The only rainbow jersey up for grabs on day three of the 2020 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships presented by Mercedes-Benz in Leogang, Austria, went to Thomas Pidcock (GBR) who comprehensively beat Christopher Blevins (USA) and Joel Roth (SUI).
Earlier, in the downhill qualifying, home favourite Valentina Höll had set a blistering pace, top of the Elite Women’s ahead of Sunday’s final, with Loris Vergier of France edging out defending UCI World Champion Loïc Bruni in the Elite Men’s.
Under-23 Men’s cross-country Olympic: Pidcock’s party time!
Two days after winning the UCI E-mountain bike World Champion title Great Britain's Thomas Pidcock hit the track again in Leogang on a slightly shorter course, with a little less mud and 250 fewer Watts assistance, but with the same hunger to win, whatever the discipline and regardless of the conditions. He went in search of his second rainbow jersey of the week, only days after he won both Elite cross-country short track World Cup races at this first attempt in the Nové Město na Moravě (Czech Republic) UCI World Cup double-header, and just two weeks after being drafted into the British squad for the UCI Road World Championships at Imola (Italy).
On the first of two start loops a trio emerged: the USA’s Christopher Blevins – 2nd in the 2018 U23 XCO UCI World Championships at Lenzerheide, Switzerland – Pidcock and Joel Roth, 2nd in the 2017 Juniors UCI World Championships. Roth was part of a strong Swiss squad including Vital Albin (3rd in last year’s U23s and taking a podium at the recent Nové Město na Moravě UCI World Cup second Elites XCO race), and Alexandre Balmer (2018 Junior UCI World Champion) with high hopes to podium.
Blevins, Pidcock and Roth pulled away at the end of the second start loop, with the Briton assuming the lead on lap 1. As Roth faded, 20-year-old Simone Avondetto (ITA), Canada’s Sean Fincham, Martin Vidaurre Kossman (CHI) and Germany’s David List joined him to form a – distant – chasing pack.
The 21-year-old British rider pulled away, building a 40-second gap on the second of four 3.4km laps, and extending it beyond a minute by half distance.
Fincham, a regular top-10 finisher in the Mercedes-Benz UCI World Cup, including a podium at last year’s Les Gets, vied for third place with Roth and Avondetto. And with the trio around 3 minutes behind Pidcock and the field stringing out, it was looking like a battle for bronze…
And it was Roth who upgraded his 13th in the U23s at Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada, in 2019. For third at Leogang, Austria in 2020. Blevins put in a strong, if somewhat lonely ride for second, but, like the rest of the pack, simply came up against an unstoppable force, finishing 1’52’ adrift of Pidcock.
Before the U23 cross-country Olympic race, Leogang’s more famous track, ‘the Speedster’ played host to the downhillers. With just a few big names missing – including GBR’s five-time UCI Elite Women World Champion Rachel Atherton – it was a high quality field for the first top-level action of 2020 in Sunday’s finals.
Germany Junior National Champion Thiele went first and set a fast time, but it was the French Junior Champion who went quickest of all by 3.5sec.
Home nation favourite and YouTube star Gabriel Wibmer was first down the shute – but it was a truly international fastest top 10, including a dominant ride from the American winner of Crankworx Innsbruck.
Running halfway through the order, UCI World Champion Myriam Nicole set the provisional no 1, 26-sec faster than the first 12 riders, before Höll smashed it on the Speedster.
Canada’s Finn Iles set a fast time before the French-heavy top 10 hit the track and lifelong friends and rivals Vergier and Bruni took over.
The downhill finals are on Sunday, and next up Saturday’s action brings you the XCO finals for U23 Women and Elite Men and Women, here and at RedBull TV.