Jolanda Neff has said that a focus on technical skills allowed the Swiss team to claim a sweep of the medals
in the women's XCO race at the Tokyo Olympics.
Neff took the lead in the middle of the first lap after a crash by Pauline Ferrand Prevot and rode away from the field to finish the race more than a minute in the lead. She was followed home by her compatriots Sina Frei and Linda Indergand who rode together for most of the race.
After the race, Neff told Reuters
, "I knew it was going to be super tough race. This morning we had a complete change in conditions. We had a lot of rain. But the Swiss team has invested so much time in skills and technical training and it really paid off."
The Paul Davies' designed track on the Izu peninsula was the most technical in Olympic history and rivalled even the most technical World Cup tracks with its man-made rocky features and punchy climbs. The track was made even harder by a storm from the approaching Typhoon Nepartek before the race that left riders struggling for grip on the slick rock sections and slimy, muddy climbs.
In a demonstration of her technical skills, Neff was forced offline to avoid Pauline Ferrand Prevot off the Sakura Drop. She then overtook Pauline who slipped out on the rock climb.
It was a tough run-up to the Games for Neff who ruptured her spleen in 2019
then broke her hand at the World Cup in Leogang in June
. However, she was able to fully recover and prove herself to be the class of the field in Japan. She said, "I was in the flow, I had fun out there, it was my goal for today to have fun and to enjoy it and yeah it was a perfect race... It feels like a dream and I hope I don't wake up anytime soon."
Linda Indergand also believes the Swiss were best prepared for the technical nature of the course. She told AP Olympics
, "We had a really big advantage because of the technical course. We had the best lines and we knew we could ride our bike so comfortably, so when the rain came in the morning we were all excited to race.”
Sina Frei said, "I still can’t believe what happened today. I think you can always dream, and of course it was a big dream of mine, and yeah, to stand on the podium with two other Swiss girls is just amazing."