Tom Pidcock: ‘Wout van Aert is the best in terms of pure power’

The Ineos Grenadiers rider believes Van Aert is the favorite to take the cyclocross world title.

Photo: BELGA/AFP via Getty Images

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Outgoing cyclocross world champion Tom Pidcock believes that Wout van Aert is the favorite to pick up the rainbow baton in the men’s worlds race this weekend.

Pidcock decided not to defend his title in Hoogerheide on Sunday, and will be watching the race from a training camp in Spain.

Van Aert has been trading wins with long-time rival Mathieu van der Poel for much of this CX season. Pidcock believes that it is the Belgian that has the gas to take the title, but concedes that anything could happen over the hour of racing.

“Wout. The Big Racer. You can say very little in advance about a world championships like this that makes sense. Wout is the best in terms of pure power, but in the end, a title like this is decided after one hour of ‘cross.

“It is not just about strength, but also the tactics set out when trying to become world champion,” Pidcock told Het Niewsblad.

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Pidcock has raced at Hoogerheide several times before and took third on the course last year, just before he claimed his first elite CX world title.

It has been a touch longer since Van der Poel and Van Aert contested the Dutch race.

Both were there back in 2020 when Van der Poel romped to the win while Van Aert languished almost a minute behind in eighth place. There have been few changes to the course in the intervening three years, but there are some key differences.

“Hoogerheide has become a faster cross in recent years. There is more grass, the soil is drained, so there is less mud than before.

“What plays into Mathieu’s hands is that not much has to be done to it. But there is one more real power climb and it’s a big one. If my training plan allows it, I’ll be in front of the TV on Sunday. Otherwise, I will watch the highlights,” Pidcock said.

Pidcock’s decision not to defend his world title, which came as a surprise to many, was only announced at the start of January.

However, he had made his choice far earlier as he turns his focus to the classics this spring.

The Brit confirmed to Het Nieuwsblad that he would kickstart his season at the Volta ao Algarve next week before heading to Belgium for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

“My coach Kurt Bogaerts and I had already decided that before we entered the winter because this year’s world championships is on February 5 and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad follows 20 days later. At first, I was quite sad because I wasn’t riding. We waited a very long time to communicate the decision, just in case I change my mind.

“Honestly, in recent years, I loved cyclocross less and less. Especially last winter I didn’t enjoy it as much as usual. As a result, I was not really looking forward to this cross season mentally.”

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