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Tom Pidcock: Riding his own unconventional lines

Jack Elton-Walters
31 Jan 2020

With his confidence and ability often derided as arrogance, there's a lot more to Tom Pidcock than some commentators would have us believe

For Tom Pidcock, this winter has been different to previous years. Where in the past he started with one foot already on the podium, invariably the top step – ranging across road, time-trial, crit and cyclocross – this season he has had to get used to a place in the top 10 being a successful result.

The reason for that change is Pidcock stepping up to the Elite level during the current cyclocross season. At 20 years old, this was a move he wasn't obliged to make for a few seasons yet. But after his win in the U23 category at last year's Cyclocross World Championships, Pidcock said he'd 'done everything at under-23' and so it was time to move up a category.

Chatting to Cyclist from the comfort of his camper van just before the Hoogerheide edition of the Cyclocross World Cup over the weekend, Pidcock was already looking one week ahead to the Cyclocross World Championships, and also further ahead to the rest of his season.

The British rider came seventh at the GP Adri van der Poel in Hoogerheide as an unassailable Mathieu van der Poel rode away from the field to win a race named after his own father, who was cheering from the sidelines.

Pidcock's result is at least two places worse than where he hopes to finish this weekend at the Worlds.

About to tackle the off-camber early in the race. Photo: Irmo Keizer/Shimano

'Top five is good but I want to be on the podium. But I think this year it’s more competitive than it has been. There’s Mathieu but then Toon Aerts and Eli Iserbyt are both pretty close you know, whereas before it was really just Wout van Aert or Mathieu.'

The first three riders he named made up the podium at Hoogerheide, while Van Aert was one place behind him in eighth. The dry and fast flowing course didn't play to Pidcock's strengths to the extent it did for his rivals, particularly Van der Poel who extended his lead on every lap, making particular gains on the smooth tarmac road that formed the finishing straight.

Away he goes: Van der Poel putting time into his rivals. Photo: Irmo Keizer/Shimano

Seeming relaxed and happy with where he is in terms of form and results before heading out to race on the Dutch course, Pidcock was in good spirits and already looking past this 'cross season – although perhaps not looking ahead in a way that people might expect.

'I’ve got two more weekends of 'cross, followed by two weeks off and then I’m training for Cape Epic.'

For a rider who is often – and unfairly – derided as being cocky, he's quick to set his attendance at the mountain bike stage race in South Africa into context. 'I’m going for the experience, I’m not going to be flying, but yeah I need to get in shape for it.'

This means that after three more weekends of cyclocross racing, the first of which is the Worlds, the Yorkshireman's attention will turn not the road racing scene but instead to an eight-day ride through the dust of South Africa's mountain bike trails.

Now a Red Bull athlete, as the energy drink brand diversifies its presence away from the more extreme end of bicycle racing, for Pidcock the crossover of disciplines for one of its brightest stars seems like a logical move.

'I’m going to be doing some mountain biking World Cups and World Champs as well as Cape Epic. That’s what I want to do but we have to try and figure out how to get in the World Cup. But yeah that’s the plan.'

The genesis of the idea, however, came from Pidcock's team manager at Trinity Racing, Andrew McQuaid.

'Andrew came up with the idea of Cape Epic and I think it’ll be pretty cool to do. Last year I did the National Champs and then I went for a ride with a friend in Girona, and he said "why don’t you have a proper crack the mountain bike worlds? I think you could win it if you go proper" and I thought that’s not a bad idea. So I decided I want to try and do that.'

As he discusses in this latest video from his team, the young rider has had to train his mind as much as his body to cope with the rigours of a life in the spotlight of professional cycling. This can sometimes mean taking a break when he might otherwise have been training or racing, heading home to Leeds to recharge.

'I think physically, maybe sometimes it only takes a few days [to recover and refresh]. It’s always mental I think. I go home and I try and leave my phone, not really go on my phone, and just try and get away from it all really.'

Although coming from a family of cyclists – his younger brother rides for Tom's former team – escaping the bike might not be so easy.

'Yeah, not really that easy to get away from cycling! But I can go home and just relax, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with just going for a ride, no computer or anything, just with your friends. Just to get away from the pro lifestyle.'

Finally, with Red Bull on board as a key sponsor, does this mean his parents' garage is now full of crates of its eponymous drink?

'No, but the service course is!'

Highlights of the Cyclocross World Cup and live coverage of this weekend's Cyclocross World Championships are all on Red Bull TV. Head to redbull.com/uci-cyclocross-world-championships-switzerland for more information

Behind the scenes with Trinity Racing at the Hoogerheide edition of the Cyclocross World Cup

 

Gallery photos: Balint Hamvas/Red Bull Content Pool