Evie Richards put on a stunning display of power and technicality in Val di Sole
By the end of Lap 2, Evie Richards had caught defending World Champion Pauline Ferrand Prevot. By the start of the next climb, she had the decisive gap.
Richards would go on to shatter the field and win the 2021 World Championship at just 24 years old. It was a masterclass performance on a buzzsaw course in Val di Sole.
“It’s taken years for it all to come together like this, and I just can’t believe it,” Richards said after the race. “I’m so shocked.”
Ferrand Prevot took charge from the start of the race, leading by 31 seconds at the end of the first lap ahead of Richards, who was leading the chase in second. But Richards, who took second in the first ever short track World Championship on Thursday, rode her own grinding pace and withered the gap.
She kept going as soon as she had the leader’s wheel, and only stretched the lead. By the second split in the fourth lap, she had opened up a 55-second gap on Annie Terpstra, who had taken over second place.
Richards held the field at bay from there, absolutely determined to keep her legs spinning with a grimace on her face. She crossed the line 1:03 ahead of Terpstra.
After the race, Richards credited her strong training at home after the Olympics for giving her the confidence to take on a brutal course at full gas for more than an hour.
“I didn’t think I’d ever be good enough to win a race like this,” Richards said. “I say when I’m happy I race well, and I’ve truly been really happy the last three weeks at home.”
Trek Factory Racing teammate Jolanda Neff followed up her Olympic gold with fourth, just off the medal stand after falling short in a sprint with Swiss teammate Sina Frei after a long day in the chase group. The result caps an incredible few weeks for both Richards and Neff in Tokyo and Val di Sole, and serves as a testament to how much Trek Factory Racing has developed as a program since its inception.
Val di Sole was a complete challenge. The course was loose and dusty, requiring uncommon power to pull away up the slopes. Those same terrain conditions made the descents extremely fast and dangerous for sapped legs, but Richards not only stayed upright, she gained time.
It was a career performance for a rider who is used to excelling on this stage. Richards won the U23 cyclocross world championship in 2016 and 2018, in addition to her silver medal just two days ago.
She’s never had a day quite like this though. Few people have. Evie Richards is a world champion, and we can’t wait to see what she does next.