schadenfreude.

When we do meet, it’s an exceptionally wet and windy February Monday morning in Hope in the Peak District and I’m even more pleased we’re not riding. Annie seems to be equally happy too. She’s just returned from South Africa where she spent most of her winter warm weather training and so her tolerance of the British winter is even lower than it used to be.

“During December and January in South Africa I have to finish training by 8am because it’s too hot. But 8am here it’s still dark and then just completely grey through the day. It’s not the cold or the rain, it’s the sheer lack of daylight that’s hard when I’m training in the UK. Of course, it’s great to have the good weather out there too. The first time I went out training in South Africa I had my waterproof in my pocket and the others were ‘What the hell are you doing?’ I told them ‘you need to be prepared, you never know’, and they just laughed. I don’t bother carrying a waterproof out there anymore.”

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About Singletrack

Editorial: Chipps wonders what comes after the corner after the next corner. International Adventure: Soviet Singletrack: With military restrictions lifted, singletrack trails are waiting to be discovered on the very fringes of Russia. Column: A Glamorous Job: Jason Miles reveals that riding your bike a lot doesn’t necessarily make you healthy. UK Adventure: West Is Best: Pete Scullion goes wild camping on Scotland’s west coast, in the depths of winter. Bike Test: One Click Ponies: James Vincent tests out three bikes from Bird, Intense and Sonder - available to you at the click of a mouse. UK Adventure: Trail Hunter - Peaky Blinder: Tom Fenton seeks out some of the Peak District’s lesser known trails in the White Peak. Group Test: Packing Light: Antony de Heveningham checks out frame, hip and back packs in search of a bag that carries just enough for those local rides. Interview: Staying Ahead, Being Last: Rachel Sokal chats to Olympian and British Champion Annie Last about staying motivated, and cake. International Adventure: Finding Perspective In Lesotho Kristi Stump ponders the gap between her own challenges and those of the people she encounters during the Lesotho Sky stage race Column: Seduced By The TV Remote: Steve Longdon misses the days when we used to ride up hills under our own power and peel our own oranges. Wait, what? International Adventure: Internal Struggle Tom Johnstone nally makes the trip of a lifetime through Iceland’s remote interior. International Adventure: No Mercy In The Mountains Chipps takes a rather taxing holiday in the Pyrenees. Perhaps a change isn’t always as good as a rest… Last Word Barney Marsh admits he’s not getting any younger or fitter. At least he can do something about one of them.