Determination vs talent: could anyone be a pro cyclist if they 'tried hard enough'?

We seek to discover to just what extent our genetics are the determinant of our success

Male cyclist completing a fitness test inside a lab
(Image credit: Future)

In December 2022, while training in Majorca, Tom Pidcock set a new Sa Calobra KOM of just 22:46. Ten months later, I took on the same challenge with a raggedy bunch of pals on our own less elite kind of training camp. Backs to a sparkling Med, we set off strongly, before very quickly realising we’d need to settle into a steady rhythm just to make it up the nine kilometres of 6.5% average gradient. Our time, I’m embarrassed to admit, was more than double Pidcock’s effort. 

On the plus side, the long effort gave me a remarkable amount of time to ponder whether pro riders are on another level genetically or whether any rider, given the right blend of consistent, quality training over a long enough period, could significantly narrow the gap. What really sets me and my mates apart from the likes of Tom Pidcock? 

Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Simon Fellows

Cycling Weekly's Tech Editor Simon spent his childhood living just a stone’s throw from the foot of Box Hill, so it’s no surprise he acquired a passion for cycling from an early age. He’s still drawn to hilly places, having cycled, climbed or skied his way across the Alps, Pyrenees, Andes, Atlas Mountains and the Watkins range in the Arctic.

Simon has 35 years of experience within the journalism and publishing industries, during which time he’s written on topics ranging from fashion to music and of course, cycling.

Based in the Cotswold hills, Simon is regularly out cycling the local roads and trails, riding a range of bikes from his home-built De Rosa SK Pininfarina to a Specialized Turbo Creo SL EVO. He’s also an advanced (RYT 500) yoga teacher, which further fuels his fascination for the relationship between performance and recovery. He still believes he could have been a contender if only chocolate wasn’t so moreish.