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Tom Pidcock Q&A: ‘I'm still not going WorldTour. I’m in no rush and have nothing to prove’

Favourite for the U23 Worlds until a crash while racing in France, Tom Pidcock speaks to Cyclist about his recovery and hopes for the race

Interview Jack Elton-Walters Photography Peter Stuart

Tom Pidcock was everyone's favourite for the under-23 men's race at the upcoming World Championships in Yorkshire. Near unbeatable on the road and in the mud, he was due to start his home race with one hand on the rainbow jersey thanks to his form and his local knowledge of the circuit.

However, a crash at the Tour de l'Avenir has set him back but by no means has it counted him out. Now just a few weeks away from the race, Pidcock speaks to Cyclist about the Worlds, his career in general and took a look both back at his start in cycling and forward to where his career might go.

How's your recovery going after your race-ending crash at the Tour de l'Avenir?

I’ve cleared my concussion now. But my knee still hasn’t recovered.

Are you training again as normal since the crash?

I’ve ridden four days now. But I’m still having trouble with my knee so I’m very limited on how much I can do. I've just seen the doctor and I need a few more days off the bike for it to heal up because the wound is still open.

Will you race before the Yorkshire Worlds Championships?

No, my plan is to go to altitude until the Worlds once I can freely ride my bike.

Were you expecting to ride the Tour of Britain?

Yes I was supposed to be, but now it's best to take things day by day.

How confident are you of pulling on the rainbow jersey?

It’s a one-day race. If you are confident in it you are naive. Anything can happen. I’ve had more than my fair share of setbacks this season so if I do win it will be even more special.

Is the Yorkshire course good for you?

It's where I’ve lived and trained my whole life so not only will it hold a special place in my heart and give me that extra strength riding in front of home crowds, I will also have the feel for the roads better than anyone else.

Who, if anyone, is going to spoil your party?

There are plenty of strong riders and teams. The Swiss are always good, as are the Danes and Norwegians. It will be no walk in the park.

How do you see the race panning out?

It will just be the final part of the race that is important. It will be a long hard race and the last 30km is the important bit.

Will it be won from a break, an attack, a sprint…?

It certainly won’t be a big group; it will be a small group sprint or break I think.

Which bits of the course will be crucial?

I think from Greenhow the race will kick off.

How do you rate your current form?

It's hard to say, I was better than expected in Alsace, then I was ill for the whole time between that race and l’Avenir, and now I’ve crashed. So I’ve certainly got a lot of space to improve my form.

Do you ride better or worse with the weight of expectation upon you?

I don't let the weight of expectations come from the outside. You can only build pressure yourself, but I prepare 100% for big races so I go into them knowing there is nothing else I could have done.

What conditions would be perfect for you? Is extreme weather an advantage?

To be honest it doesn’t really matter. It will be a better experience if the weather is nice and the crowds are big, which I’m sure they will be.

Off the back of the news of your current team ending this year, who will you turn WorldTour with in 2020?

I'm still not going WorldTour. I’m in no rush and have nothing to prove.

When have you doubted yourself, why, and what did you do about it?

As an athlete I think you always have bits of doubt especially after injury or crashes. It's always hard to come into races when you haven’t fully prepared or have had setbacks, but I keep to the process that I’ve built and do what I can.

You can only do your best, as my dad always told me.

How has your FTP and weight changed from being 2017 junior TT champ to 2019 U23 cyclocross champ, and how might it change again for road if you continue to push on there?

Well, when I was an under-16 I did 303 watts for 20 minutes at 50kg and now I could ride at that all day.

What’s your ‘last supper’ before the season starts, and what will be the first food and first drink you’ll reach for after the last race of the season?

I don’t really change what I eat so much. I always eat well and I don’t like fizzy drinks or alcohol. I think in the off season I do just relax a bit.

Is there an onus on younger riders to make cycling more exciting by being more attacking/aggressive?

I think there is certainly a growing pressure on young riders to set new standards and I think that’s going to become quite dangerous. Young riders need to develop properly.

You are the same age as Remco Evenepoel, who is already in the WorldTour winning races. Could that already be you?

Possibly, but I’m happy with what I’m doing. We are different riders and have different plans and pathways to follow.

Who is your cycling hero?

The person I can relate to the most is Mathieu van der Poel because if he hadn’t changed the traditions of riders being confined to one discipline I think I would have.

Young riders like Bernal, Evenepoel, Van der Poel and Sivakov are winning big races: Is this the first generation that 'trained like pros' from early adolescence?

Like I said, there’s a growing pressure on young riders to act and be pro, and I don't think it's healthy, but it's certainly proving successful.

You’ve won Paris-Roubaix at every age group so far; is it fate that you’ll win it as an elite?

I'll certainly do my best to make sure it is.

Why did you start cycling?

My dad was and is a cyclist, so I was introduced to it and I was good at it. Naturally, you like things you’re good at, don't you?

Did your peers consider it cool to be a cyclist when you were growing up? Did you get any stick?

Yeah a bit, cycling isn’t the biggest sport, it's certainly growing a lot, but yeah I got stick at school. Mainly for wearing lycra!

When did you first throw a leg over a bicycle?

Maybe when I was four. I get asked this question all the time, I should ask my parents when it actually was.

When did riding turn to racing?

I think U12 but I did my first national when I was a second year U14

At what point did you realise you were good at what you were doing?

I never thought about what I was going to do when I was older because I was already doing it. When I was young I was much smaller than everyone else (I still am) and I could still beat them in sprints and on hills. I learnt to win through skills and tactics, that's why I’m successful today I think.

What discipline did you love most, and what about now?

Depends what I’m winning but I love going downhilling in my downtime

How was your relationship with the GB system?

The junior academy definitely defined who I am now. It was a perfect environment to develop riders, I think, with races abroad, training camps and coaching. And above all watched over by Stuart Blunt who taught us life lessons in the sport. The new wave of riders coming through have all been brought up by him.

Did you feel nurtured or was it a case of win or be dumped?

BC do what they can to develop and teach you, but it is hard.

What has been your greatest moment up to this point, and the worst?

My best moment is winning the Junior Cyclocross Worlds. I haven’t been that motivated for anything else and I still haven’t had a goal as big as that or something that has meant as much to me, even this Yorkshire Worlds. It was my first chance to achieve something that I dreamt of as a child.

I'm lucky in that I haven’t had any really bad times in the sport yet, but recently the other Sunday when I should have been finishing the Tour de l’Avenir and I believe I would have been in yellow. That was hard while I was sat at home icing my knee.

What has been the best advice you've received?

'Fun is the most important thing'.

How much of your cycling has been love and how much ambition?

I think it's always a balance and you certainly don't love it all the time. There’s plenty of dark times.

Have you established what direction your future will go in yet?

Forward

Will you stick with cyclocross or focus on road? How much does money play a role in that decision?

Of course at the end of the day cycling is a job for me so money matters but I will still do road and 'cross and going to do some MTB next season.

In an age of specialisation, can you already see your niche?

I think it's the opposite: unless you want to win a Grand Tour, specialisation is a thing of the past

Classics or can you see yourself as a Grand Tour contender?

I don't think I’m limited to anything.

Which team's approach do you like best?

I think QuickStep's approach is probably the best and you can see it in their success; they have an environment where as long as someone wins they don't care. No egos and that is rare and special.

What is your current training regime, in simple terms?

Eat, train, Xbox, sleep, repeat.

What is a good food day for you? Do you have any naughty treats you'd like to confess to?

When I’m eating well I always have porridge and an omelette for breakfast with avocado and smoked salmon. Then just make sure I eat balanced meals and try not to snack too much, but I always have dark chocolate after meals.

The domestic scene in the UK seems to be suffering at present. Does this worry you and can you see an answer to reviving it?

I think it's just going back to how it was. It has had a few years prospering and now it's taking a dip again. I think the way the UK scene is set up it doesn’t help teams find sponsors.

It's a small circle with the same riders week in, week out. They need to find a way to make it more accessible and visible to the public, because the increase in popularity in the UK hasn’t translated into a growing pro scene, quite the opposite.

Other lads your age are getting into booze and girls (allegedly). Do you wish you could just sack off the training and have a night out?

No I don't like alcohol and partying is boring. Why stand and dance when you could go driving, mountain biking or riding 100 miles round the yorkshire dales.

How do you stay in touch with your youth while still being dedicated to your sport?

I think it's hard to be professional and still do that. But I keep it fun and mess about while getting the work done.

What advice would you give to young racers looking to break the big time?

If you’re good enough you will make it, so figure out how to win without eating lettuce and training 20 hours a week and make sure you have fun.

If you could name the three races to have on your palmares before retirement, what would they be?

World Road Race title, Paris-Roubaix, Tour de France.