Tokyo Olympics: No rest for Leeds’ gold medallist Tom Pidcock as he targets Vuelta a Espana
Pidcock, who turns 22 on Friday, stormed to gold on his mountain bike on Monday as he comfortably won the men’s cross-country race in Izu, finishing 20 seconds ahead of world No 1 Mathias Flueckiger as he crossed the line waving a Union Flag.
Britain’s most exciting young cyclist has already amassed a dazzling array of world and European titles in cyclo-cross, mountain biking and on the road at junior and under-23 levels, with an Olympic crown elevating him to an entirely different sphere.
But Pidcock, who rides for the Ineos Grenadiers on the road, has yet more new ground to break with a planned Grand Tour debut to come next month when the Vuelta a Espana starts on August 14, which means there can be little time off.
“I ate all the cake at the buffet,” he said. “That was my celebration. The plan is the Vuelta now so (on Tuesday) I’ll go out and do a long ride because I’m not going to have that many days when I get back.
“It’s my birthday when I get home and I’ll spend a couple of nights in London. It’s going to be a few days off but I need to do some riding.”
Pidcock, less than two months removed from a broken collarbone sustained when he was knocked off his bike by a driver, could at least celebrate in the moment.
Having attacked with 17 kilometres of the 28.25km race still to go, the Yorkshireman had steadily ridden away from the field to build a dominant advantage.
There was time to grab a flag from Great Britain coach Simon Watts as he came around the bend on to the finishing line, holding it aloft for the cameras to create a defining image of the day.
Though Pidcock has already tasted much success in his young career, this one was different.
“The Olympics transcends cycling,” he said. “It’s the whole world. Everyone kind of feels invested in it. There’s the national pride, and everyone in the country is behind any athlete in any sport from that country.
“That’s what makes it more special, and bigger than the sport itself.”
Pidcock, whose qualification for the event was only confirmed in May, started on the fourth row on the grid but wasted no time in getting himself into a leading group, gaining 26 places by the end of the first full lap.
He spent a couple of laps tucked in behind the Swiss pair of Flueckiger and Nino Schurter, but knew he wanted to be out in front alone.
“I’m always better when I take control myself,” he said of his tactics. “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 s**t’s (the Olympic Games) only every four years because it’s f***ing stressful.”
The crowd that had gathered in Izu - not subject to the same restrictions as Tokyo - would be denied the anticipated battle between Pidcock and Mathieu Van Der Poel, however.
The Dutchman who enjoyed six days in the yellow jersey at the Tour de France a month ago, crashed heavily on the opening lap, apparently unaware that a ramp which had been in place in the rock garden had been taken out for the race.
Though Van Der Poel soldiered on, he pulled out of the race with two laps still to go before being sent for x-rays.
“It was not nice to see,” Pidcock said. “I’ve spoken to him since and he said he’s all right so that’s good to hear.”