Tom Pidcock launches bid for global domination at UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships

Olympic champion Tom Pidcock begins his quest for global domination this year with the first leg of a triple world championship challenge.

By Nick Westby
Saturday, 29th January 2022, 6:00 am

The 22-year-old from Leeds already has a gold medal from Tokyo 2020 on his mantlepiece after his sensational ride to glory in the Olympic mountain bike final last August.

He is also a serial winner of Under-23 cyclo-cross and mountain bike titles, and finished sixth on his debut in the elite road race world championships last year.

Pidcock takes to the start line in the senior race at the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championship in Arkansas, United States, tomorrow, the hot favourite to win the rainbow jersey of world champion.

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Man of many talents: Tom Pidcock of Leeds caked in mud competes in World Cup cyclo-cross events in Holland earlier this winter (Picture: CorVos/SWpix.com)

Part two of his triple bill would then be the UCI mountain bike worlds in France in August followed by the road worlds in Australia a month later.

It would be an unprecedented treble but not one out of the realms for a rider who is already regarded as one of the sport’s most versatile and fearless riders.

“I was worried initially that the road worlds wouldn’t suit me, and whether I’d even go this year,” said Pidcock.

“But looking at the course now there’s going to be a lot more climbing in it, and if that’s the case, that will be good for me.”

Tom Pidcock lead the riders in Holland (Picture: CorVos/SWPix.com)

First up, though, is the challenge ahead of him in the cyclo-cross – short-course racing which often requires riders to dismount around obstacles, usually while caked in mud.

Despite being the pre-race favourite, he arrives emboldened by the experience of winning gold in Tokyo.

“I’d never felt any pressure like [the Olympics],” the Leeds lad told the YEP.

“That was on another level. Now, coming to these championships, it’s easier to cope because I don’t think anything is going to be like Tokyo.

Tom Pidcock of Great Britain wins the men's cross-country race and is crowned Olympic Champion (Picture: SWPix.com)

“I showed myself there that I can deal with whatever pressure so it’s easier to concentrate on the process.”

The absence of two of his great rivals, Mathieu Van der Poel and Woet Van Aert can only help his challenge in Arkansas.

Pidcock was second to Van der Poel at the 2020 cyclo-cross worlds in Dubendorf, Switzerland, but the four-time world champion is out with a back injury, while Van Aert is skipping these championships to focus on the coming Classics on the road.

“Certainly there’s more of an opportunity this year but then again there’s always going to be that cloud that they weren’t there,” said Pidcock.

“But I think if I can win this year, then I’m world champion and I can focus on beating them another year.”

The course ahead of him might not feature a beach like it did in Belgium last year, but it does again present plenty of challenges. “I’m not so familiar with it,” admitted Pidcock, “I’ve just seen a few videos.

“It’s got quite a big climb in it, bigger than it perhaps looks. It can be super fast, I’ve seen photos that it’s a bit damp in places. Technically it doesn’t look that difficult. There’s one long set of stairs to negotiate off the bike.

“This course isn’t so explosive because the climb is so long so that it plays into my hands a little bit.”

If it does and Pidcock gets those hands on a senior rainbow jersey for the first time, then it will set him up perfectly for an exciting year ahead.

He will return to the road to attack the Classics for Team Ineos in the spring before building on his grand tour debut at the Vuelta a Espana last autumn with a debut in the Gir d’Italia in May.

Long term he intends to continue riding across all the formats such is his sheer passion for cycling and the fact that he wants to double up at the Paris Olympics by riding for gold on a road bike as well as a mountain bike.

For now, the chance to help grow cyclo-cross is another motivation. “It’s been growing for the last few years,” he said. “The news that we might have a World Cup race in the UK next year is massive and there’s an opportunity now.

“It’s the most explosive discipline I do. Someone asked me what’s the hardest discipline I do and without doubt it’s cross – the weather, the physical aspect and how intense it is.”