The Commonwealth Games Mountain Bike race in Birmingham saw 21 year old Zoe Cuthbert win a Silver Medal!
The 2022 Commonwealth Games mountain bike race landed at Cannock Chase on August 3rd. There were 26 men lined up in the first race, under a brilliantly clear summer sky.
From the gun Sam Gaze from New Zealand took to the front, with compatriot Ben Oliver right on this wheel. Through the start loop most of the bunch was strung out. Australians Dan McConnell and Sam Fox were in the top 5, but the gaps started to appear, and coming into the tech zone Sam Fox had a front flat.
Charlie Aldridge, Charlie Orr and Joe Blackmore ended up as a chase group of 3 behind the leading New Zealanders, with McConnell a few riders back as Fox chased back on after getting a new wheel.
The group of 3 testing chasing the New Zealanders was testing each other, but no one was being shaken.
Fox gained the group McConnell was in, and then moved to the front after a lap. Around the same time, Aldridge attacked Blackmore and Orr, with Blackmore attacking Orr to try to reduce the gap. These three were racing for Bronze.
Coming into lap 6, Charlie Aldridge snapped his derailleur hanger with a high speed crash on the grass loop, which let Blackmore and Orr move back up. Aldridge looked devestated. He scooted to the tech feed zone, where a mechanic opted to make his bike a single speed, and not put a new hanger on. We couldn't tell if perhaps his derailleur was broken as well.
And now, Gaze was putting Oliver under pressure, and Gaze ended up out alone, with Oliver chasing in second place.
As riders crossed for the final lap, Alex Miller from Namibia caught Orr and Blackmore. Bronze was heating up! Miller then attacked soon after catching them, quickly moving solo to sit in the 3rd spot. Orr countered
After the grass start and finish loop, the course was very open in the forest and very flat. Some said under 100m per lap. There was only a few technical sections, built out of slabs of rock. One was a nearly flat rock garden that the riders needed to pump through as it when don't small step downs. Another was a drop to a roll out into a corner, and riders really had to slow down for it and pop off to not get hung up on the rock slab. It's a purpose made course with a light gravel finish, to keep the course useable in the wet. All weather courses are imperative for any major event, from National to World Championships. And of course, Commonwealth Games But it was dry, and thanks to the high speed on the course overtaking options were limited, and one feedzone was on a corner, into another corner. McConnell stated there were only two real places to attack and overtake on the course.
The rocky sections were attacked by the top riders, but they wouldn't be as decisive as some sections on other XCO courses. All in it looked likea sub-par course design for modern XCO, but not an easy race course to win on either.
Gaze crossed the line solo, steely faced all race but clearly triumphant on the finish straight, taking a New Zealand flag to meet his countryman Ben Oliver on his silver at the finish line.
Alex Miller cinched Bronze solo, then Orr was 4th and Blackmore 5th.
Sam Fox came in 6th, with Dan McConnell in 7th.
Flat out in the women's Commonwealth Games MTB Race
In the women's race, 8 fast women were on the start line. Outright favourite Evie Richards missed a pedal at the start and Isla Short (Scotland) took the lead. By the time the women were in the forest, Evie was in the lead, sending it down the rock sections. Candice Lill followed Short, and Australian Zoe Cuthbert was right in 4th.
Evie was riding away solo and Lill, Short and Cuthbert were a tight group of 3. Zoe sat in the back, and then in the middle of the group - looking comfortable.
This group was where the action was, with each of the three riders putting pressure on the bunch. Cuthbert looked to be on the ropes, but then clawed back and put pressure on, along with Candice Lill, as Isla Short started to drop off a little.
No one was catching Evie Richards though, and she had lots of vocal English support.
Zoe attacked Short and ill into an uphill rock garden step up, putting pressure on them, and now she was attacking on a climb riding into the silver medal position. And she put clear air on Short and Lill.
Out the front Evie Richards lost the back end on the grass but it didn't impact her lead. Candice Lill managed to move up to Zoe, but Zoe attacked her before starting the final lap, putting a gap on Lill. Out the front, Richards was looking back, despite a healthy lead. Did she think she was in trouble? Cuthbert was storming the course, and won the Silver, with Lill in Bronze and Evie Richards winning Gold.
This is a fantastic result for Zoe Cuthbert, and a big sign of a very bright future.