Tom Pidcock adds rainbow jersey to Olympic gold at cyclo-cross World Championships

Tom Pidcock (Great Britain) powered to a solo victory in the elite men’s race of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Finishing 30 seconds back was Lars van der Haar (Netherlands) for the silver medal, and Eli Iserbyt (Belgium) another two seconds off the pace in third place for bronze.

It was a strong display of power and speed as the 22-year-old Briton completed his cyclo-cross triple header, adding the elite crown to his prior  junior and U23 titles. Last summer he won a mountain bike gold medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Iserbyt, this season’s World Cup champion who won a thrilling race in Hoogerheide last week beating Pidcock, put in an extra charge after the final big descent of the stairway but Van der Haar made the pass on the pavement to secure second place.

“Yeah, that was always going to be a super-hard race. The Belgians were trying to ride a tactical race. I found an opportunity and made it stick,” Pidcock said at the finish.  

The last seven elite men’s races at cyclo-cross Worlds were won by either Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) or Wout van Aert (Belgium). With both absent, it left the favourites eager to take on the fast, wide course at Fayetteville for a changing of the guard.

“I think it became harder to win the race,” he added about their absence. “But we came in with a plan and a process. We stuck to the process and it was good in the end.”

The victory was Great Britain's second of the weekend after Zoe Backstedt's win in the junior women's race, and completes Pidcock's collection after he won as a junior and under-23.

"I think it's great. The sport is growing every year in the UK," Pidcock said. "The elite races are both the biggest in the sport and to claim one of those jerseys is a statement that Britain is getting on the map in cyclo-cross. And I think it's great to help the sport become more international."

Iserbyt tried to get rid of the quicker sprinter, Van der Haar, several times but couldn't shake him and the Dutchman claimed an emphatic silver.

"In the beginning, I didn't feel super. I think the rest of the guys were a little bit better. Then I fucked it up a little bit when Pidcock went and I was way too for back. So quite soon I knew that I was riding for second. 

"I wanted to go a little bit earlier, but Venturini just kept pushing and he actually brought Eli back for me, so I didn't have to do that. Then I just went for a podium - second or third, I didn't really care. 

"For the sprint, I knew that I believed in myself I could beat Eli and I was just waiting for a surprise. He did it for me in the best possible moment. After that, I could just sit in the wheel and try to finish it off in the sprint."

The Belgians said they tried everything they could to shake the two fast riders but Iserbyt also missed the attack of Pidcock.

"We tried, but the best won today," Iserbyt said. "I was little bit too far when Pidcock made a move on Michael, and then I was just trying to close the gap but I never was able to do it.

"When Lars went, it was really hard to follow. I think it was the highest possible result for me today."

How it unfolded

Lars van der Haar took the hole shot, with four Belgian riders and his only Dutch teammate Corné van Kessel on his back wheel into the first corners. Race favourite Pidcock joined the front of the fray in seventh position.

A group of 11 riders drove the pace at the front of the 36-rider field, Pidcock taking on the front of the train for the first run up of The 39 Climb. Meanwhile, Vincent Baestaens (Belgium), hit the dirt before the long climb, eliminating him from contention. 

The group included Pidcock, Kevin Kuhn (Switzerland), the two Dutch riders, Clement Venturini and Joshua Dubau of France, and Belgian teammates Van der Haar, Michael Vanthourenhout, Eli Iserbyt, Toon Aerts, and Laurens Sweeck.

Tyre choices looked to tilt toward faster tread with the dry conditions, and most riders donned short-sleeve jerseys, or had cut the sleeves on skinsuits to adapt to the balmy temperatures around 15 degrees Celsius.

On the third lap on the off-camber section, Kuhn took a spill. Out front, Venturini took a turn at the front of the lead group. After the descent from the large staircase, Sweeck launched an attack towards the pavement, Pidcock clinging to his wheel and beginning to string out a few riders at the back. 

Vanthourenhout threw in a strong acceleration on the fourth pass up the long climb, but Pidcock matched the move and surged ahead for the lead. That one-two punch caused gaps to open between riders behind. The Briton then used his speed off the large descent of the stairway to gain a significant five-second margin to Iserbyt, now in second and the other chasing Belgians.

"I think after the first half lap, I knew I had really good legs," Pidcock explained. "I was really aware of the tactics that Belgium were trying to play. When Michael went, he went really hard up the climb. I thought, if I just jumped over the top of him now everyone's kind of suffering. So it'd be a good time to go. Everyone expects the climb to be the place to go, but actually a lot of time can be made on the other parts of course as well."

And gain time he did. By the start of lap five, the closest pursuers to Pidcock were 22 seconds back - Iserbyt, Vanthourenhout, Venturini, Van der Haar and Sweeck. Curtis White was the top American at this point in the race in 13th position, keeping pace with Ben Turner of Great Britain. The Briton had rocketed ahead and never looked back until he landed the top prize at the line.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Thomas Pidcock (Great Britain) 1:00:36
2Lars van der Haar (Netherlands) 0:00:30
3Eli Iserbyt (Belgium) 0:00:32
4Michael Vanthourenhout (Belgium) 0:00:52
5Clement Venturini (France) 0:00:57
6Toon Aerts (Belgium) 0:01:02
7Jens Adams (Belgium) 0:01:06
8Laurens Sweeck (Belgium) 0:01:16
9Kevin Kuhn (Switzerland) 0:01:36
10Daan Soete (Belgium) 0:01:44
11Toon Vandebosch (Belgium) 0:01:46
12Curtis White (United States Of America) 0:01:48
13Felipe Orts Lloret (Spain)
14Ben Turner (Great Britain)
15Joshua Dubau (France) 0:01:49
16Michael Boroš (Czech Republic) 0:01:50
17Eric Brunner (United States Of America) 0:02:00
18Marcel Meisen (Germany) 0:02:07
19Kevin Suarez Fernandez (Spain) 0:02:30
20Thomas Mein (Great Britain) 0:03:12
21Kerry Werner (United States Of America) 0:03:20
22Caleb Swartz (United States Of America)
23Gilles Mottiez (Switzerland) 0:03:36
24Scott Mcgill (United States Of America) 0:03:42
25Michael van den Ham (Canada) 0:03:43
26Corne van Kessel (Netherlands) 0:04:07
27Tyler Orschel (Canada) 0:04:12
28Gage Hecht (United States Of America) 0:04:45
29Matej Ulik (Slovakia) 0:05:09
30Lance Haidet (United States Of America) 0:05:31
31Vincent Baestaens (Belgium) 0:05:41
32Malcolm Barton (Canada) 0:06:02
33Brody Sanderson (Canada)
34Guy Leshem (Israel)
35Felipe Timoteo Nystrom Spencer (Costa Rica)
DSQJarno Trey (Estonia)

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Jackie Tyson
North American Production editor

Jackie has been involved in professional sports for more than 30 years in news reporting, sports marketing and public relations. She founded Peloton Sports in 1998, a sports marketing and public relations agency, which managed projects for Tour de Georgia, Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and USA Cycling. She also founded Bike Alpharetta Inc, a Georgia non-profit to promote safe cycling. She is proud to have worked in professional baseball for six years - from selling advertising to pulling the tarp for several minor league teams. She has climbed l'Alpe d'Huez three times (not fast). Her favorite road and gravel rides are around horse farms in north Georgia (USA) and around lavender fields in Provence (France), and some mtb rides in Park City, Utah (USA).

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