Annie Last's Lapierre XR Special Edition – Mountain Bike World Cup pro bike

The 2022 British XCO Champion talks us through her custom bike for 2023, along with some interesting component choices

Clock14:23, Monday 23rd October 2023

After an 11-year hiatus, Lapierre returned to the top level of cross country mountain bike racing in 2023 with the foundation of the new Lapierre-Mavic Unity team. The new outfit attracted an impressive roster, including Annie Last.

Last has dominated British mountain biking over the last 10 years, winning the XCO national title on nine of the last 13 occasions. The last of those came in 2022 when she did the double, winning the inaugural XCC event, meaning that she started her life with the new Lapierre team as the national title holder in two events.

While those titles come with prestige, they also mean a national champion-edition bike, and Lapierre certainly didn’t let the British star down with one of the best looking bikes at this year’s World Cup.

We caught up with the British rider ahead of the Nové Město round in July to learn a little more about the bike and her specific set-up.

Custom paintwork catches the eye

To go alongside its re-entry into the XCC and XCO world, Lapierre released a new version of its XR mountain bike in 2023. For Last, that included a custom colourway to celebrate her national title success.

Whilst there’s plenty of cool tech included, we’ll start with the paintwork because, well, it looks amazing! Sometimes brands go all-out on their designs, but Lapierre has kept things fairly simple, and the results back up that decision. The head tube and down tube provide the main nod to the British titles with the colours of the national flag wrapped around the top sections.

Those colours are flanked by white on one side and a silver, marble effect on the other. By keeping the design relatively simple, the bike isn’t too 'in your face', and we think it looks great.

Built for victory

The XR bike the paintwork adorns is a pure race breed, built for victory.

Lapierre went back to the drawing board when designing it, leading to a new geometry that the French company says places it firmly in the “down country” sector.

Key to this was striking a balance between the front and rear suspension to ensure that the bike maintained its centre of gravity, no matter the terrain. In doing so, Lapierre took inspiration from the Enduro discipline to ensure that it retained confidence-inspiring handling while descending.

This geometry and the overall design were centred around a newly optimised suspension kinematic. For this, Lapierre has stripped the pivot point between the seat stays and chain stays, which it says brings “comfort and function to the frame”.

The new system, called ‘Optimised Sensitivity’, also features a high pivot point at the bottom bracket. Together the overall system has benefits beyond comfort and control, providing a stable pedalling platform as the suspension doesn’t impact chain tension during compression.

Any roadies out there will be able to relate to the carbon frame which Lapierre has made lighter because, even in mountain biking, weight matters.

Adaptable set-up for any conditions or terrain

Bike set-up is important in every discipline, but no more so than in XCO and XCC where the demands differ from course to course. Throw in varying weather conditions and there are a lot of variables to consider.

Nowadays, many racers use longer suspension seems to be a greater scope of travel used, but Last stuck to 100mm up front, despite the fact the bike’s Fox 32 Step-Cast Factory fork can accommodate 120mm.

“For me with the 100, the bike fits really nicely,” Last explained. “I was getting real good climbing and transition with it, as well as descending. It just kind of balances the bike really nicely and it is working well for me.”

The wheels of choice were the Mavic Crossmax SL Ultimate 25 which compare favourably to lightweight road wheels, tipping the scales at under 1400g. The tyre they’re paired with depends on the course, as does the pressure. For the Nové Město round of the World Cup, when we encountered the bike, the tyre of choice was the Michelin Jet XC2, set up with approximately 17 psi of pressure on both the front and rear. That pressure changes between the XCO and XCC events.

“For the XCO I’m probably looking at around 17 psi, but that will be a little bit more for the short track. But it changes, even if the weather doesn’t change, if the course gets ridden in more, the tyres will change and the pressures will change.”

FSA power meter… sometimes

Another key selection is the drivetrain, which for Last was a conglomeration of Shimano’s XTR groupset and an FSA PowerBox carbon crankset. Unlike on the road where riders’ eyes are often glued to their power numbers, many XCO and XCC riders use them more sparingly in races, and the British rider is one of those.

“In training yes, in racing it depends,” Last said of her power meter usage. “It’s really good to have the data but also sometimes a little bit of extra weight saving here and there makes all of the difference.”

Whilst the weight savings come into play for the power meter, it’s not such a consideration when it comes to the dropper seatpost which virtually all riders now use.

“I don’t think there’s many people without a dropper now. It’s one of those things that once you’ve started riding like that [it’s hard to stop].”

Finishing touches to the bike included Shimano brakes with Galfer rotors and brake pads. These were 160mm front and rear, although the team and Last had the option to run larger 180mm rotors as many other riders do.

To keep up to date with the latest tech news, features and pro bikes, head over to the tech section on the GCN website, linked here.

Bike Specification
  • year


  • model

    XR Special Edition

  • Manufacturer


Subscribe to the GCN Newsletter

Get the latest, most entertaining and best informed news, reviews, challenges, insights, analysis, competitions and offers - straight to your inbox