Tom Pidcock produced a stunning performance to win Olympic gold in the men’s mountain bike race at the Izu track on the outskirts of Tokyo. The 21-year-old Yorkshireman worked his way to the front over the first three laps and then gradually pulled away, completing a dominant win by 20 seconds from Switzerland’s silver medallist, Mathias Flueckiger.
Over seven laps of an 8.5km course made up of undulating dirt track, boulders, jumps, bridges and other obstacles, Pidcock conquered everything in front of him to dominate the race. He rides on the road for Ineos Grenadiers and has won a raft of medals in cyclo-cross including world U23 gold, and here the tenacious young rider proved he is a master of all trades with an Olympic title on the mountain bike.
Asked how it felt to be an Olympic champion, he replied: “Not real really. 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.”
What makes his story all the remarkable is that it is only a few weeks since he was hit by a driver while training in Girona. The impact of the car snapped his bike in half and shattered his collarbone into five pieces. Six days after undergoing surgery, he was back on his bike.
“I haven’t done a good race since,” Pidock told Eurosport. “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.”
Pidcock was handed a tough starting spot in the fourth line of the pack bunched at the narrow gateway, and had to fight to get in amongst the leading group. He got himself into the top 10 halfway through the first lap, when one of the race favourites Mathieu van der Poel crashed.
The Dutch sensation, fresh from an impressive performance at the Tour de France, summersaulted over his handlebars coming over the top of a boulder and landed heavily. He grimaced and clutched his right forearm and lower back in pain, but did manage to get back on his bike, although the incident left him a minute behind the early leaders.
As Van der Poel began picking off rival after rival ahead of him, Pidcock did likewise. Gradually he moved up to second place, and then he attacked past leader Flueckiger on lap three. He led through lap four and it looked like a straight two-way fight between Pidcock and Flueckiger. But gradually the Briton pulled into the open air and by the finish he was all alone.
The final lap felt like a procession, with Pidcock clear of the rest and closing in on a piece of British cycling history. The venue being outside Tokyo itself meant fans lined the road as he approached the finish, and he threw his arms into the air as he soaked up their applause. The race was over, but the story of Tom Pidcock is only just getting going.
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