Posted by Editoress on 05/16/21
Thomas Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) said after the race, 'I was born to mountain bike', and he certainly backed that statement up with a dominating performance on Sunday at Round 2 of the XCO World Cup in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. Pidcock rode the best mountain bikers in the world off his wheel to beat Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) by a minute. Mathias Flueckiger (Thomus RN Swiss Bike) took third, while world number one Nino Schurter (Scott-SRAM) was seventh. Van der Poel takes the leader's jersey for the series, 80 points ahead of Pidcock.
Leandre Bouchard (Pivot-OTE) was once again the top Canadian, in 19th place. Bouchard came out of the start loop in the 30s and moved to the high teens by mid race. Peter Disera (Norco Factory) finished 44th, Sean Fincham (Norco Factory) 49th, Andrew L'Esperance (Norco Factory) 59th, Marc Andre Fortier (Pivot-OTE) 63rd, Tyler Orschel 78th (one lap down), Quinton Disera (Norco Factory) 88th (one lap down), Raphael Auclair (Pivot-OTE) 93rd (two laps down), Alexandre Vialle 121st (three laps down), Raphael Gagne 124th (three laps down) and Felix Belhumeur (Pivot-OTE) 126th (three laps down). Bouchard is 16th in the overall World Cup standings and Disera is 29th.
Rain through the week made the normally dry Nove Mesto course muddy and slippery, with riders having to run many uphill rooty sections that are usually rideable. The course was gradually drying through the race, but almost every rider went down at some point on the roots. The men did a start loop plus six laps.
Van der Poel had his normal fast start, with World Cup leader Victor Koretzky (KMC-Orbea) joining him at the front and Schurter, Pidcock, local favourite Ondrej Cink (Kross Orlen) and Flueckiger close behind. Koretzky was struggling with the pace and quickly went backwards, eventually finishing a distant 24th and losing the leader's jersey to van der Poel.
The pace van der Poel was setting shredded the field, with only his road and cyclo-cross rival Pidcock able to stay with him. The duo rode away from Cink and Flueckiger, with Schurter fading behind them, and stayed together until the third lap, when Pidcock did the same thing to his rival - just rode away on a climb, setting the only sub-12 minute lap of the race (twice). By the end of the lap, Pidcock had 30 seconds on van der Poel, who was about to get caught by Flueckiger. A lap later, at the start of the fifth lap, Pidcock's gap was 1:18, and Flueckiger was starting to gap van der Poel on the climbs, however, the Dutch rider made a surge late in the lap to catch and drop his Swiss rival, eventually finishing one minute behind Pidcock, with Flueckiger a further 15 seconds back. Pidcock's World Cup win was the first by a British man since Gary Foord in 1994 at Mammoth Lake, California.
"Honestly, I think I was born to do mountain biking," said Pidcock after his historic win. "It sounds stupid, but it's what I have done since I was little and what I've enjoyed the most. So coming here and winning an elite World Cup in my first attempt on an equal playing field [after starting at the back of the field the week previously] is pretty insane."
Pidcock is still on the bubble about an Olympic spot, since he has to wait for the final Olympic nation rankings to come out and see if Great Britain gets a spot, but he's optimistic, "I'll take a break now and then build hopefully towards the Olympics. I think shown what I can do on a mountain bike."
Van der Poel, who said coming into the first two World Cups that he wasn't at '100%' after the cyclo-cross and early road seasons, said he was happy with second, "I'm happy, because it is already better than last week [seventh]. I was good at my own pace, but I had no response when Tom attacked; he was really strong today, so I'm happy that I could ride to second place. I didn't really have the feeling that I was burning myself out [in the opening laps], it's just that when Tom accelerated on the steepest climb ... he's very light and I could just go at my own pace but not follow his attack. I hope it will come soon. I rode a pretty steady second half of the race, so I'm happy with that, and with some more training I hope to be at my top level in a few months."
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