Puck Pieterse and Tom Pidcock secure thrilling Cross-Country MTB World Cup victories in Nové Město
Tom Pidcock made it five wins in a row in XCO mountain bike racing at the legendary Nové Město track in the Czech Republic. In a spell-binding performance, the Ineos Grenadier rode the new Pinarello Dogma XC mountain bike to victory as the rain fell, and capped a dream debut weekend for the brand new Pinarello XC mountain bike with Pidcock having won the XCC short track on Friday. His teammate, World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot also claimed a second-place finish having been denied the win by the impressive Puck Pieterse in the Cross-country Olympic elite women's race.
The elite women were first up on Sunday and they would serve up a thrilling race. It was birthday girl Puck Pieterse who made a statement of intent with a rapid start of the line, which gave her a brief early lead on the group. Former World Champion Evie Richards looked strong on the first climb, and along with American rider Haley Batten made the early pace before Batten went clear. The American was then joined by Frei, Richards, Henderson, and Martina Berta to form a leading group.
Evie Richards soon dropped the group with Ferrand-Prevot joining the chase but the British rider extended her lead with a rapid downhill attack, riding solo and clear before disaster struck and she suffered a rear tire puncture. She could only stand and watch as Ferrand-Prevot and Pieterse rode past her in the tech zone before more bad luck struck with an issue with her chain, that meant she lost almost a minute and effectively ended her chances of the win.
Pieterse and Ferrand-Prevot then proceed to attack each other on the next few laps, with each building small gaps, but unable to shake off their rival and develop a decisive gap. However, Ferrand-Prevot would soon open up the biggest gap and kept her time advantage into the final lap. Pieterse bravely fought back to a bike length and then attacked to open up a small gap. She then went down the steps and retained her lead, and managed to hold the advantage for the remainder of the course that would secure her the win. With a clear gap the young Dutch rider, whose 21st birthday was yesterday had time to celebrate as she crossed the line for an emphatic victory and her first-ever elite cross-country win. With Ferrand-Prevot taking second, the top five would be made up of Loana Lecomte, Evie Richards, who showed exceptional bouncebackability after her mechanical issues, and Alessandra Keller in fifth.
With the skies opening before the start, there was plenty of drama in the men's elite race, with the rain creating damp and slippy conditions that caused crashes amongst the field right from the start. Luca Schwarzbauer avoided the early commotion caused by the crash chaos to make the early running, and he was aided by another pile-up behind him during the second lap to open up an early gap. The fancied riders including Pidcock, World Champion Nino Schurter and Joshua Dubau quickly closed the gap and came back to Schwarzbauer, and then Pidcock wasted no time in moving to the front and building a lead.
Dubau was the only rider who could go with Pidcock, and the drama continued as Pidcock first unclipped on a rocky climb to allow the Frenchman to close the gap before the Ineos rider had a heavy crash on a downhill section to gift Dubau the lead. Pidcock clearly injured, with blood visible on his left side, remained unperturbed, as he steadied himself in the feed zone before setting about eating into the lead that Dubau had opened up.
With the chase group of Schurter and Sarrou out of contention Pidcock only had to focus on reeling in Dubau, and he would eventually close the gap to four seconds at the beginning of the penultimate lap, and eventually get on the wheel of the Frenchman. Dubau still looked comfortable as they traversed the technical course, with mini-gaps opening between the two. Pidcock, stuck to the wheel and then on the final lap made his move attacking on the penultimate climb with Dubau holding on to the wheel. Pidcock would again attack on the final climb, and this time, Dubau was distanced, allowing Pidcock to cruise home. Schurter beat Sarrou in a sprint to the line to collect the final podium place with Thomas Griot, rounding out the top five.
Pidcock said afterwards, “It was tricky, I had a dead leg after the crash and my tires were a bit hard, I was struggling with the roots but it's nice to take the win.”
The UCI Mountain Bike World Series now heads to the legendary venue of Lenzerheide in Switzerland with the XC riders being joined by the best downhill mountain bike riders for round one of their season. The exciting racing is across the weekend 9th-11th June, with TV coverage on GCN+, Eurosport, and Discovery+.