Evie Richards looked like her old self in the midst of a trying season
Evie Richards led the Commonwealth Games women’s cross country race from the start to win her first ever gold medal at the event. A slip at the end of the third-to-last lap on a grassy corner was the only hiccup during an otherwise sterling ride. Even then, her competitors never caught her. Richards went on to win by 47 seconds over silver medalist Zoe Cuthbert, who was also riding a Trek Supercaliber.
The win gave Richards some well-earned catharsis in the midst of a trying season. She struggled with illness at the World Cup opener in Brazil, and then back issues across races in Albstadt and Nové Město in May before sitting out the next four World Cup events to recover.
“I am over the moon to take the win in front of a home crowd and all of my family,” Richards said after the race. “It was so inspiring to see so many people out supporting mountain biking and I felt so lucky to be part of it.
“It has been a hard season with my back, so to finally race with no pain was the best, it feels like I am finally getting back to my normal racing self.”
The Commonwealth Games, held every four years, was the perfect opportunity to showcase Richards’ return to form. With the World Cup overall title out of reach, she decided to forego races in Snowshoe and Mont-Sainte-Anne to focus on the race in Birmingham, England, roughly an hour away from her hometown of Malvern.
Not only did the reigning World Champion look like her old self again, but she accomplished a lifelong goal. She took silver at the last Commonwealth Games in 2018 at 21 years old. Four years later, with a gold medal in her sights, she almost let her enthusiasm get the better of her.
“I turned and looked over at the other side of the course and saw Zoe, she had closed a 20-second gap in a very short amount of time and the surprise made me spin out,” Richards said. “In my mind I suddenly felt a little panicked, but I managed to keep calm and put a surge in to open the gap again.”
Medal around her neck and spirits buoyed, Richards can turn her attention to defending the rainbow stripes on her kit at the end of the month. Winning a World Championship is never easy, and it’s even harder when you’ve been battling setbacks and the competition is fiercer than ever. But Richards is having fun on her bike again, and when that happens, incredible things occur.
“I honestly can’t even begin to describe how excited I am to be back with the team,” Richards said. “It’s crazy how much I have missed being at the races with them, under the Trek tent. I will have the biggest smile in the world when I am back on the Trek coffee machine making drinks for everyone at World Champs.”