Pidcock’s win over Van der Poel still doesn’t guarantee him an Olympic spot
Tom Pidcock (Ineos-Grenadiers) was perhaps the breakout rider of the Spring Classics on the road, and now the 21-year-old multi-disciplinary star has continued that impressive trajectory on his mountain bike.
On Sunday, in round 2 of the Cross Country World Cup in Nové Město in the Czech Republic, Pidcock claimed his and Ineos-Grenadiers’ first elite World Cup victory.
Pidcock lined up alongside the very best in the world of mountain biking. His cross-disciplinary rival Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) was there after beating Pidcock in the short-track competition a few days earlier. Eight-time XC world champion (and world-number-one) Nino Schurter (Scott-SRAM) was on the startlist, so too reining world champion Jordan Sarrou (Specialized). Winner of the first World Cup round, Victor Koretzky (KMC-Orbea) was also in attendance, as were Mathias Flueckiger (Thomus RN Swiss Bike) and local favourite Ondrej Cink (Kross Orlen).
Van der Poel started strongly, as he so often does on the dirt, with Koretzky, Schurter, Pidcock, Flueckiger and Cink in hot pursuit. By lap 2, it was just Van der Poel and Pidcock out front, as Flueckiger tried his best to regain contact on the muddy, tree-root-covered course that forced all riders to walk some steep uphill sections.
On a climb on lap three of six, Pidcock moved to the front and put in a quick surge, quickly leaving Van der Poel behind. By the end of the lap he had 30 seconds over his Dutch rival. By race’s end Pidcock had put exactly a minute between himself and Van der Poel, the latter having fended off a surge from Flueckiger, who ultimately finished third at 1:15.
Pidcock’s win comes two weeks after winning the Swiss Bike Cup by more than three minutes, and a week after he was fifth in round 1 of the XCO World Cup in Albstadt, Germany – his elite World Cup debut. That ride in Albstadt was particularly impressive – Pidcock managed fifth after starting on the 11th row of the grid and after suffering a rear puncture that cost him several places. James Smurthwaite over at our sister site Pinkbike described it as “one of the most incredible elite debuts in the sport’s history”.
“Honestly, I think I was born to do mountain biking,” Pidcock said after his win on Sunday. “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 is pretty insane.”
Pidcock’s victory takes on greater significance given its proximity to the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. Based on his performance at Nové Město, Pidcock would start as one of the favourites. “Would”, because his participation is not yet assured. Great Britain doesn’t currently have a spot in the men’s Olympic XCO race given the country’s low UCI ranking of 32nd. But Pidcock could still be there.
Under the UCI’s complicated qualification process, Great Britain getting an Olympic spot – or not – hinged on how well Romania’s Vlad Dascalu (Trek-Pirelli) did on Sunday. By finishing 17th, Dascalu appears to have moved Romania up the rankings, meaning he’ll qualify through Romania’s UCI ranking, rather than as the 2019 U23 world champion. As a result, it seems Great Britain will move far enough up the ranking, earning Team GB an Olympic berth.
The UCI is expected to announce a list of qualified nations on Tuesday. From there Great Britain can select Pidcock (which it will).
There are two more rounds in the XCO World Cup before the Olympics: in Leogang, Austria, in mid June, and in Les Gets, France in early July. Interestingly, it’s not clear whether Pidcock or Van der Poel will be in attendance. Both are expected to switch back to the road over the coming weeks, with Van der Poel planning to race the Tour de Suisse and Tour de France, and Pidcock due to line up at the Tour de Suisse as well, before heading to the Tour of Austria.
Perhaps the next time we’ll see the pair face off on the dirt will be in Tokyo …
- Tom Pidcock (Ineos-Grenadiers) 1:20:55
- Mathieu van der Poel (Alpedin-Fenix) +1:00
- Mathias Flueckiger (Thomus RN Swiss) +1:15
- Ondrej Cink (Kross Orlen) +2:00
- Jordan Sarrou (Specialized) +2:21