Jolanda Neff criticises rival’s riding after Tokyo 2020 Olympic mountain bike incident

Gold medallist Neff said Pauline Ferrand-Prévot almost caused her to crash on the rock drop

Pauline Ferrand-Prévot and Jolanda Neff
(Image credit: GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images)

Jolanda Neff has criticised her rival Pauline Ferrand-Prévot for a move during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic mountain bike race.

Switzerland’s Neff put in a storming performance to take gold in Tuesday’s (July 27) race, dominating the field to win by more than a minute, while her compatriots Sina Frei and Linda Indergand secured the remaining medals. 

In the opening lap, Neff and French rider Prévot had battled for position at the head of the race, with Neff almost going over the bars on the rock drop, before Prévot then crashed on an uphill rock section and lost the lead.

Speaking after the race, Neff has criticised Prévot’s riding, saying “It’s not the first time she has done those kind of things.”

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Neff, former world champion, said: “Just 20 seconds before that part where she crashed there was a big jump. We approached it, she was in front of me, and we were going at a decent speed. One metre before the thing she just pulled the brakes really hard and rolled down the thing and I couldn't do anything.

"I came with the speed ready to jump, but I couldn't break to roll because she was on the roll, so I ended up jumping with no speed at all, a couple of centimetres to the wood. I was super lucky that I didn't crash, and it was such a stupid move because it's really dangerous for the ones behind.

"I don't know why she did it, I don't know if she knew I was behind, but after that I just thought 'okay I need to get away from her' because she rides so scary. You never know what she does.” 

Neff was forced to go wide on the rock drop, as her front wheel slipped off the wooden ramp and she narrowly avoided going over the bars.

That feature had already caused controversy during the games, as pre-race favourite in the men’s event Mathieu van der Poel went over the bars on the drop in the opening lap, believing the ramp would be in place after the organisers had actually removed it after practice.

The ramp was back in place during the race, but it almost caused a crash for Neff that would have changed the shape of the race.

Instead it was Prévot who crashed just moments later, as she lost grip on a high-speed rocky ascent and went into the barrier, allowing Neff to blast past into the lead. 

Neff said: "In the next 'doubles' I chose the left line and she was on the right line, and I'm really glad I did that because then she did the next scary move where she crashed.

"It's not the first time that she has done those kind of things, so I was just glad I wasn't near her any more.” 

>>> Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games cycling schedule: when to watch the racing 

Multiple cross-discipline Prévot world champion said after the race that she and Neff arrived on the rock climb at the same time, and that if one did not brake they would hit each other. Prévot opted to brake, causing her to slip on the rocks. 

Prévot also suffered a puncture in the race and was forced to ride with a flat tyre back to the pits and was eventually settled for a 10th place finish. 

Alex Ballinger
Alex Ballinger

Alex is the digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter and now as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output.

Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) and joining CW in 2018, Alex has covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers. 

Away from journalism, Alex is a national level time triallist, avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.