TOKYO (REUTERS) - Britain's Tom Pidcock blew the opposition apart to win gold in the men's Olympics mountain bike race on Monday (July 26).
The relentless Pidcock seized control after four laps of the 4.1km Izu circuit and was never challenged, winning with a time of 1hr 25min 14sec.
So comfortable was his victory that the Yorkshireman had time to grab a British union flag as he crossed the finish line in front of an enthusiastic crowd who were permitted in.
"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," Pidcock said after the finish.
Pidcock arrived at the Games having fractured his collarbone in a crash while training last month. The win completes a remarkable turnaround for the Leeds-born rider.
"I haven't done a good race since. 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," he said.
"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."
Swiss Mathias Flueckiger, one of the in-form riders this season with two World Cup wins, just about stayed in contact with Pidcock and took the silver medal, 20 seconds back in 1:25:34sec. Spain's David Valero Serrano edged out defending champion Nino Schurter for the bronze medal, finishing in 1:25:48sec.
Pre-race favourite Mathieu Van der Poel, who spent several days in the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, had his hopes dashed by a first-lap crash.
The Dutchman flew over the handlebars of his bike after a steep landing on one of the bouldered-sections littering the technical and undulating course.
Battered and bruised he resumed and made up some ground but quit on lap five, appearing distraught.
The 21-year-old Pidcock, like Van der Poel, earns his money in the professional road ranks but tailored his season specifically to boost his hopes of cross-country gold in Tokyo.
He spent the days before arriving in Japan training in a super-heated tent at home in England, and the preparation paid off as he became the youngest Olympic mountain bike champion.
Former Under-23 world cross-country champion Pidcock is also the first Briton to claim a medal of any colour in the event.