Tom Pidcock has raced to victory in the men's XCO in the Tokyo Olympics, attacking a stacked field of riders to win Great Britain's first Olympic gold in mountain biking. Mathias Flückiger (Switzerland) fought hard to hold onto Pidcock's wheel, taking silver with David Valero Serrano (Spain) working his way through the pack to claim bronze.
“It’s pretty crazy that I became an Olympian and I was trying to tell myself at the start of the race it’s special just to be here," a delighted Pidcock said at the finish.
Pidcock has had a turbulent 2021 season as he juggled his road racing day job for Ineos Grenadiers with an XCO mountain bike World Cup campaign with the goal of qualifying and competing in the Olympics. His Elite World Cup XCO career got off to a promising start earlier in the year where the Under 23 XCO World Champion took fifth place at Albstadt followed by an important win at Nove Mesto in which he bested the likes of Olympian gold medallist Nino Schurter and fellow multi-discipline rider Van der Poel. The season took an unexpected turn in June when Pidcock suffered a broken collarbone after being hit by a car, which meant he was forced to miss the Tour De Suisse road race and Léogang World Cup round. His return to racing didn't go to plan either, crashing in the opening lap and later withdrawing from the race.
“I haven’t done a good race since. I’ve trained really hard, I knew I was in great shape but there’s always doubt when I haven’t performed in a race. But once the race started, I knew I was in a good place. The heat, I mean, obviously I didn’t feel good but everyone just told me no-one will feel good.”
The technical 4.1km Olympic XCO circuit proved challenging for riders, consisting of difficult rock features and being raced in the heat of the day. Pidcock demonstrated his technical abilities and explosive power, starting at the back of the field of 38 riders before fighting his way to the front to control the race aboard his unbranded BMC Fourstroke bike.
Pidcock found a calling in off-road riding: "Honestly, I think I was born to do mountain biking" he remarked after winning Nova Mesto. He has built the foundations for an illustrious Elite XCO career should he continue racing.
Pidcock, who will celebrate his 22nd birthday in four days, has also become the youngest Olympic mountain bike champion in history, 79 days younger than the 2016 women's champion, Jenny Rissveds of Sweden.
With the men's race over, attention now turns to the Women's XCO mountain bike race where World Cup leader Loana Lecomte will battle World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, Olympic Gold medal winner Jenny Rissveds and Great Britain's Evie Richards.