Swiss stars shine in Tokyo 2020 mountain bike test event

The highly demanding but extremely scenic Tokyo 2020 mountain bike course was given a test run by the world’s top cross country riders on Sunday 6 October – and it emerged with their seal of approval after a successful race saw two great Swiss riders prevail. 

A total of 51 men and 48 women from 30 different countries took part in the race, held under the Ready Steady Tokyo banner, at the Izu Mountain Bike course in the Shizuoka Prefecture. The 4km course commands great views of Mount Fuji. But for the competitors, all eyes were on the track.

Reigning men’s world champion Nino Schurter won the elite men’s race in a time of 1:17.18 – two seconds clear of France’s Victor Koretzky in second place. Luca Braidot of Italy came third, 10 seconds back from the leader.

Jolanda Neff won the women’s race in 1:16.12, well ahead of compatriot Sina Frei, who was 1.46 behind. Anne Terpstra of the Netherlands was third, 2.30 behind.

Schurter has been leading the men’s sport over the last decade, winning the last five Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships titles (and eight in total), seven overall UCI World Cup titles and the gold medal at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. He enjoyed the race in Tokyo.

“Winning the Tokyo 2020 test event is the perfect season end and already a great motivation for next year’s Olympic Games,” he said. “[I] love the challenging track in Tokyo, and it suits my riding style also quite well. On that track everything is possible.”

Neff, the 2017 cross country world champion, secured her first big race win of 2019, with Frei and Terpstra showing that they’ll be ones to watch next summer.

“I can’t believe it. I’m so happy,” said Neff. “I didn’t crash, rode a safe race on a challenging track and won with my Swiss teammates placing second, fourth and sixth. So many happy notes to take from this race, mainly that my bike is the best of both worlds and that I should always have a croissant for breakfast.”

A thousand local fans, who had won tickets to watch the race through a lottery system, enjoyed following the action. Next summer, it will host 11,500 spectators. Izu is located 150km from the Japanese capital and will host all the cycling at Tokyo 2020, including at a newly refurbished velodrome.

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UCI President David Lappartient described the mountain bike course as “compact” and said it will “provide a great experience for spectators, athletes and everyone present”.