BRITAIN’S top mountain biker Grant Ferguson was satisfied with his top-20 finish at the Glasgow 2018 European Championships but the Peebles man admitted he still has much work to do if he is to contend with the best riders Europe has to offer.

Yesterday’s race was perfect conditions - warm with barely a hint of wind but the Cathkin Braes track ensured the field did not have an easy time of it. Six laps of the 5.5km course was every bit as brutal as it sounds, with the steep ascents and narrow downhills making it a tricky afternoon for the riders but a fascinating spectacle for the spectators who made their way to the redesigned track to support home favourite Ferguson, as well as admire the expertise of these riders who were able to negotiate seemingly unpassable obstacles with relative ease.

The highest ranked rider in the field was Frenchman Stephane Tempier, the world number three, but it was the Swiss contingent which really took the race by the scruff of the neck. The early leader was world number seven, Nicola Rohrbach, but as the race passed halfway, his compatriot Lars Forster grabbed the lead, which he never relinquished.

The 25-year-old’s victory was the best result of his career, finishing 24 seconds clear of silver medallist Luca Braidot of Italy and 35 seconds ahead of bronze medallist David Valero Serrano from Spain.

Ferguson was well aware of the class of rider he was up against and was happy with his performance, which saw him steadily improve his placing throughout the race, starting in 29th place but dropping as low as 38th on the third lap.

"It went well," he reflected.

"Obviously, it can always go better when you’re 20th but it took ages to move up after the start. You lose a lot of time in that first lap and you have to try and settle in and then you can start moving forward, but I’m happy with how I rode.

"I started 29th so being in the fifth row makes it tough. Near the start, it goes narrow and you end up bunching up so that’s tricky. I just need to keep working hard."

And Ferguson confirmed the 90-or-so minutes of racing was no easy afternoon's work. "It’s a demanding track doesn’t let up anywhere," the 24-year-old said.

"You’re always pushing, even on the descents and you’ve got to concentrate all the time because it’s so fast. After the first lap, I was 36th and I was like ‘right I’ve got to start pushing’ and try and jump through some groups and use the wheels a bit. I just tried to move up each lap towards the end and save a little bit for the end."

Ferguson finished in ninth place at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April and admitted he was hugely disappointed with that performance so the British number one was delighted to have put in a better ride this time, particularly in front of his home crowd.

"The European Championships are one of the biggest races of the year for us and all the strong mountain bike nations are in Europe so that makes it a really big one for us," he said. "I was disappointed after the Commonwealth Games and I think I performed a lot better here but I still have to be going quicker to be really pushing at the front," he said. "The home crowd was great - there were some bits where it was really, really loud and that was class, I really enjoyed being out there."

For gold medallist Forster, he admitted his imperious performance surprised even himself.

"It was a very great race from me and I'm delighted to be the new European champion," the Swiss said. "I didn't believe I could be as strong as that over the course of the race so I am very happy. I always thought it was possible [to win] but it's unbelievable to achieve it."

The women’s race was won by Switzerland’s Jolanda Neff to add to her European titles from 2015 and 2016. The 25-year-old Swiss finished over two minutes ahead of silver medallist, Pauline Ferrand Prevot from France and almost three-and-a-half minutes ahead of third-placed Githa Michiels of Belgium. Britain’s Commonwealth champion Annie Last did not finish, dropping out on the fourth lap.