XCO World Cup 2022

The opening round of the 2022 saw SR SUNTOUR return to the top step of the podium with the reigning XC U23 World Champ/2021 U23 World Cup overall winner Martin Vidaurre Kossman of Chile dominating the men’s U23 race. More telling of his talent, though, was his win at the Michelin test event the week prior against a top-heavy field of elites. But what the Brazilian “Rumble in the Jungle” didn’t have was Tom Pidcock. A heavy Spring Classics road cycling schedule saw the Olympic Champ hold off his return to World Cup XC racing until round 2, at Albstadt in Germany.

Albstadt is known as a climber’s course, with extended, steep singletrack climbs. But it’s rough enough that most racers choose full suspension rigs versus hardtails. It’s no surprise that Pidcock went right back to his AXON34 WERX fork/Edge full suss bike equipped with the same TACT e-suspension system that served him so well in Tokyo, while Kossman selected a similarly equipped but analog Scott Spark RC. Friday night’s short track saw Pidcock secure a front row start for the main event—very different from last year’s 11th row start. But before the main event came the men’s U23 race, which was once again dominated by the young Chilean rider, with Vidaurre finishing 37 seconds up on his closest rival. Then came the elite race. The start lap set the contenders with Nino Schurter, Avancini, Carod, Sarrou, Pidcock, Cooper, Flueckiger, and Dascalu all in the top ten. From the gun, a relentless pace strung the field out. Despite that, on the third of the six lap race, Pidcock thought he would “test the waters” with a surge on the main climb and got away, putting twenty seconds into the chasers by lap’s end. There it would remain, with Pidcock coming home still twenty seconds ahead of his closest threat, and making it two wins for SR SUNTOUR.

The saying is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And so it was for both Vidaurre and Pidcock, with both selecting the same setups for the Czech race that had served them so well in Albstadt. Again, a strong showing in Friday’s short track saw Pidcock with a front row start. But with 121 riders in this race, it was a certainty that Pidcock was not coming thru the front door like he had the week before. But first came Saturday’s U23 race “appetizer”. Again it was a runaway event with Vidaurre crushing the competition by over a minute, and making it three wins in a row for the Chilean phenom! In the main event on Sunday, Pidcock was caught in traffic on the start loop, but the Brit clawed his way into the lead group by lap one. However, the other riders knew not to give Pidcock a gap. So he pushed a relentless pace, one that only Schurter, Dascalu, Hatherly, and Flueckiger could match. From there, the contenders traded blows like veteran brawlers, but without a dominant rider taking control. In the end it came down to the final climb on the final lap: Dascalu and Pidcock moved clear, with the others fading back. On the finish straight the Brit unleashed a powerful sprint, coming home a just ahead of Dascalu for his second win in as many weeks, leaving Rob Warner, Red Bull TV’s main commentator to ask, “Can anyone stop this man?” Although the same question could be applied to Vidaurre as well. We’ll just have to wait and see.