Tom Pidcock won the elite men’s cross-country race at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Glentress, Scotland, taking the rainbow jersey ahead of the newly crowned XCC World Champion, Sam Gaze and the 10-time World Champion Nino Schurter.
There had been controversy before the start of the race with the UCI changing rules to boost road stars Pidcock, Mathieu van der Poel and Peter Sagan further up the grid, rather than at the back according to their MTB rankings, with the UCI admitting the move was because of the “added value” they brought to the sport.
Despite starting on the fifth row, Pidcock would eventually forge clear of his rivals and overcome late gearing problems to take the win in front of a jubilant crowd.
One of Pidcock's main rivals Mathieu van der Poel's bid for a third world title of the year after winning last weekend's road race ended abruptly before the start of the first full lap. After a promising start, moving up from his fifth-row position, he slid out on the loose gravel turn before the start-finish straight landing on the same injured side from last week's road race crash and unfortunately retired.
Straight from the green light, the racing was intense and fast-paced with South African, Alan Hatherly taking an early lead and he continued to stay in the top three positions before eventually fading down the field. The relentless pace was forced as riders fought to move up quickly from behind, with Pidcock making his way through 33 riders, and joining the lead group by the end of the second lap. An elite trio would form around Hatherley with Schurter and Pidcock opening a gap over the rest of the field.
Pidcock would eventually maneuver himself in front of his rivals, and after several bursts of speed on the steep climbs would eventually drop Schurter and Hatherly. With one lap to go, Pidcock had built a lead of 23 seconds on his closest competitors and the podium placings looked set. However, the new short track World Champion Sam Gaze wasn't giving up and quickly passed the fading Hatherly and would eventually pass Schurter to take second place and cap a remarkable week in Scotland for the New Zealander. Gaze would finish just 19 seconds behind Pidcock, who had nursed his Pinarello home after suffering gearing issues on the final lap.
Pidcock said, "As soon as I attacked, my gears were jumping all over the place. I didn’t know whether to stop and tidy it up, or I just thought my race could be over at any point, and I couldn’t go properly because I didn't want to put them under too much stress. That was a stressful last few laps."
Pidcock's thrilling victory made him the first British rider to become the elite cross-country mountain bike world champion and after the podium presentations, he jumped into the massive crowd and made his way up to the viewing platform to salute the excited crowd and acknowledge his backroom team.
In the Women's race, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot continued where she had left off in Thursday's dominant XCC win with another comfortable victory in the elite women’s cross-country race taking gold ahead of her compatriot Loana Lecomte. Ferrand-Prévot completed the double with ease, catching and passing Lecomte on the second lap. Lacomte had gone clear early but couldn't match the pace of Ferrand-Prévot, who built a massive lead over the field and took the win with an advantage of over 1 minute over Lecomte and Puck Pieterse who rounded out the podium.
It was Ferrand-Prévot’s second successive XCC and XC World Championship double at the Worlds, and it was her fifth XCC world title in total with wins in 2015, 2019, 2020 and 2022.
Speaking afterwards Ferrand-Prévot said, "I’m feeling very happy. It was a super hard race, I didn’t have a good start but I wanted to keep my own pace during the race. I went full gas on the climbs and then I tried to recover on the downhills and it worked out perfectly. I’m proud of myself because I kept my plan even though I didn’t have a good start."
Ferrand-Prévot had a lackluster start and was well down on the lead group in 12th after the opening exchanges. Lecomte led through the opening lap followed by Pieterse, Neff, Richards and Keller close behind. Ferrand-Prévot soon made her way back and with Lecomte opening up a gap to Pieterse, Ferrand-Prévot made her move to get across to her compatriot on the next climb. The defending champion quickly caught and overtook Lecomte to take the lead.
From then on it was the Ferrand-Prévot exhibition through the Glentress Forest, opening up a big gap with her closest rivals left to battle it out for the remaining podium places. Former world champion Evie Richards made her bid for a medal, joining Pieterse and Keller and going past them, but she couldn't catch Lecomte, who continued to hold off the chasers. Lecomte would ride solo for the rest of the race, unable to catch her flying teammate.
Behind the fight for the bronze medal had intensified with Pieterse and Keller dropping Richards and now the Austrian, Mitterwallner would lay down her challenge for the podium. Only Pieterse was able to track the Austrian who accelerated into the final lap and it looked as though Mitterwallner was destined to take bronze, but she ran out of steam in the closing stages and Pieterse emerged to claim the bronze.
The week belonged to Ferrand-Prévot, who initially had disliked the Glentress course layout saying, "I came last Saturday. We went to look at the lap and I really didn’t like it. Sometimes you have a feeling about the lap, and that day I didn’t feel it was for me but all the week I tried to work mentally and just take it day by day. Today I was on a mission, I just wanted to go full gas and see the result at the end.”