TOKYO 2020

Pidcock bags gold weeks after crash

Briton Tom Pidcock became the youngest Olympic mountain bike champion in history.
Briton Tom Pidcock became the youngest Olympic mountain bike champion in history.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TOKYO • Tom Pidcock yesterday won Britain's third gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, clinching victory in the men's mountain bike race less than two months after being hit by a car while training.

The 21-year-old broke his collarbone and was rushed to hospital after he was crashed into at speed in the French Pyrenees in May.

His coach Kurt Bogaerts then said Pidcock had been "catapulted over the car" and was "lucky" not to have suffered more serious injuries.

But the Ineos Grenadiers rider was able to bounce back to become the youngest Olympic mountain bike champion in history and continuing the rich cycling pedigree of his family.

He held off top-ranked Mathias Flueckiger of Switzerland to win by 20 seconds, with Spaniard David Valero Serrano earning the bronze.

"It's nothing like any other race. The Olympics just transcends any sport," said Pidcock, whose father Giles represented Britain in the 1980 Olympic road race in Moscow, while his younger brother Joe is part of the development team of pro cycling outfit Groupama-FDJ.

"You compete and represent your country, and everyone in your country is behind you, no matter the sports they like. It's just national pride, it's unbelievable.

"It's been a such a hard time coming here from crashing and breaking my collarbone, and that's just unbelievable.

"I know that my mum and girlfriend are crying at home. It's sad that they can't be here (because of Covid-19 travel restrictions) but I'll see them when I get home."

Race favourite and multiple-discipline star Mathieu van der Poel crashed on the first of seven laps and retired with two laps remaining.

The Dutchman, who is the grandson of French cycling great Raymond Poulidor, held the Tour de France yellow jersey before quitting the race earlier this month to focus on his Olympic preparations.

Pidcock started slowly but gradually picked off his other rivals before attacking halfway into the course.

He seized control after four laps of the 4.1km Izu circuit and was never challenged. So far ahead was the Leeds-born rider that he even had time to grab a British flag as he crossed the finish line in front of an enthusiastic crowd that was permitted in.

Authorities in Tokyo, Sapporo and Fukushima have banned fans from attending Games events but other areas like Shizuoka prefecture, where the mountain bike races are staged, have allowed for a restricted number of spectators to be present.

The women's race will take place today.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2021, with the headline 'Pidcock bags gold weeks after crash'. Subscribe