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Olympics: Course changes take their toll on Evie Richards despite blistering start

IZU JAPAN JULY 27 Evie Richards of Team Great Britain rides through flowery landscape during the Womens Crosscountry race on day four of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Izu Mountain Bike Course on July 27 2021 in Izu Shizuoka Japan Photo by Michael SteeleGetty Images
Evie Richards made a storming start to the race (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Evie Richards described herself as 'super pleased' with her Olympic debut as she placed seventh in the mountain bike race in Tokyo, but regretted the typhoon that hit Izu and changed the complexion of the race. 

The wet weather made what had been a bone-dry course slippery and muddy, and the conditions were severe enough for the organisers to change the course, altering some of the lines and reducing the number of laps from six to five.

Having trained all weekend on those original lines, Richards had to adjust quickly, revealing that she crashed in practice ahead of the race as a result.

"It was a really strange race. With the conditions… the mud came this morning and when we did the course practice, they'd shut a lot of the A-line so after remembering the course all week you then get here and it changed so it was really an odd race.

"I had a couple of crashes in practice this morning because when you've learned all the A-lines and then you're thrown to learn new lines, it's very hard in a short space of time when you've got the adrenalin going. I think maybe I'd have preferred if it kept raining, but they kept the course as it is. So maybe with the mud but with the A-lines open."

Richards nevertheless made a blistering start, crossing the line in second place at the end of the first of the five laps of a circuit that had dropped from 4.1km to 3.85km. 

However, on the third lap she started to fade, and slipped down the order as the Swiss riders, led by Jolanda Neff, took control of the race. 

"When I came in second on the first lap, I was quite shocked, maybe that threw me a little bit," Richards said.

"I think you had to really commit early, and it just happened – there were some people that made mistakes and I was consistent on that first lap. But yeah, maybe I went a little bit deep. 

"But it was also slippery at the start, and I had muds on so I probably had better tyres at that point, but maybe that got harder as the race went on and the rocks got shiny. Maybe I chose the wrong tyres and it really made me struggle in the second half of the race."

In spite of that, Richards was perfectly satisfied with her Olympics debut, which continues her rise through the ranks. The 24-year-old, who combines mountain biking with cyclo-cross, has shone at U23 level and made a breakthrough in the elites last year with a World Cup win in the short track at Nové Mesto. 

"I'm super pleased - I just wanted to come and I'm so proud to be at an Olympics, so it was just cool to hopefully inspire some people at home and ride my bike well and hard," she said.

"It's been really strange. It hasn't been what I imagined. It's so amazing to be here but it's so Covid secure it almost felt quieter than a normal World Cup. It almost makes me more nervous than I would be. On rest days I'd just be sitting around twiddling my thumbs and it's been a bit strange."

That said, she's already thinking about the next Olympics, which take place in three years' time in Paris, where her ambitions may well be rather higher.

"I think Paris will be very different and I think this has really set me up for Paris."