Words Colin Meagher | Photos Hoshi Yoshida (Albstadt), Andy Vathis (Nove Mesto), SWPics (Tokyo Olympics)

Thomas Pidcock is that once in a cycling generation phenom. He’s young—only 21—and at 171cm and 58 kg, he’s not particularly imposing. But make no mistake: that unassuming figure has become legend. He’s proven himself at road and cyclo cross on the world stage with bronze in the 2019 U23 road cycling world champs and silver in the 2020 cyclo-cross world champs but in his own words following his Nove Mesto 2021 win, “I was born to ride a mountain bike. It sounds stupid, but it's what I have done since I was little and what I've enjoyed the most.”




SR SUNTOURs collaboration with Tom Pidcock and the Ineos Grenadiers team began in early 2021.

UCI World Cup Albstadt 2021

With no elite top 40 UCI World Cup ranking, Pidcock was unable to participate in the Short Track Cross Country event the Friday before the main event and thus relegated to an 11th row start in this, the first World Cup XC race of the 2021 season. With Albstadt’s mix of brutal climbs, single track, and steep descents, the handicap of that back row start meant that merely getting into the top ten, let alone to the podium, promised to be a battle – the young British rider would need to overtake 80 riders to get to the front. To say Pidcock had his work cut out for him would be an understatement, but the Brit was upbeat, stating, “It’s a different game when you get to elite. It’s nice to come in with the confidence of a win in my first big race (a Swiss Cup XC race in Leukerbad the week prior to Albstadt), but having a back row start…it can only get better from here.”

And from the start, Pidcock rose to the challenge, moving up to 25th position by the end of the start loop. Aggressive passing continued to be his strategy – he certainly wasn’t making any friends in the early laps, as the track is tight in places, but Pidcock came to win, not to make friends.

Chipping away at the leaders saw Pidcock inside the top 20 halfway through lap one. Then 13th. Then inside the top ten at the beginning of lap two. He would get within the top five by the end of that lap, dangling some two seconds off the front. So close! Lap three saw the catch, with the British phenom briefly take the lead; but he quickly surrendered that to the Swiss boss, Nino Schurter, on the first climb. But simply burned too many matches with his madcap battle to gain the front. Soon he ceded another position, then another. By the start of lap five he’d slipped just outside of the top five, some 16 seconds off the front. He never relented, ultimately coming home fifth, 29 seconds off the winning pace set by Victor Koretzky, and with only Schurter, Mathias Fluekiger, and Ondrej Cink ahead of him. Not at all a shabby finish for one’s first Elite World Cup XC race, never mind the handicap of starting in the back.




Meticulous maintenance after each training session by SR SUNTOURs chief mechanic Kevin Allemand.
Tom catches up with the leading group after just 2 laps, and actually took over the lead. A flat tire briefly holds him up, but in the final sprint he secures 5th place and with it, his first podium in his first elite year.

UCI World Cup Nove Mesto

Coming only a week after the German race, the Czech Republic UCI World Cup Cross Country racing classic couldn’t be more of a contrast: yes, steep climbs, but rather than the fairly non-technical track of Albstadt, Nove Mesto demands technical handling skills, both for climbing and descending. Additionally, the rain came, dropping the temps from Albstadt’s smoldering 29°C to 15°C, and making an already challenging track slippery as well as technically challenging.

But if past history is any indication, Pidcock has those handling skills, having won both U-23 races of the Covid-19 impacted 2020 World Cup event at this venue, and CX racing at any level means coming to terms with slick conditions. And he had exactly the right tool for the job, swapping his unbranded Axon34 WERX EQ equipped hard tail from Germany for a similarly equipped unbranded BMC 4 Stroke full suspension bike, which offered 100mm of EDGE rear damped travel for the roots and rocks of the Czech woods. And this time, too, the Brit was able to take part in the short track race prior to the main event, where his finish just behind that short track winner and fellow phenom Matthieu Van Der Poel ensured a front row start in the big dance.

From the gun, great things were expected, and from that start the Grenadiers rider delivered. But not without a battle first: Van Der Poel, the big Dutch rider lined up next to the young Brit blew everyone’s doors off in 2019 at this venue, and his win over the Grenadiers rider in the short track showed that he, too, had come to dominate. Initially, it was Van Der Poel setting the pace, with a confident Pidcock sitting in fourth—a tactical move to assess pace and strategize without losing contact. VDP is known to push the pace at the start in order to devastate the competition, relyimg on his ability to recover to overpower his rivals. But Pidcock was right on the Dutch rider’s wheel by split one of the first lap, followed by the “local” rider, Czech Ondrey Cink.

But it quickly became evident that—barring any sort of a mechanical mishap—it was going to be either Pidcock or VDP for the win, never mind Cink’s home ground advantage. The two phenoms shredded the field in the start lap before beginning a game of cat and mouse. And what a game! Where others were forced off their bikes to run some of the slick climbs, these two rode. And on the descents, both kept it upright despite the slippery roots liberally spiced with rocks. On lap three, Pidcock made his move, blasting up a steep climb with a viscous attack that opened up a 30-second gap over his rival. From there it was somewhat uneventful, as the young Brit continued to apply pressure, never relenting, and most definitely never looking back! If he had, he would have seen Swiss rider Mathias Flueckiger briefly challenging VDP in the fourth lap before settling in the third position. But for Pidcock it was a commanding win as he came home after six laps to claim the win a full minute over Van Der Poel, with Flueckiger, Ondrej Cink, and Jordan Sarrou rounding out the podium.

After the 3rd lap, Tom unleashes his attack and opens a gap of over 1 minute to his pursuer Mathieu Van der Poel and takes a sovereign victory after six laps.


A bonus of these stand out performances was Pidcock securing the only Olympic slot for a male British rider. From there it was meant to be a break from MTB racing until the Les Gets World Cup to mix in a bit of road racing with the Tour of Suisse. But then disaster struck: on the last day of May, Pidcock broke his collarbone in five places when he was hit by a car during a training ride, requiring surgery to repair. Keep in mind that the Olympic XC race at this point was only 56 days away. To say Pidcock’s hopes were dashed would be an understatement. But he focused on recovery: within six days he was back on a bike, albeit a trainer vs. actually riding. And while he toed the line in Les Gets, he wisely DNF’d, focused instead on ‘Mission Impossible’: getting ready for Tokyo. “It does not feel real, really”

The Tokyo Olympic Games. The track in Izu is relentless. It’s a gorgeously sculpted blend of technically challenging terrain liberally spiced with boulder fields, and mixed with vertically challenging, full gas efforts. Basically, there is nowhere to hide, few places to recover, and even fewer places to launch an attack. Heading into this race the young Brit had lingering doubts: would his collarbone hold up? And he was fit, but with no full races since the training accident, how was his form? But one thing he didn’t doubt was SR Suntour‘s TACT E-suspension, an electronically controlled fork and rear shock that delivers exactly the blend of wide open or fully locked out suspension required, and everything in between, without needing rider inputs. Pidcock was able to test it vs. other platforms and chose this, never mind it’s cutting edge design vs. more traditional suspension platforms.

Race day saw the recovering rider in familiar territory: relegated to a fourth row start, an underdog with the odds stacked against him…Albstadt anyone? But if there’s one thing the Brit has made clear, he has high expectations of himself and he delivers. The soaring temperatures and high humidity did little to deter him, either: he’d spent the weeks leading up to this race “heat training” at the end of each workout. He knew he’d done the hard work. He was fit. And while the race temperatures were going to be unpleasant, no one was going to feel good. And from the gun, Pidcock was on. He blasted through the riders in front of him on the start lap and was within easy striking distance of reigning Olympic champ Nino Schurter and the overall World Cup leader Matthias Flueckiger by the start of the first full lap. For the next two laps he seesawed between fifth and second. Then he pounced.

Again, this is a track that never really lets up. There are some serious rock gardens, and many of the climbs were loose and dusty – any mistake would be costly. Choosing when to attack meant creating an opportunity in unforgiving terrain. This is exactly what Pidcock did early on lap three, and he threw the gauntlet down hard. For the rest of the lap he led out the two Swiss riders, never letting them close. On lap four he pulled up briefly to assess their strength and then instantly went back on the offensive, chaos in his wake as first Schurter, and then Flueckiger tried and failed to keep with him. All the while, Pidcock put on a clinic that far belied his age. He finessed the technical segments, stayed rock solid on the climbs, and hammered every single flat section of track. This masterful riding forced a costly bobble from Flueckiger on lap five, and the determined Pidcock never let the eventual silver medalist back within striking distance.

And so it would end – an improbable Cinderella story: Pidcock taking the gold (the youngest ever to do so, and Britain’s first ever Olympic MTB Gold) despite the odds heading into this race, Flueckiger taking Silver, and Spaniard David Serrano taking Bronze. In his own words, “it’s pretty crazy that I became an Olympian, when I was trying to tell myself at the start of the race that it’s special just to be here.” Special indeed.




Tom followed by Switzerlands multiple world champion Nino Schurter and his team mate Mathias Flueckiger in a technical rock section.
Triumph! Tom Pidcock of Great Britain wins the men's cross country race and is the youngest crowned Olympic Mountain Bike Gold Medalist at the age of 21.