Nino Schurter is unequivocally the greatest cross-country mountain bike rider of all time, and his win at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championship 2022 in Les Gets has all but proved it. That said, it wasn't an easy win for Schurter as young British talent, Tom Pidcock, had other plans.
Thomas Pidcock is unquestionably the next great generational star of cycling, with terrific riding ability, from road to mountain biking. Buoyed by his Tour de France stage win earlier this year, it was expected that Pidcock could deny Schurter that tenth World Championship but the Briton had to start way back on the grid in the fifth row.
Mountain Bike World Championship events are a first-lap lottery with the narrowing funnel of riders playing havoc with any notion of established hierarchy into that first corner after the start. For Pidcock, this was his undoing, only a few minutes into the Les Gets World Championship race, he was 36th.
Tom Pidcock tail whips over gap jump at Les Gets, 2022 UCI MTB World Championships, by Red Bull Content Pool
Pidcock’s youthful energy and lack of self-preservation saw him sacrifice all residual energy reserves but it proved inadequate. The Les Gets track is a new-generation XCO venue, with challenging corners and technical features – not the place to risk and be rewarded. Pidcock’s high-risk riding was momentarily rewarded with the lead on lap three, with Schurter crashing in a grassy corner uncharacteristically.
On lap four Schurter showed the value of nearly two decades racing at the highest level, passing Pidcock to take the lead. He drew on his immense mental fortitude and race craft, not to mention pain tolerance, developed over a career that will undoubtedly never be equalled.
Lap six delivered high drama with Pidcock losing control and crashing in a tight off-camber corner, damaging his race ambition and a rear wheel. Having to divert to the technical zone for a repair cost the young British rider an unrecoverable margin of time. Despite valiantly trying, he could not catch Schurter, eventually finishing in fourth place.
Nino Schurter in action at Les Gets, 2022 UCI MTB World Championships, by Red Bull Content Pool
Would Pidcock have caught Schurter without having suffered a mechanical issue? It is one of those questions that will be discussed for many years.
But the fact is that nobody in mountain biking can deny that Schurter's tenth World Championship was richly deserved and earned with immense effort. For Swiss mountain biking, it is a moment of immense significance: with Schurter winning all ten of his World Championships on Swiss bike brand, Scott.
David Valero (Spain) finished nine seconds back for silver and Luca Braidot (Italy) bagged bronze, coming home another 20 seconds later.
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