Mother Nature opened up the skies and gave the women some mud for the Olympic Cross Country Mountain Bike race on Tuesday.
Cyclocross racers rejoiced, promoters laid down some extra gravel, and briefly, it looked like three top cyclocrossers would sweep the medals.
Instead, the Swiss team, led by the multi-discipline standout and cyclocross star Jolanda Neff, excelled in the dirt and made a clean sweep of the podium.
The race was held on the man-made Izu MTB Course. The women’s team got a good look at the course thanks to the men’s race the day prior. A total of 38 racers from 29 countries competed to take home gold, silver, and bronze.
The cyclocross community was anticipating a slew of cyclocrossers in the mix for medals, including former cyclocross (and mountain bike) World Champ Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, Eva Lechner of Italy, Jolanda Neff of Switzerland, USA-based Sofia Gomez Villafane of Argentina, and Kata Blanka Vas of Hungary, among others.
Of course, the American fans were excited about the USA team consisting of Kate Courtney, Erin Huck, and Haley Batten. Kate Courtney was the 2018 World Champion and 2019 Overall World Cup Champion, Erin Huck was a four-time national champion, and Haley Batten is coming off an impressive World Cup early season.
The Izu MTB Course consisted of a 3.8-kilometer lap around with 180 meters of climbing per lap. The course was filled with rocks of every size, up to car-sized boulders, and except for the finishing straight, had riders always climbing or descending.
The dusty conditions faced by the men were gone thanks to pre-race rain, but the monsoon and the newly-laid gravel in the wet areas spared the racers from the sloppiest conditions.
A Clean Sweep
After the short start lap, racers hit the main course and briefly, it looked like three cyclocrossers might sweep the medals.
Switzerland’s Neff, who spent seven weeks in Japan training for the Olympics, looked at home on the technical, punishing course, while two former Cyclocross World Champs gave chase. Great Britain’s Evie Richards looked determined to mimic compatriot Tom Pidock’s performance the day prior, while France’s Pauline Ferrand Prevot matched Neff’s fast start to go bar-to-bar with her on a climb.
Prevot would slide out on the slippery, rocky climb and Neff never relinquished the lead.
While Richards would fade, Neff’s teammates, Sina Frei and Linda Indergrand, soon took over the presumptive medal spots, with French pre-race favorite Loana Lecomte, Dutch Anne Terpstra and Vas losing ground.
The Swiss kept the power on to dominate the race and sweep the medals.
Vas finished 4th, Richards finished 7th, Batten in 9th, Courtney in 15th, Gomez Villafane in 23rd, Lechner finished 25th and Huck in 31st.
Full results are below.
2021 Tokyo Olympics Women's Mountain Bike Cross Country Results
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Country||Age||Result|
|16||17||CAMPUZANO CHAVEZ PEON||Daniela||MEX||35||+7:04|
|26||18||GARCIA MARTINEZ||Rocio Del Alba||ESP||24||+10:46|