Tom Pidcock returns to racing after late-summer burnout: ‘I was tired, especially mentally’
All-terrain ace gets back in saddle with weekend cyclocross double-header after nosediving disappointment at MTB and road worlds.
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Tom Pidcock is rested and ready to rumble after he pressed a hard reset this off-season.
Pidcock will debut his cyclocross rainbow jersey when he lines up at the Superprestige Merksplas on Saturday in what will be his first race in more than two months.
The Belgian ‘cross will see Ineos Grenadier’s multi-disciple maestro return from a long off-season where he went off-grid to reboot after a late-summer burnout.
“I was tired, especially mentally,” Pidcock told Het Nieuwsblad. “I was also frustrated and disappointed after the mountain bike worlds, which was difficult due to illness, among other things. The week after the world championships I just didn’t want to ride any longer.”
Also read: Patience for Pidcock: ‘If I never win the Tour de France I won’t go to bed crying’
Missing the podium in the mountain bike worlds this August snuffed Pidcock’s stoke after his blazing Tour de France debut. The disappointment unraveled to leave the 23-year-old sidestepping a Wollongong worlds road race that would have suited his skillset.
“I finished the season in good shape, but after that mental blow in the cross-country of Les Gets, it was just too much to suddenly focus on the world championships on the road,” Pidcock said in an extensive interview with Nieuwsblad.
Pidcock’s end-of-season slump took the sheen off a year that delivered a cyclocross world title, two top-5s in the classics, and a standout Tour de France victory atop Alpe d’Huez.
“The season was successful in a way, but there were also many lesser moments. Issues. Speed bumps on the road, ” he said.
Sicknesses in March put Pidcock off the wheel before the spring truly started and derailed a far-reaching classics campaign that stretched from the “opening weekend” through Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
“I did have some good moments, like in Dwaars door Vlaanderen and the Brabantse Pijl, but if you’re not in your rhythm, you don’t race with too much confidence – that affects your results. Then even on a good day you can’t get the best out of it.”
Slow cyclocross start
Pidcock told Het Nieuwsblad he had relished his much-needed late-summer stop.
The young Brit took nearly four weeks off the bike, went on vacation in New York, and slept under canvas during multi-day hikes in Andorra.
Rested and rebooted, Pidcock will muddy up his fresh rainbow jersey at the Superprestige Merksplas and World Cup Overijse in this weekend’s cyclocross double-header.
“I don’t expect to win my first ‘cross or ‘crosses. Look at the past two winters – my first races were never the best. They serve to gain rhythm. Two years ago I had to wait for the fourth cross, last winter it was in the third. I hope we get to see the real Tom Pidcock in the second or third cross weekend,” he said Friday.
“I’m looking forward to it a lot more than last winter. ‘Crossing means suffering, but also enjoying it at the same time, because I want to honor that jersey as much as possible. I think I’m ready.”
The road to the Paris tracks through the Tour de France
The next 12 months will see Pidcock center his ambitions on the asphalt.
A focus on classics curtain-raisers Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel Kuurne in the final weekend of February means Pidcock is likely to pedal a stripped back ‘cross campaign in winter. He remains uncertain if he will line up against multi-discipline rivals Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel at the Hoogerheide ‘cross worlds on February 5 as he takes center stage in Ineos Grenadiers’ push through the one-days of spring.
Pidcock is plotting a two-peak 2023 season as he targets the spring monuments and a return to the Tour de France.
“If it were only up to me, I would ride the Tour every year. I would love to be there again next summer. I now know what to expect. With a little better preparation it can become yet another experience,” he said. “I’m not going to win the Tour, but who knows, maybe I’ll compete for it in a few years.”
Pidcock also confirmed he will continue to sprinkle mountain bike racing into his program as he casts his long view toward the Paris Olympics, where he intends to defend his title from Tokyo.
“It is my intention to be part of a good starting row for the Paris 2024 MTB race,” he said. “But first things first, and that is now ‘cross, but above all the road.”