Team GB’s Tom Pidcock dominated today’s mountain bike race at Tokyo 2020 to win Olympic gold, but the much-anticipated showdown with Mathieu van der Poel failed to materialise as the Dutch rider crashed early on.
Pidcock, who turns 22 on Friday, put in a blistering short opening circuit after starting from the fourth row of the grid to move up to the front of the field ahead of the seven 4.1 kilometre laps of the main course.
By the end of the second lap the Yorkshireman was alone at the front of the field with defending champion Nino Schurter and Matthias Flueckiger, attacking again to get in front of the Swiss pair.
From then on he gradually teased out what would prove to be an unassailable lead, with Flueckiger taking silver, 20 seconds behind the Team GB rider, and David Valero of Spain a further 14 seconds back in third place.
tom pidcock tokyo 2020 olympic gold medal mountain bike.jpg, by Jessica Strange
Van der Poel’s crash happened just before the first of the seven full circuits, the Dutchman landing heavily after going over his handlebars on a jump off a rocky section of the course, with Pidcock, riding behind him, managing to avoid being caught up.
While van der Poel remounted, the crash cost him a minute to his rivals, and he eventually abandoned with two laps remaining.
It’s Team GB’s third gold medal of the Games, with Adam Peaty defending his 100 metres breaststroke title earlier today and, while Pidcock was riding to victory, divers Tom Daly and Matty Lee winning the synchronised 10-metre platform competition.
"It's nothing like any other race. The Olympics just transcends any sport. You compete and represent your country and everyone in your country is behind you, no matter in what sports they like. It's just national pride, it's unbelievable," said Pidcock.
"It's been a such a hard time coming here from crashing and breaking my collarbone [in May] and that's just unbelievable.
"I'm always better when I take control myself. I take my own lines, my own speed. Once we started I was fine, all the nerves kind of went and I concentrated on the race. I'm happy this [the Olympic Games] is only every four years because it's stressful.
"I know that my mum and girlfriend are crying at home. It's sad that they can't be here but I see them when I get home."
Although the Olympic games are usually spaced every 4-years, due to the delay caused by the global health pandemic, we have just 3-years before the Paris games in 2024.