Pidcock, a cyclist from Great Britain, easily won the gold medal in the Olympic mountain biking competition.
Mountain Biking Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
In the last weeks leading up to the mountain bike race at the Tokyo Olympics, British racer Tom Pidcock nearly had his golden dreams crushed on a road in the French Pyrenees.
The 21-year-old all-around talent was riding his bike down a steep decline when he was struck by a car, sending him flying over the top of the car and shattering his bike in two places. Pidcock was brought to the hospital and put through a battery of examinations, but he only suffered a broken collarbone and no internal damage.
A week later, he was riding his bike again. On Monday, he was spotted at the Olympic venue south of Tokyo.
Like everyone else, he arrived at the end point first.
Pidcock rode away from incumbent champion Nino Schurter and his Swiss colleague Mathias Flueckiger on the fourth of seven laps to win Britain’s first medal in mountain biking, despite the country’s rich history on the road and its dominance on the track for years.
“The last week I knew I was in pretty good shape, but there was still a lot of doubt in my head,” said Pidcock, who won this year’s edition of the classic road race Brabantse Pijl. It was just uncertain whether or not I would be in peak physical condition.
It turned out he was more competent than ever before.
Flueckiger, who chased him down in vain, stated, “I felt he was going to be one of the favourites.” Flueckiger ended up with the silver medal. I’m sure he’s overjoyed with how the race went.
As a surprise runner-up, David Valero Serrano of Spain won bronze.
Mountain biking at the Olympics was originally planned for Tokyo’s Yumenoshima, an artificial island constructed from landfill trash. Multiple factors, notably the terrain, led to the decision to abandon the plan and look elsewhere, and the site was ultimately relocated to Shizuoka Prefecture, about 150 kilometres southwest of Tokyo.
South African course designer Nick Flores, who also oversaw the 2012 and 2016 Olympic courses, discovered an ideal setting there, complete with dramatic elevation changes, challenging portions of root and rock, and an abundance of obstacles for riders to overcome.
The heat was one of them, as was to be expected.
The women’s race might get rained off on Tuesday if Typhoon Nepartak makes landfall, but the men faced sweltering in the summer sun on a surface that was a combination of dirt, gravel, and asphalt.
Additionally, they discovered spectators lining the route. Just like with the road racers before them, the mountain bikers benefited from the fact that the tight COVID-19 procedures that have prevented fans from most Olympic sites do not extend beyond the Tokyo metropolitan area.
Several of them wheelied in response to the friendly greetings they received in Japan.
Much smaller than a regular World Cup race, only 38 riders started, and they were narrowed down to a final selection of 10 on the opening lap. French Olympic champion Jordan Sarrou was absent during the intermission.
Mathieu van der Poel, another fan favourite, wrecked badly on a downhill track littered with rubble during the first of the seven tricky laps. The Dutch racer, whose Olympic warm-up included a stage win and six days in the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, was left clutching his ribs at the bottom of the hill and ultimately had to withdraw from the competition.
On the second lap, Schurter took the lead and set a blistering pace.
In a four-man breakout, he was followed by Flueckiger, a compatriot who has spent his career in Schurter’s shadow, Pidcock, and Anton Cooper. To separate themselves from the rest of the pack, they took turns taking the lead.
Then Pidcock turned the tables and began attacking. At one point, he released an acceleration so stunning that legendary mountain biker Schurter nearly lost control of his bike while trying to respond to it.
Schurter, who has won a gold, silver, and bronze medal at the last three Olympics but missed out on a chance to tie the mountain biking record with a fourth medal on Monday, said, “When he attacked, I became on the defensive, and I couldn’t execute my race.”
Instead, Schurter slid backwards as Pidcock and Flueckiger reduced the race to a two-horse show.
In little time at all, Pidcock was completely alone.
Pidcock, although just being 21 years old, has left the world’s top climbingers panting for air with his fearless ascents and breathtaking descents. Leeds’s rider, who used a makeshift heat chamber in his spare bedroom to prepare for Tokyo but kept tripping his electricity, pulled away from Flueckiger by 14 seconds in the final 4.1-kilometer loop.
Only the gold and silver medal events remained.
I was just promising myself that I will one day compete in the Olympics. “I can now say I’m an Olympic champion,” Pidcock exclaimed. It’s so amazing that it defies description.