Tom Pidcock became the first British rider to win a mountain bike World Cup race in more than two decades Sunday while Loana Lecomte dominated the women’s race for the second consecutive week to solidify her status as the favorite to win the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo.
Pidcock simply rode away from the rest of the field on the first of six laps over the muddy course in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. He finished the race in 1 hour, 20 minutes, 55 seconds for a gap of about a minute over Mathieu van der Poel, the multi-discipline Dutch star who plans to ride the Tour de France before the mountain bike race at the Summer Games.
Mathias Flueckiger was another 15 seconds back to round out the podium.
“I think I was born to do this,” said Pidcock, who like van der Poel will return to the road with his Ineos Grenadier team with an eye on the Tour of Switzerland and Tour of Austria. “It’s what I’ve done since I was little and what I’ve enjoyed.”
Pidcock, the first Brit to win an elite World Cup race since 1994, said he’s also targeting the mountain bike race in Tokyo, even though he’s yet to qualify for the national team. But after his strong opening round in Germany and a runner-up ride to van der Poel in the short-track race Friday night, his triumph Sunday should assure him a spot on the squad.
“Coming here and winning an elite World Cup at my second attempt,” he said, “it’s pretty insane, really.”
Like she did in Albstadt last weekend, Lecomte opened up an early lead over the elite field in the women’s race, then took advantage of the rain stopping and the course drying to keep her lead over Haley Batten to the finish.
Lecomte’s time was 1:25:13, giving the rising French star a hefty 1:39 gap to Batten in second place.
The 22-year-old American, who won the short-track event, chased down Australian rider Rebecca McConnell over the final lap before dropping on a long climb midway through the course to earn the silver medal. Batten threw her mud-caked arms in the air as she crossed the finish line with a result that secured her spot on the U.S. team for Tokyo.
“It’s pretty mind-blowing. I really don’t know what to think,” Batten said. “I’m absorbing it slowly but it’s all pretty crazy.”
McConnell hung on for third place with world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, who won the opening round in Germany and is another Olympic favorite, finishing the race in fourth place. American rider Kate Courtney, who is already qualified for the Olympics, crashed early in the race and then had a flat tire to ruin her afternoon.