There are no certainties in cross-country mountain biking, writes Jack Houghton, but a youthful French superstar is about as close as you can get to one
"Loana Lecomte turned professional in 2020. She won her first race, went on to claim the European and World titles that year, and has won all four World Cup races in which she has competed this season..."
Duncan Scott (2.486/4) looked vulnerable in his heat, but the world-ranked number one settled nerves by winning his semi-final cutely and qualifying fastest for the final. There are swimmers with faster personal bests - like Danas Rapsys - but the form of others is inconsistent, whereas Scott seems metronomic in producing fast times. He recorded his season's best at the British Championships in April and, assuming he can better that time in the final here, he will be hard to beat.
We saw on Monday that cross-country mountain biking is full of risk as our recommended lay - Matthieu van der Poel - crashed out early. Despite these risks, though, it's hard to see French superstar Loana Lecomte (1.608/13) not winning the gold medal here.
The 21-year-old only turned professional in 2020. She won her first race, went on to claim the European and World titles that year, and has won all four World Cup races in which she has competed this season. She usually wins her races in the early stages, riding out to an unassailable lead, which then of course reduces the risk of her coming to harm: she's never under enough pressure to make a mistake.
Much like the men's triathlon, the women's event is incredibly open: a valid case can be made for a dozen triathletes, and even then, the conditions might mean the winner could come from outside that list. Flora Duffy (5.204/1), the double world champion, is likely to be competing at her last Olympics and will want to go out in style. She will be joined by a veteran of five Olympics, Nicola Spirig (20.0019/1), who remains one of the best cyclists in the women's field.
They will have their work cut out to hold off strong teams from Great Britain, France, Australia, the Netherlands, and Japan - all of whom field multiple hopefuls with viable chances, especially if they race collectively.
The speculative choice, though, is for Team USA and Taylor Knibb (24.0023/1). Knibb is one of the youngest triathletes in the field, having been under-23 world champion in 2018. She was impressive when winning a World Triathlon Championship Series event in Yokohama at the end of May, with all the damage done on an aggressive bike leg, and if she can take a similar approach here, she could cause a shock.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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Jack Houghton’s Tokyo 2020 P&L:
Staked (settled bets): 11.00