By Alex Ballinger published
Jolanda Neff was imperious in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic mountain bike race, tearing away from the women's field in the early laps and never looking back.
The Swiss rider was forced to sit behind Frenchwoman Pauline Ferrand-Prévot after the opening lap but an early mistake by Prévot, who lost grip on a tough uphill rock section, let Neff blast past and into the lead.
It was a clean sweep for the Swiss riders, as Sina Frei took silver, and Linda Indergand securing bronze.
Britain's Evie Richards put in a staggering opening lap, climbing her way to second place behind Neff early on, but she eventually slipped back on the challenging climbs, battling to 7th place at the line, smiling all the way.
How it happened
The women's Olympic mountain bike event was raced on the same 4km Izu MTB Course used by the men on Tuesday (July 26), as riders took on five full laps for a total distance of 20.55km - although the famous ramp on the rock drop had been reinstalled.
Loana Lecomte (France) went into the race as the clear favourite, but she started on the front row of the grid along with her biggest rivals including Neff.
But in the sprint into the first turn it was Prévot who emerged as the frontrunner, with Richards moving up into in the podium places.
Amid the first lap chaos, Lecompte moved into the race lead, while Neff had fought her way into the top five as the riders cross the line for the first time.
After 10 minutes of racing, still on the first lap, Neff and Prévot had begun to pull ahead of their rivals with the Frenchwoman leading, but Prévot crashed on a tricky technical section, as her rear wheel slid up an uphill rock feature, with Neff speeding past.
Neff used the opportunity to open a gap to the chasing group behind, extending the gap to 18 seconds.
Richards used her power on a muddy uphill stretch to break into silver-medal position, but the dream wouldn't last.
Neff's lead was never under threat over the next hour and 15 minutes of racing, as the former world champion crossed the line alone to take gold by more than a minute over her compatriots.
Behind, Richards had slipped out of the medal positions leaving the battle for the podium places to Indergand and Frei.
Indergand looked to have secured silver heading into the final lap, but Frei made the move on her team-mate to take second place in the final lap, with Indergand.
Richards was still able to battle to a seventh-place finish after an outstanding ride.
Tokyo 2020 Olympics, women's mountain bike (Five laps, 20.55km)
1. Jolanda Neff (Sui), in 1-15-46
2. Sin Frei (Sui), at 1-11
3. Linda Indergand (Sui), at 1-19
4. Kata Blanka Vas (Hun), at 2-09
5. Anne Terpstra (Ned), at 2-35
6. Loana Lecomte (Fran), at 2-57
7. Evie Richards (GBr), at 3-23
8. Yana Belomoina (Ukr), at 3-54
9. Haley Batten (USA), at 4-27
10. Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Fra), at 4-32
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.
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