Tom Pidcock completely dominated the field on his way to claiming gold
Credit: MATTHEW CHILDS
Olympics20 – quick stats – article
Tom Pidcock continued Team GB’s gold medal rush on Monday with a sensational performance in the men’s mountain bike, avoiding a crash by key rival Mathieu van der Poel early on in the race before powering away from the field to win by 20 seconds from Switzerland’s Mathias Flückiger.
Pidcock looked in complete control throughout, at least until he took a Union flag from a member of the crowd as he rounded the final corner and broke down in tears as he crossed the line, holding the flag aloft.
Pidcock made straight for his long-time coach Kurt Bogaerts, who was stationed just behind the barriers beyond the finish line, and collapsed in his arms. It was the first time he looked out of control all day.
Pidcock’s win came only two months after he was hit side-on by a car while out training ahead of the Tour of Switzerland. His Pinarello bike was completely broken in two, while Pidcock broke his collarbone.
The 21-year-old from Yorkshire returned to training within a week and completely dominated the field on Monday, although it is difficult to know whether the race might have panned out differently had Dutchman van der Poel not crashed spectacularly while negotiating a jump on the first proper lap.
Tom Pidcock celebrates winning gold medal in the cross country mountain biking
Credit: Jasper Jacobs
Pidcock narrowly avoided that crash and after holding his position in the lead group, launched his decisive attack midway through the gruelling seven-lap race, powering clear of Flückiger.
“It’s pretty surreal,” he said of his victory. “I was trying to tell myself this week I would become an Olympian and that in itself is a pretty great achievement.
“But really my goal was to win. I was just telling myself that to keep myself calm. It’s kind of incredible really. It transcends the sport of mountain biking or any sport.”
Pidcock’s gold followed wins on Monday by Adam Peaty in 100m breaststroke and Tom Daley and Matty Lee in men’s synchronised 10m platform and Pidcock said he could feel the energy of fans back home in the UK.
“It’s incredible to have your whole country behind you, the national pride and people getting behind you even if they don’t follow the sport. It’s super nice to be part of that.”
Van der Poel suggested afterwards that there had been a boardwalk on the jump where he crashed when they had trained on the Izu course previously, and Pidcock – who trained in a heat chamber leading up to Tokyo to acclimatise to the hot, sticky conditions – said that might well have been the reason for his rival’s crash, adding that fortunately he knew it was there.
“It’s not nice to see and I hope he’s alright,” he said. “We were training with the boardwalk there and then the boardwalk was not in the race. It looks like he thought it was still there but I don’t know what he was thinking, you would have to ask him. But it’s not nice to see on the first lap in the Olympics.”
Pidcock is generally regarded as one of the brightest young things in world cycling, one of a new breed of talents who can turn their hand to pretty much anything.
The Leeds-born rider grew up racing cyclocross, which is what he credits for his handling ability. But he has also won junior and U23 world titles on the road and in e-Mountain Bike.
He reserved special praise in his press conference for the coach into whose arms he collapsed at the finish.
“Kurt has spent so much time with me now after my crash working together and planning every single day to optimise the limited time we had for this race,” he said. “I think it’s as much down to him as my hard work.
“It all looks pretty nice now but there were so many days of suffering and hard work to get here. These guys understand. The time he’s put into me is incredible. We go hand in hand and it’s as much down to him as it is to me really.”