Tom Pidcock: I watched the ‘cross worlds with envy, but skipping it is paying off

The Ineos Grenadiers rider begins his classics campaign at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Photo: Jasper Jacobs/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images

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Tom Pidcock was jealous watching Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel battle it out at the cyclocross world championships, but he believes that his decision to skip it is paying off.

The Ineos Grenadiers rider took the shock decision not to defend his world title earlier this month and instead focus on his build-up to the classics.

Pidcock kickstarted his season at the Volta ao Algarve last week, winning a stage and finishing seventh in the general classification. He’s now turning his focus to the cobbles of Belgium with the opening weekend and he’s raring to go.

“In the recon, I was going pretty well and on my least favorite climb, the Bosberg, I went up it the fastest I’ve ever gotten up it [Thursday], so it’s not a bad thing. Last week in Algarve, I guess it’s nice to get a win already,” Pidcock said in a press conference Friday. “After kind of sacrificing the cross, I was watching in envy the world championships but it’s nice that it’s kind of paying off a little bit already with the fact that I’ve had a longer to prepare for the road season.

“Last year was inconsistent with illness and things and I kind of wanted to get a solid, more solid base. Last season, after the mountain bike worlds kind of went wrong, I was not really in the headspace looking forward so much to cross. But I understand its importance in preparing for the road and in how I prepare for the road.

“We made the decision not to race the worlds quite early on. Whether it’s right or wrong, I really enjoyed this year in the cross so it’s good for next year and I am already looking forward to that. But it also meant that I’ve had a longer period to build the road, I am already showing that I was a different rider in Algarve to the one I was last year.”

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Ineos Grenadiers brings a strong squad to the opening weekend, with some of the young stars that flourished in their debuts last season. Magnus Sheffield and Ben Turner will be looking to build on their debut classics season, while Brandon Rivera joins as a classics rookie.

Michal Kwiatkowski and Luke Rowe will provide the experience in what is still a very young squad. After struggling with illness in his debut classics last year, Pidcock is looking to step up this year.

“Last year as a team, was our best year in the classics, to date and I think we come in this year with confidence from that. Last year was not the best period for me. So this year is not going to be difficult to beat that,” he said.

“I think I’ve always kind of been watched, I think that was also a factor last year in the team’s success. We have a strong team and if people are looking at me, then it gives opportunities to other people on the team. Last year, with me not being 100 percent, created some success. I think it’s something that I have to live with. I haven’t won massively on the road yet, but I have a name where people watch me, which is maybe unfortunate but it’s just how it is.”

During the press conference, Pidcock was asked about his favorite races growing up. The Brit chose Paris-Roubaix as one of them, a race that he won as a junior but has not contested since turning professional.

Jokingly goaded by Ineos Grenadiers’ deputy team principal Rod Ellingworth about when he would finally ride the “Hell of the North,” Pidcock said he had not yet made a call on his participation for this season.

“When I was younger, I mainly watched the Tour. That was kind of the big thing that I watched. And then also, Roubaix and Flanders,” he said. “I remember watching when [Fabian] Cancellara and [Peter] Sagan were racing, and maybe the end of Boonen’s career as well. Roubaix was always kind of my favorite race even though I haven’t done it as a pro yet. I always love watching that and then obviously it was it’s gone pretty well in the lower categories.

“I haven’t said no this year but yeah, that’s a maybe.”

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