Borders hosts Britain’s first-ever elite-level mountain bike cross-country world championship success
The West Yorkshire 24-year-old went from 30th place to fifth within two of the men’s Olympic race’s eight laps, got ahead of ten-times world champion Nino Schurter with two laps to go and went on to cross the finish line 19 seconds ahead of New Zealand’s Sam Gaze in 1:22:09.
Switzerland’s Schurter, 37, ended up third, 15 seconds behind Gaze, 27.
Pidcock’s world mountain bike title win near Peebles follows a gold medal at the 2020 Olympics in Japan two years ago and his 2022 cyclo-cross world title, as well as a Tour de France stage win last year and victory at Italy’s Strade Bianche road race in spring this year.
It also came after a third-place finish in the championships’ cross-country short-track race last Thursday, won by Gaze.
“It feels good. It’s a big relief. It’d been a long week building up to it,” said Pidcock, of Leeds, afterwards.
“In front of my home crowd, it’s pretty special.
“Coming down the final straight, I could finally soak it all in. Before that, the last few laps were so stressful.
“My gears were not working on the last lap – they were jumping on every climb – and Gaze was coming behind. I thought it could all go in the bin at any moment.”
Pidcock had targeted success in Saturday’s race as one of his priorities for this season, giving the previous weekend’s road race a miss so he could focus fully on his title bid, and he was glad to see that decision pay off.
Holland’s Mathieu van der Poel, winner of that 168-mile road race from Edinburgh to Glasgow, opted to double up but went out on the opening circuit of Saturday’s Olympic race at Glentress.
Pidcock’s victory followed controversy ahead of the race as officials made an 11th-hour switch to world cup rules to move road-racers Pidcock, van der Poel and Slovakia’s Peter Sagan forward to the fourth row of the grid rather than the positions further back their rankings would have warranted ordinarily.
Having taken time out of his Tour de France preparations to collect Union Cycliste Internationale points in world cup races in Novo Mesto in Slovenia in May, Pidcock denounced that late grid rejig as “bulls***”.
“It’s pretty outrageous,” he said. “A rule like that needs to be put in place in January.
“I sacrificed three weeks of my preparation for the tour to try and get some points and this week they changed the rule. You can’t do that. It's not fair.”
Worcestershire’s Evie Richards had to make do with sixth place, 2:39 back, in the elite women’s race at Glentress as France’s Pauline Ferrand-Prevot retained her Olympic title as well as her short-track champion status.
Richards, 26, picked up a bronze medal in that shorter race last Thursday.
“I was tired, so I just tried to hang on for dear life after getting a good start,” Richards said on Saturday.
“I pushed as hard as I could and couldn’t stay with that medal, but I gave it all that I could. I think I was still tired from the short track, to be honest.
“I just felt I was really happy that I could push, that I was competitive, I wasn’t off the back, and the crowds were amazing. I feel really lucky that I got to race in front of them today.”
Pidcock’s gold was one of 23, and 56 medals overall, won by Great Britain, putting them at the top of the championship’s leaderboard ahead of second-placed France on 42, with 13 golds, and third-placed Germany on 32, including 14 golds.
Britain also topped the para-cycling medal table with 44, including 24 golds.
A million spectators are estimated to have turned out over 11 days to watch 13 championships contested, primarily in Glasgow but also in the Borders, Edinburgh, Perth and Kinross, Dundee, Angus, Fife, Falkirk, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire and Dumfries and Galloway, with millions more viewing on television.
Almost 8,00 elite and amateur athletes took part altogether.
UCI president David Lappartient was delighted to see the new combined event get off to such a successful start, saying: “The inaugural UCI Cycling World Championships have taken our sport to new heights.
“The 13 UCI world championships that took place in Glasgow and across Scotland united all members of the wide cycling family, bringing together different disciplines, an unprecedented number of nations and a record number of television viewers worldwide.
“The fantastic welcome from Scotland and the excellent organisation created a clear benchmark for future editions of this magnificent cycling show, to take place every four years before the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
Isla Short and fellow Peebles cyclists Emily and Corran Carrick-Anderson and Anna and Elena McGorum were among the Borderers competing.
Short followed up a 27th-placed finish in the elite women’s cross-country bike marathon at Glentress on August 6 with 13th in Thursday’s elite cross-country short-track race and 25th in Sunday’s Olympic event.
“This week has been about things so much deeper and more powerful than race results,” said the 26-year-old.
“I just can’t find a way to articulate the enormity of emotions I have felt during my three world championships in seven days.
“I raced my bike for a crowd that know my story, in front of so many individuals who have been at my side unconditionally, that love me for my resilience and understand that I won over and over this week despite never crossing the line first.
“I win every time I feel the immense love and passion for bike-riding that runs so deeply through this beautiful place that I live in. It’s taken me all over the world but nothing in my career will top this.”