Tom Pidcock’s ambition remains strong as Leeds cyclist maintains his ascent
It is the nature of the beast. Blind faith sells newspapers.
Fortunately, that majority is offset by a small minorty who when they choose to tell you they are going to do something, you instantly believe them.
Tom Pidcock belongs in the latter category.
When he tells you he is going to win a race, believe him, because more often than not he will justify that claim.
It is not arrogance from the 21-year-old cyclist from Leeds, it is a confidence borne out of a belief in his own ability, an appreciation of the nuances of his sport and all that demands of him, and an unwavering will to win.
For instance at the Giro Ciclistico d’Italia last week – the Baby Giro as it is known – Pidcock did not just win the general classification, he completely dominated the peloton over eight days, winning three stages, and the mountains classification, as well as finishing third in the points classification.
“It should have been four stage wins because I finished second when I should have won that as well,” he tells The Yorkshire Post in a line that epitomises his continued quest for perfection.
Twelve months ago at the UCI Road World Championships in Harrogate he took bronze in the Under-23s road race, traditionally an achievement that would fill an athlete with enormous pride, especially one who had suffered a near season-ending crash five weeks earlier and was just lucky to be racing at all. But not this Yorkshireman. “Bronze is just a souvenir,” he said at the time, “I came for the jersey.”
A year on, his memory has mellowed. “It was a case of ‘what-if’ for me coming out of the world championships,” he reflects.
“If I didn’t have that crash at the Tour of L’Avenir I would have won the race, I have no doubt about that.
“Looking back now I am proud that I was able to stand on the podium. I remember coming into Harrogate for the first lap and the people cheering my name, it felt like everyone was shouting for me. That’s something I’ll never forget.”
But that is about as nostalgic as it gets for Pidcock. His single-minded drive has little time for reflection. It is all about the future.
Quite what that is, only he knows. He could stay for another year at Under-23s level or take the offers on the table to make the step up and race against men.
He could easily follow the example of Remco Evenepoel of Belgium, another cycling wunderkind, who won gold at junior level at the world championships in Innsbruck in 2018, was second in the Under-23s race in Harrogate last year and has already won stage races in his first year among the elite.
“Remco is the exception,” cautions Pidcock. “The riders who have followed him are a bit naive. Remco was always capable of making the step up quickly because he’s an incredible athlete, but he’s the only guy who could have done it.
“Riders who have skipped a year or two on the Under-23s circuit will have forgotten how to win, how to lead a team and that is important.
“I went to the Baby Giro expecting to win and that’s hard to do, a lot harder in some respects than say going to an elite race and getting a top 10. All you’re doing there is following, you’re not leading.
“I think you need a good two or three years at Under-23s level.”
How long has Pidcock had at that age group? Three years. So is this the clearest indication yet that he is moving up to World Tour level for 2021?
“It’s certainly something that’s on the table,” says Pidcock. “I’m just assessing my options.”
Ensuring he is not a one-trick pony is part of the developmental phase he is going through.
Cyclists are generally sprinters or climbers, very few are built to win grand tours, and that is where Pidcock wants to get to long-term – “I love the thought of training for six months to win one race”.
He is already a leading cyclo-cross rider, winning rainbow jerseys at junior and Under-23s level and a silver among the elite. But this winter he added mountain biking to his repertoire.
“I’ve found mountain biking is a really demanding sport and has proven to be really good supplement to the road,” he adds.
“A race I did recently was over five days and every day was full gas going up mountains. It makes you stronger, which is what I will need. I’m light and I’m little, so I’m doing what I can to develop that extra strength.
“I want to continue being multi-discipline; cyclo-cross and mountain biking. The more tools you have in your toolbox, the more things you can build.”
All of which are foundations for a winning reputation.
“If I went up to the elite level now I’m confident I could certainly compete,” he says. “I showed in the European Championships (start of September) that I could.
“When I do step up I’ll be trying to win races.”
A statement that should surprise nobody.
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Thank you, James Mitchinson. Editor.