MALVERN’s Evie Richards kicked off her mountain bike season with a series win in Barcelona, where she beat Trek Factory Racing teammate Jolanda Neff to the tape by 21 seconds.

The win took Richards into the Elite Women’s cross-country mountain bike top 10 rankings and launched her 2021 campaign in perfect style, with the Olympic Games on the horizon later this summer. Like many sporting individuals, the 24-year-old from West Malvern has had a challenging time dealing with the pandemic which disrupted her 2020/21 season over Christmas with Covid restrictions keeping her at home for over a month.

She finally managed to get back on the bike and race again in January, bagging a top 10 place in the final UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup event in Overijse.

Richards went on to finish seventh in the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships on January 28, providing solid preparation for the start of the MTB season.

That seems to have done the trick as she crossed the line last weekend in Spain with an impressive victory. She recently explained that her focus has been preparing herself for the mountain bike season, using cyclo-cross (a separate discipline that she holds world titles for) as a way to get vital race minutes into her legs ahead of the Olympic Games in Tokyo later this year.

“I think this year hasn’t really been results-focused for me, the focus is on the fact this is an Olympic year I’m going into,” she told Eurosport UK.

“These ‘cross races are really just to get fitness and enjoy racing my bike, and then hopefully we can really focus on some ‘cross races at the end of the season.”

The delayed 2020 Olympic Games is scheduled to begin on July 23.