It’s been a busy autumn for Tom Pidcock. Not only has he had a Rouleur front cover, but he also added the Junior World Time-Trial Championship to his palmares and joined his new Telenet-Fidea Lions team.
Last weekend, the World junior cyclo-cross champion was back on the ‘cross scene in Belgian, clocking up a ninth place in the elite race at the Brico Polderscross at Kruibeke and fourth in the under-23 race at the Superprestige Zonhoven.
Paul Maunder caught up with Pidcock after the finish at Zonhoven, and found a young man still taking everything in his stride.
Rouleur: Fourth place in your first under-23 race, are you happy with that?
Pidcock: It was ok. The start was good but then I came around a corner in the sand and there was a guy stopped in front of me and I had nowhere to go and crashed. So I was quite far back and I had to pick people off on the tarmac and the easier bits at my own pace. Then I messed up the second sand section and had to run, got distanced, and took half a lap to get back to the front. I just want to be able to ride the sand. That’s what’s annoying me. I didn’t feel comfortable.
You said that when you first rode Zonhoven, you learnt how to ride in sand. Did you learn anything more this time?
I think so. Last year I came in not knowing anything but this year I came here with a bit of experience. The team coach took me into the forest on Friday to practice riding the sand but it’s not quite the same – we were mainly doing corners. Here it’s about riding in straight lines on the climbs and descents.
Yesterday you raced with the elites, alongside Mathieu Van Der Poel and Wout Van Aert. What was that like? The team must be happy with the performance?
It was long. At six laps to go I could tell that’s the point where a junior race is finishing. So I was struggling like I would be in the last lap of a junior race and I had to carry on for another six laps. Sven [Nys – team boss] was shocked. He was looking for me at the back and was asking, where’s Tom? Then he saw I was in twelfth.
When did you make the decision to focus on the time-trial Worlds, and how did you prepare?
I never really made a decision to focus on it as such. I was down to ride it, and I thought I was probably going to do a good ride. Going into it I spent a training session every week on the TT bike, definitely more time than I would normally.
There was speculation that you’d be marked out of the Worlds road race – did it play out that way?
In the road I just wasn’t quite there. My legs weren’t great and because I’d already won the jersey, if I didn’t win the road race then it wasn’t such a big deal. And Julius Johansen was so strong on the day. He just rode off basically. The way that he attacked was impressive. He went on the left in a place that people didn’t really expect it.
Juniors usually just think about attacking on the hill but he attacked on the descent. The whole front of the race went to the right and I was boxed in. He attacked on the left from quite far back and weaker riders tried to follow him and they couldn’t hold him. They were still going hard and it was strung out for two kilometres so I couldn’t move up, and he was gone.
And how are you enjoying camper life? [Pidcock’s new camper van doesn’t yet have that lived-in look that comes of many Flemish weekends]
I still need to find a place for all my stuff. But it’s nice having this compared to a van. You get a shower and a little kitchen. Yeah, it’s all good.
Paul Maunder’s book on cyclo-cross, Rainbows in the Mud, is published by Bloomsbury.