The 2020 World Championships were every bit as strange as the year they fell in. Almost no racing had occurred for the bulk of the planet before it was time to crown the best athletes to grace it. Rather than bed-in, courses continued to get more difficult as the racing went on, and there were times the weather would have been more appropriate for skiing than cycling. Nevertheless, it made for fantastic viewing for race-starved eyes and provided the perfect recipe for brilliant athletic performances from the champions-to-be.
Tom Pidcock turned 21 in July, but this isn’t his first (or even third) rodeo. Packing more racing in as a junior in as many disciplines as possible, he drew on all these past experiences to gain his World Championship titles. A National Cyclocross Champion in Britain two years in a row, mashing hard gears in the mud wasn’t exactly a mystery for Pidcock in Leogang. He spent the first half of the race getting a feeling for the course and the rhythm of his competitors before breaking away on the second lap, holding his lead all the way to the finish line.
Pauline Ferrand-Prévot reprised her title as XCO World Champion Saturday, making her the holder of six World Championship titles between XCO, XCM, Cyclocross, and Road. Starting her season off at Nové Město with a gold, two silvers, and a bronze was all she needed to get the fires of competition burning to take her to the top of the box.
I wanted to go out hard and get the lead as soon as possible because I knew it's better to be alone on the uphill and downhill sections than in a group. I didn't expect to have such a gap. It was an amazing race for me.
Reece Wilson didn’t know it, but he had become Scotland's first-ever World Champion, and almost half the field hadn’t dropped in yet. Having a UCI standing that placed him in the middle of the pack, his lap of brilliance saw over 30 of the best mountain bikers on earth try to best his time, always coming up short. Conditions mimicking the dark, wet, unruliness of the tracks in his home country, he harnessed the experience of years of riding what most would consider unrideable into an unforgettable lap in Leogang. The tension in the hot seat finally broke seeing the current World Champion (the last on-course) take a crash in the heinous newly cut wooded section.
This win means a lot, it's been a wild couple of years in the sport, and I definitely almost gave up along the way. But I came here believing I could win. It just means so much to make it here and have this day.
With the race season fully underway, we will now see the new World Champions battle it out for the World Cup overall title, a competition that we usually see the other way around. Terrible conditions are a great equalizer, they show who has been doing the work behind the scenes, and who is filled with grit and determination. Whatever comes next this season, it’s clear that these three are more than capable of handling it.
Photos by Sven Martin. Words by Peter Matthews.