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WAREGEM, Belgium (VN) – “The boss” is back just in time to help Ineos Grenadiers crack the classics lockdown at the Tour of Flanders.
Ineos Grenadiers believes the returning Tom Pidcock could serve the crucial kick it needs to level with Mathieu van der Poel, Tadej Pogačar, and Wout van Aert’s Jumbo-Visma massive at De Ronde.
“It gives us a different edge having him back, especially after he won Strade Bianche. It shows the guys ‘the boss is here,’” team director Ian Stannard told VeloNews ahead of Dwaars door Vlaanderen.
“Having him brings the rest of the guys’ belief – he’s the rider who’s proven he can finish things off. Having him back, he’s our leader and that gives us focus.”
- Flanders preview: Van der Poel, Van Aert, Pogačar resume spring rivalry
- Pidcock delivers sublime solo victory at Strade
Ineos Grenadiers didn’t get much chance to harvest Pidcock’s form after he barnstormed to a solo stunner at Strade Bianche.
A concussion sustained in a heavy crash at Tirreno-Adriatico saw the 23-year-old sidelined while the “three galacticos” stole the show at Milan-San Remo, E3 Saxo Classic, and Gent-Wevelgem.
Pidcock’s mostly anonymous return to the bunch at Dwars door Vlaanderen saw him searching for the final half percent he needs before his heavyweight showdown with Van Aert, Van der Poel, and Pogačar at the Tour of Flanders.
“I was nowhere and everywhere. I was not strong today, but OK. I didn’t have the top end for when it went up the climbs, but that’s a bit normal after missing racing,” Pidcock told VeloNews after Dwars door Vlaanderen.
“I would have liked to go better, but I’m here, and feel good. I just missed the top end. Hopefully, this will help me for Sunday.”
In the same orbit as the Galacticos?
Pidcock won’t be getting any five-star ratings ahead of Sunday’s monument.
He reaped the rewards of training in thin air in Andorra as he waited out his concussion hangover, but missed the elbows and accelerations of the classics crush.
Pidcock remains confident he can hold the wheel Sunday after a layoff he saw as well-timed. Only five days off the bike after a big block of Italian racing gives the Brit fresh legs for one of his biggest targets of the season.
“I hope to be with those top guys on Sunday,” Pidcock said before rollout Wednesday. “That’s where I see myself. Of course, I’ve got to get past the part where they’ve got the raw power on me and into the more attritional parts of the race.”
Pidcock’s ride in the short but explosive Dwars door Vlaanderen appetizer Wednesday left him chasing even Flanders outsiders like Stefan Küng, Neilson Powless, and eventual winner Christophe Laporte.
For Ineos Grenadiers to score its first Flanders trophy Sunday, it needs Pidcock to be back brilliant and his support crew to be bullish.
Pidcock showed on the road and cyclocross circuit he can level with Van Aert and Van der Poel when he’s at 100 percent. The 23-year-old’s entourage thinks he can do it again on Belgian cycling’s “holy day.”
“On a good day, Tom can handle those men,” Pidcock’s coach Kurt Bogaerts told Het Niewusblad this week. “Winning Strade was a huge step for him, and you take an achievement like that with you. He’s not going to race nervously with such a victory in his pocket.”
‘The more numbers we have, the better’
But like Jumbo-Visma showed all spring, an old-school Quick-Step style depth is needed to deliver in the heaviest northern classics.
Ineos Grenadiers doesn’t have a bench deep with riders like Laporte, Dylan van Baarle, and Tiesj Benoot, all of who have already topped classic podiums this year. But what it has got is one of De Ronde’s strongest “shadow teams.”
Racers like Ben Turner, Magnus Sheffield, and Jhonatan Narváez impressed all spring, and veterans Luke Rowe and Michal Kwiatkowski will parachute back in for Sunday.
“We’re seeing more and more in these races this year, you need numbers and the final rider,” Stannard said. “Tom only adds to the strength that the rest of the team has shown already this year.”
But can Pidcock deliver if the race bubbles down to the smallest of groups over Flanders’ Kwarement-Paterberg kingmaker?
He’s one of the few wildcards you wouldn’t want to rule out.