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The Ineos Grenadiers star book-ended his sometimes rocky and occasionally spectacular spring classics campaign with his first monument podium of his budding career that also included a blazing victory at Strade Bianche.
“Of course, my ambition is to win and I want to win,” Pidcock said Sunday. “Remco was incredibly strong today, and this is my first podium in a monument, so I can be happy with this.”
- Remco Evenepoel unstopped in Liège stampede
- DS: Pidcock won Strade Bianche on the downhills
- Tadej Pogačar sidelined for ‘four to six weeks’ after surgery
Pidcock’s third run across the spring classics marks an important milestone in his evolution.
Not only did he win one of the most important races at Strade Bianche, he emerged as one of the few riders to challenge the “Big Three” of Tadej Pogačar, Wout van Aert, and Mathieu van der Poel in the most important races.
After skipping a title defense at the world cyclocross championships in early February, Pidcock was already sending a signal that his priorities lie in the spring classics.
He proved that decision was the correct one by riding everyone off his wheel on the gravel roads of Tuscany to show off his superb descending skills to deliver a spectacular victory.
A crash and subsequent concussion at Tirreno-Adriatico sidelined him for Milan-San Remo and took some of the momentum out of his campaign.
Pidcock reconfirmed his class by bouncing back by digging deep to finish third behind Pogačar at Amstel Gold Race and second to a superb Evenepoel on Sunday at La Doyenne.
“I think all the Ardennes, these ones suit me the most more than the cobbled classics,” Pidcock told Sporza. “It’s good and I think we can be happy we ended with a podium at the end of the classics season, and we can take that into next year.”
After butting heads with the best all spring, Pidcock emerged as the lone rider who packs the firepower to nudge closest to the peloton’s very best.
‘Remco was like a motorbike’
He didn’t quite have the explosiveness and pure watts he needed to challenge for the wins at such races as the Tour of Flanders or Amstel Gold Race, but on Sunday, he revealed that he also brings a sharp tactical mind to the races.
After following Evenepoel’s rooster tail over the wet and soggy La Redoute on Sunday, Pidcock quickly realized that the Belgian world champion was on another level.
After catching Evenepoel on the descent, the Soudal Quick-Step rider asked Pidcock for a pull. Pidcock could only shake his head.
Evenepoel punched the accelerator on the false flat to drop Pidcock and steamroll to victory.
“Remco was like a motorbike,” Pidcock said. “After Amstel, I was a bit wary about going full-gas with Remco. I was on the limit.
“I measured my effort on La Redoute because I knew I could close the gap on the descent,” he said. “I was on my limit on the next climb, and I knew that I had to decide if I commit to sitting on his wheel and maybe blow up, or wait and try again and go for second.”
Chapeau on your first Monument podium 👏 pic.twitter.com/uEHqGygsrY
— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) April 23, 2023
As Evenepoel time trialed toward the finish line, Pidcock dropped back to a chase group of about a dozen riders. The race was on for the podium, and he knew he would have to finesse things just right to manage the situation.
Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) attacked on the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons and drew out Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious). Pidcock dug deep to bridge out to make it a three-way battle for two spots of honor.
Healy was the stronger climber, but Pidcock had the kick to win the three-up sprint for the runner-up spot.
“Remco asked me for a turn, and I said no. He went full-gas and then I got dropped,” Pidcock said. “Remco was strongest in the end. I decided to wait and to try to get second. I still finished second, so I think that plan paid off.”
‘It’s promising for the future’
The overall balance coming out of the spring classics is very strong for Pidcock.
His haul included victory at Strade Bianche, second at Liège, third at Amstel Gold Race, fifth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, 11th at Dwars door Vlaanderen, 18th at Flèche Wallonne, and 52nd at Flanders.
Ending on a podium-high Sunday only bodes well for the future.
“I can be happy with second and my first podium in a monument, so it’s promising for the future,” Pidcock said. “I didn’t have so much luck with this race before. I was ill the first year and didn’t start, and last year, I was also sick in the race. It’s my first successful Liège. I can take this as a positive.”
Up next is a well-deserved rest, then a retreat to altitude, with racing at the Tour de Suisse before a return to the Tour de France in July.