I’ve personally never really enjoyed Olympic year mountain biking. Although this last round was of course especially odd. The racers spend the entire off season and early part of the regular season trying to magically prepare for one single day. That’s it. Honestly, I think they all over do it. Over think it, over train, over analyze, everything. By the time they get to the actual race, they are spent. All the pre-Olympic World Cups were all analyzed based on the mythical run at a medal months down the road. Did PFP lose a few? Well, who cares, she’s only concerned with Tokyo. All the Instagram posts showing how hard everyone is working.
What happens to almost all of them? They look and ride crappy on the actual day it matters. How can Loana Lecomte win every World Cup, FOUR of them in a row, and then look like a first-year Elite rider just trying to find her way? You’d have thought she’d waltz in to Tokyo and lay waste to everyone yet again. Why not, she rode literally minutes ahead of everyone every race this year previous. With ease, she looked like she was playing around. No huffing and puffing, no collapsing at the end, just a nice hard ride around the local track. Same with everyone who was expected to be at least on the medal podium.
But, who looked absolutely sharp as a tack? Good ol’ Jolanda Neff. She had that old determined look on her and she wasn’t backing down. She looked prepared, excited, and willing to go for it all. PFP was close there until that weird slip on the rocks, but I’m pretty sure Neff would have left her alone soon enough for the win.
The men were no fun at all. Pidcock is clearly a super talented guy. To waltz in to the World Cup and kick butt like he did, and ride away from all the other Olympians, well, that’s just amazing. The disappointment on Flukiger’s face, I swear you could see it the whole race…he really is the strongest right now. I won’t even go into what VanDerPoel did. That truly was sad. To leave the Tour and think you could just switch gears and take a medal? I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Switching around between road and mtb finally caught up with him. I won’t really be a party pooper, but I’m not enjoying this new trend of racers just “popping in” and wiping the field, then going back to another discipline, then back again. It disrupts the flow of the series. Take 2019 as an example. Nino won the overall, but shouldn’t have. MVDP would have easily won that series if he simply showed up at the last race of the year. Quick flight, give the two races a run, and win the overall. But he didn’t, Nino wins, fair and square I must say. Nino was not the strongest or most consistent at all that year.
I’ll confess to not being a huge Nino fan, I have my reasons, but I give him a big kudos for sticking with mtb for all these years. I rarely see him on a road bike, or jumping in cx races, or joining a road team for a week. Has he ever done any of that? Probably, but I love that he dedicated everything to mtb. Every race, every series, all the time. All’s fair in love and mtb of course, and one could argue that these part time racers add excitement to the scene. But I would rather see both Pidcock and MVDP both commit to the whole year of World Cups. Win it all, and then I’m on board.
Next year will be back to “normal” hopefully, and we can quit hearing about the Olympics, and how everyone is all in. Just get back to a routine of World Cups, World Champs, European Champs, whatever Champs. And let’s see who’s on top at the end.