From Van der Poel's crash to Schurter's rainbow: 5 keys of the men's XCO season

Mountain bike 17 nov. 2021 09:11 Migue A.

The end of the year is approaching and the XCO competition has been over for months, so it's a good time to recap a bit of the best of the season.

5 keys to the 2021 XCO season

We can say that the 2021 season has not been a normal season as we have had the Olympic Games in between and there have been many protagonists who have had highlights. So we have chosen 5 moments or protagonists that will help us to review the XCO season in 2021.

Tom Pidcock: debut, breakthrough and Olympic gold

British rider Tom Pidcock made his debut in 2021 in the elite mountain bike category, something that generated as much expectation as doubts which he himself was responsible for clearing up when in his first race he was able to start in 93rd position and even lead the Albstadt World Cup. In this race he finally finished 5th, but only a week later he won his first World Cup in Nove Mesto with a real exhibition against Mathieu van der Poel.

From then on, his MTB World Cup season was marked by his busy road schedule and a collarbone injury that almost affected his participation in the Tokyo Olympics. It didn't.

The British rider came into the mountain bike event in Tokyo as one of the favourites, but no one could overlook the fact that it was his first Olympic Games and one of the highest level events in recent years. None of that seemed to affect Pidcock, who took the gold medal almost on a whim. Incredible that in his first year at the elite level, the talent and potential of this cyclist has allowed him not only to shine but also to know how to pull himself together in the middle of the season to continue winning.

If you're a fan of new developments, be sure to check out the electronic suspension prototype with which the British rider has been competing all year.

Mathieu van der Poel's crash in Tokyo

Mathieu van der Poel led the way in 2019 to change a period in which Nino Schurter had dominated world mountain biking until then, and the Dutchman was expected to be the next man on the scene. But in 2020 he decided not to do any mountain bike racing due to the pandemic disruptions and we had to wait until 2021 to see him back on his Canyon Lux.

The Dutchman always declared that his big goal for the last 5 years was the mountain bike race at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. And there he presented himself as the top favourite despite the fact that he had not shown his best in the two World Cup races he had participated in and that there was a very high level of riders on the starting grid.

But we could not even see him fight for the medals, Van der Poel had not even completed the first lap when he had one of the moments of the year when he suffered a hard crash on the highest cut of the circuit. We have already talked about the causes of the crash in this other article, but the truth is that it conditioned the rest of the season and he had to give up many races due to back pain.

The great dream of becoming an Olympic champion vanished in a matter of half a lap.

Mathias Fluckiger was the best

Switzerland's Mathias Fluckiger is one of the best XCO riders of recent years, although he has suffered as much as anyone from having to compete in Nino Schurter's prime. But for the last couple of seasons Mathias' consistency has been on the rise and in 2021 he has shown that he is the man to beat in any race he participates in.

Mathias Fluckiger has won 2 World Cups in 2021, has been on the podium of all other World Cups except Snowshoe due to a mechanical failure, won the silver medal at the Olympic Games, was second at the World Championship, has won the overall World Cup classification and currently leads the UCI ranking.

He himself said before the Olympics that he felt he was capable of beating anyone in any race and he has undoubtedly proved to be the best rider of this XCO season.

Christopher Blevins becomes the first ever XCC World Champion and crowns a historic victory at Snowshoe

The American Christopher Blevins jumped into the elite category this year and although his talent was beyond doubt, the truth is that few counted on him as a favourite for victory in the most important races of the year. In fact, his performances in the first World Cup races left him outside the Top 10.

But then came the World Championships in Val di Sole and the first ever XCC World Championship was held there. A rainbow jersey that also had many important contenders, such as Henrique Avancini, but which was brilliantly won by Blevins in the sprint.

As if getting a rainbow jersey in your first year as an elite wasn't enough, Blevins made history by winning the last World Cup race in Snowshoe, USA, in front of his home fans. 

Nino Schurter wins his 9th rainbow jersey

As we said, in 2019 we saw how the flame with which Nino Schurter had dominated the XCO for the last five years was losing strength. In 2020 he did not revalidate the World Champion title and this year he himself wondered "where was his mojo" after not finishing with good performances in the World Cup. In addition, David Valero's great performance meant that Nino missed out on the medals at the Olympic Games.

With this background we arrived at the XCO World Championship 2021 in Val di Sole and when no one was expecting him, Nino Schurter starred alongside Mathias Flueckiger in the best race of the year in terms of spectacle. Both overtook each other and pushed the pace countless times until Nino decided to use his experience and wait until the last moment to launch an overtake that is now part of the history of the sport.

Nino Schurter won his ninth rainbow jersey and with it he makes it very difficult for anyone who wants to take this record away from him. Here you can see each of the World Championships won by the Swiss rider.

The truth is that looking back, we have been fortunate to have experienced a very exciting season and one that leaves many doors open for the coming years.

Surely there are other protagonists or moments that we left out of this condensed summary, but we encourage you to tell us which ones were the best for you and tell us about them on social networks.

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