Tom Pidcock wins mountain bike title at cycling worlds

Olympic mountain bike champion Tom Pidcock proved Saturday he is still the man to beat at next summer's Paris Games.

Pauline Ferrand-Prevot of France showed she's the woman to beat, too, even if her last Olympics was one to forget.

Pidcock pulled away from a star-studded field on a technical course through Scotland's Glentress Forest, then held off the fast-finishing Samuel Gaze of New Zealand to win the mountain bike title on the penultimate day of cycling's world championships. His rainbow jersey came hours after Ferrand-Prevot dominated the women's field to win the title for the fifth time.

"It's a massive relief," Pidcock said. "As soon as I attacked, my gears were jumping all over the place. I didn't know if I should stop and tighten it up. My race could have been over at any point. I didn't want to go proper and put it under any stress.

"That was a stressful last two laps," he added.

Gaze finished 19 seconds back in failing to add the Olympic-distance cross-country title to the short-track world title he won earlier in the world championships. Nino Schurter, the 10-time cross-country world champion from Switzerland, was right behind Gaze heading into the final lap but faded and finished 34 seconds back in third.

Dutch star Mathieu van der Poel, who got up from a late crash to secure the road race title last weekend, was trying to join Ferrand-Prevot as the only riders to hold the cyclocross, road race and mountain bike titles in the same year. He crashed on a seemingly benign corner early in the mountain bike race, held his right knee in pain and ultimately did not finish.

The injury did not appear serious, and van der Poel conceded to Dutch media later that "it was my own fault."

Pidcock had been largely focusing on the road before the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games in 2021, then he hopped on a mountain bike and showed his strength, endurance and bike-handling ability in winning Britain's first medal of any color.

Pidcock continues to compete on the road for the Ineos Grenadiers team, winning Strade Bianche earlier this year to go with a second-place finish in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and a third-place finish in the Amstel Gold Race. But he also won a pair of cyclocross races this past season, and his mountain bike World Cup win at Nové Město sent him to Scotland with confidence.

"To be honest I haven't got much words at the moment. It's been such a long week, waiting for the start of this race," said Pidcock, who took bronze in the short-track race. "I don't have much left now. I need to go lie down. But you know, I pulled my skinsuit on this morning and it says in the collar, 'Inspire the nation,' and I hope I did that today."

Ferrand-Prevot has no shortage of confidence at the world championships.

She won the title for the first time in 2015, when she also won the cyclocross and road race championships, and had added three more titles in the past four years before Saturday. But her off-road dominance took a big hit at the Tokyo Games, where the Swiss team swept the medal stand and she finished more than 4 1/2 minutes back in 10th place.

"At the moment I'm feeling really happy," Ferrand-Prevot said. "It was a super hard race. I didn't have a good start but I wanted to keep my own pace during the whole race. I did full gas on the uphill and tried to recover on the downhills, and it worked perfectly and I'm really proud, because I kept my plan."

Ferrand-Prevot was waiting at the finish line to hug French teammate Loana Lecomte, who finished 1:14 back to take the silver medal. Puck Pieterse of the Netherlands was another 13 seconds back to take the bronze medal.