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Tom Pidcock rolled into Olympic Gold in the men’s cross-country mountain bike race on Monday.
The young British rider, also adept on a cyclocross and road bike, roared into the history books by winning the seventh Olympic mountain bike race.
Pre-race favorite Mathieu van der Poel crashed on the first lap of the Olympic mountain bike race when he misjudged a rocky drop in the route. Pidcock, meanwhile, blasted from the fourth row of the start, and relentlessly attacked dropping Mathias Flückiger (Switzerland) and three-time defending champion Nino Schurter (Switzerland) in the middle of the race.
Flückiger finished second, while David Valero (Spain) made a late comeback to win the close race for the bronze.
Here’s what the stars said after the men’s Olympic mountain bike race concluded.
Tom Pidcock (Great Britain): 1st
Riding in his first Olympic games, Pidcock not only beat all the competition, he did so just seven weeks after fracturing his collarbone in a training crash. Pidcock’s win is a first for Great Britain in the mountain biking discipline
“It’s nothing like any other race. The Olympics just transcends any sport. You compete and represent your country and everyone in your country is behind you, no matter in what sports they like. It’s just national pride, it’s unbelievable,” Pidcock said. “I’m always better when I take control myself. I take my own lines, my own speed. Once we started I was fine, all the nerves kind of went and I concentrated on the race. I’m happy this s**t’s [the Olympic Games] only every four years because it’s f***ing stressful.”
“I know that my mum and girlfriend are crying at home. It’s sad that they can’t be here but I see them when I get home,” Pidcock added.
Mathias Flückiger (Switzerland): 2nd, at :20
Mathias Flückiger and compatriot and Nino Schurter — a three-time Olympic medalist in the event — set a strong pace early, after van der Poel’s crash. When Pidcock attacked near the end of the second lap, the two Swiss chased.
Schurter was dropped in the third lap while Flückiger held with the race-leader until the fourth circuit. Putting a foot down on a technical climb in the fifth lap, the gap between Flückiger and Pidcock grew to 11 seconds, and then more in the finale of the race.
“First, it was a really mixed feeling, but I’m happy about the medal. I have to say, my goal was to win. I didn’t win. There was one stronger guy and I was second, Flückiger said. “I did some mistakes in the middle of the race, two times in one lap, and that was unlucky, but now I’m happier with the silver medal.”
“I can be happy. I did a solid race, but to win today I needed a perfect race and I did some mistakes. That gives me the second place and I’m happy with that,” said Flückiger.
David Valero Serrano (Spain): 3rd, at :34
Serrano was one of the few riders who could stay in sight of Pidcock’s wheel.
While he initially worked with the two Swiss riders, when Schurter faltered, the Spaniard saw an opportunity to move into a podium position.
In the final lap, Serrano outlasted Cooper of New Zealand, Koretzky of France, and Nino Schurter of Switzerland.
“I liked the weather, the equipment, and everything. I’ve been acclimatizing to the heat in Spain and worked there with the focus of fighting for a medal,” Serrano said.
Christopher Blevins (United States): 14th, at 2:59
With riders scrambling at the start of the race, and then van der Poel’s crash which caused further chaos, the main bunch was twice split on the first lap.
Blevins, starting in 32nd position, battled his way through the field through calm and consistent riding, despite being off the bike more than he had initially planned.
“I lined up on the left side, which was the strategy. The way the field moved up to the start line, there’s always that scramble that’s like two seconds to get in position, and I just didn’t find a great wheel off the gun,” Blevins said. “I was off-the-bike more than I thought we would be. The group split twice in the start loop, and it got chaotic with how loose the track is in the dust. So not the best start loop, but I went through the first lap only 30 seconds down and maybe a little more recovered than if I had a good start loop. I think that helped me have a patient, strong race.”
“There are all these kinds of micro-moments where you can take advantage, and I just tried to keep my eyes up and be patient and not try to waste energy. But when I saw that micro-moment to get ahead of two people, I took advantage of it,” said Blevins.
“I can’t say enough about what this experience has meant to me and how much love and support I’ve heard from back home,” Blevins said. “That’s been so inspiring and motivating for this moment, but also for the future of my involvement in the sport. I hope that, actually I know, that in three years, the U.S. will be in a strong position with myself, hopefully, and a bunch of young riders coming up. So, let’s get two spots or more on the start line and be fighting for a medal.”
Anton Cooper (New Zealand): 6th, at :46
Anton Cooper, 26, dangled behind Pidcock and the two Swiss riders after lap 2. When Schurter tried to chase after Pidcock’s second attack on the third lap, he misjudged the effort and dropped back chase with the Kiwi rider.
The two were eventually joined by Victor Koretzky of France and Ondrej Cink of the Czech Republic. While Cink eventually abandoned, it was Koretzky who barely outlasted Cooper.
This is Cooper’s first Olympic games; he was too young to compete in 2012, and was not recovered from adenoid surgery just prior to the 2016 Games.
“Overall, I’m stoked. I came in as a real outsider chance for a medal, ranked number 13. There’s a lot of guys on this field that could medal. Everything was a possibility and I went out with that mentality, to try to stay in the front for as long as I could,” said Cooper. “I didn’t have the legs to stick it on the podium but certainly emptied the tank, so I’ve got to be satisfied with that.”
“If you’d asked me as a kid, sixth at the Olympics or just to make it to the Olympics, it’d be pretty special and it’s really a dream come true. I’m 26 years old, I look ahead to 2024 in Paris and I should really be at the peak of my powers then,” Cooper said. “I’ve got more to look forward to. I take a lot of confidence from this heading into the world championships in five weeks and also towards the next Olympics. It was everything I could dream about.”