Tom Pidcock out to justify relinquishing cyclo-cross world title as Spring Classics begin with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
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The Olympic mountain bike champion will lead the Ineos Grenadiers at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in Belgium, the 207 kilometre combination of cobbles and climbs that signals the start of the spring Classics and the first of the European WorldTour races.
Pidcock chose not to defend his cyclo-cross world title at the start of the month to better prepare for the road campaign, and was encouraged by a stage four victory and top 10 overall finish at last week’s Volta ao Algarve.
“Last year was inconsistent with illness and other things,” Pidcock said of his change of approach. “I wanted to get more of a solid base, and after the mountain bike worlds went wrong for me (in late August) I was not in the head space to be looking forward to cross.
“I made the decision not to race the worlds early on. Whether it was right or wrong, I’ve enjoyed it… I’ve had much longer to prepare for the road and I showed I’m a different rider to last year in the Algarve.”
There were good signs in Thursday’s training ride along sections of the Omloop route as Pidcock recorded his fastest-ever time up the Bosberg, the climb that alongside the Muur Van Geraardsbergen defines this race.
Young Belgian sensation Arnaud De Lie begins as the favourite in most people’s eyes – “If he goes to the end it’s his race to lose,” Pidcock said – but the Yorkshireman hopes his form will be there for next weekend’s Strade Bianche over the white gravel roads of Tuscany.
“Strade is one of my favourite races, the Tour of Flanders also,” he said. “But it’s quite difficult to predict when my best day will be. It’s the Classics – every day is super hard, super heavy, so it’s difficult to know how I’ll respond and I can’t really say where I’m focusing.”