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Tom Pidcock talks unfriendly rivalries, this weekend's Cyclocross Nationals and chasing another cobblestone

Jack Elton-Walters
11 Jan 2019

Ahead of this weekend's Cyclocross National Championships, Tom Pidcock looks ahead to the rest of his season and races he hopes to win

Tom Pidcock will take the start line of Sunday's Cyclocross National Championships as Under-23 defending champion, but a format change means it could be a very different race to last year's in County Durham, where the talented teenager went away to a solo win.

This season has seen both the men's and women's U23 riders thrown in with their respective Elites. This has meant that there is more time in each race's schedule to address a gender imbalance when it comes to the number of categories raced by female riders – although the Elites still don't get to race for a whole hour like the men.

As such, the 19-year-old Pidcock will be alongside much older riders on the start line of the final race at the Nationals, but as far as he's concerned the majority of the talent is to be found amongst the U23 contingent.

'I’d say that the Under 23s are favourites for the win,' he tells Cyclist from a training camp in Girona, before listing a raft of young British cyclocross talent.

The riders will take on the purpose built course at the Cyclopark near Gravesend in Kent, a parcours Pidcock hasn't raced before.

'I’m not familiar with it, but it won’t take long to familiarise with the 1.5km circuit or whatever it is,' he says.

For somone to whom winning seems to come so easily – whether on a cyclocross course or beating Tour de France champions to summit finishes on the road – it would be easy to get complacent, but Pidcock is taking the Nationals very seriously, and more so than he might any other race.

'I fly in to London on Friday and I’m going to ride the course on Saturday,' he explains. 'I would fly in on Saturday normally but it’s an important race so I’ll make sure everything’s all good and I’ve recovered from the flight and everything.'

World class rivalry

Officially, the selection for the team that British Cycling will take to the Cyclocross World Championships in Denmark in February is yet to be made but it would be a glaring omission for Pidcock not to be on the list.

That course is one with which he is familiar after a World Cup round there, where he rode to a solo victory. 'We raced there last year in a World Cup actually. There was only that race and a few others where I won on my own.'

His biggest rival for a rainbow jersey is likely to be Belgium's Eli Iserbyt, and that rivalry hasn't always been the most friendly.

'We don’t talk', Pidcock says when asked if any animosity is left on the finish line. 'I think last year when I was beating him in the World Cups and stuff, he wasn’t happy and made some stupid comments in the press.

'It was the Euros, when he came across me in the sprint, then from there we just didn’t talk.' Happy to let his racing say it all, Pidcock adds, 'I’m not really bothered.'

However fractious their non-relationship might be, as the two best riders at U23 level for either to dismiss the threat of the other would be foolhardy.

'He’ll definitely be good at the Worlds and he’ll definitely be my biggest rival I think,' Pidcock says of his sparring partner. 'He had a dip but I think he’s back on form now. He’s got top fives in Elite races so he’s definitely back on form.'

Big in Belgium

Cyclocross is in the national fabric of Belgium, and Pidcock is one of the sport's fastest rising stars, so does that mean he gets stopped in the street away from races?

'In Belgium? Yeah, occasionally. It’s alright, I guess it’s no different to when people come up to you at a race where everyone knows who you are.

'It’s nice sometimes, but sometimes you just want to get on with what you’re doing without people knowing who you are.'

His success at World Cup level this season has helped further his profile, and just one more victory will wrap up the overall win for this year.

Beyond the cyclocross season, Pidcock will return to the road and his aim for the first half of the season is for more glory on the cobbled farm tracks of northern France.

It's almost two years since he came back from a late puncture to win Junior Paris-Roubaix, but he's not resting on past glories. Despite the junior race taking place on the morning of the men's pro race, the U23 edition is a warmer affair, taking place in June.

'Yeah I’m racing Roubaix and it’s my last race before I have a break in the middle of the season,' he says. 'The plan is to have a break after Roubaix and build up again to be good at the Worlds, obviously because it’s a home race.'

Pidcock talks about his hopes and expectations for the 2019 World Championships in Yorkshire in part II of the interview, which can be read here