Tom Pidcock (Paul Milnes/Oldfield ERT) made the most of his trip to the Continent by winning both junior cyclocross races he entered in Belgium over the weekend.
The 17-year-old took victory at Poldercross on Saturday October 15 before heading to Superprestige Zonhoven the following day, where he was also victorious.
His second win came in dominant fashion as he left his rivals behind and won the race by 13 seconds over Dutch junior Thymen Arensman (Craft).
Despite appearing to have little trouble guiding his custom painted Ridley bike over Zonhoven’s sand, the race wasn’t as easy as Pidcock made it look.
“I’ve never really ridden in sand before,” Pidcock told Cycling Weekly after his return to the UK. “I’ve ridden a bit down hill, but not up hill or on the flat. I learnt how to ride in the sand in the morning in practice.”
Knowing that his inexperience on the terrain that characterises the Zonhoven course could cost him, added to his own view that running is his weakness, Pidcock knew what he had to do to win.
“In the race I thought I just need to get off the front so I could take it easy on the running, and then just use the flat bits to get a gap,” he said.
This tactic worked perfectly for the junior as he was a long way clear of his rivals on the last uphill sand section.
With victory all but assured he was able to complete the final lap without pushing himself too hard.
Pidcock’s next race is the European Championships over the weekend of October 29 and 30, a race he feels he has a good chance of winning.
“I’ve definitely got a chance,” he said, allowing himself to believe but without piling on the pressure. “Yesterday’s race was pretty much the same field that’s going to be at the European Champs, and it’s not a sandy course so it will play into my strengths even more.”
At 17 and already holding a place on British Cycling‘s junior academy, Pidcock will soon have to decide the direction of his career. Off the back of two big wins in cyclocross he’s naturally leaning that way, but he’s not ready to commit one way or the other just yet.
“I’ve got to make the decision whether I’m going to be doing ‘cross or road,” he said, clearly aware of the gravity of the decision to specialise, whichever way he chooses to go.
“Obviously when you’re winning you feel good and you just like doing what you’re doing,” he added.
“I need to make that decision. At the moment it’s 50/50, and I couldn’t decide between them.”
Later in the day, British national champion Nikki Brammeier took the start line in the women’s race. A tumble on the famous ‘de kuil’ sandbox descent on the first lap put the 29-year-old on the back foot and the reigning European champion Sanne Cant forged a lead that no one was able to threaten.
Brammeier got herself back into second place but faded in the closing laps and eventually finished third behind Cant and Jolien Verschueren.
Ian Field flew the flag for the UK in the men’s headline event, but this was really only ever a two horse race between world champion Wout van Aert and Dutch national champion Mathieu van der Poel.
Laurens Sweeck delighted the crowd when he got back on terms with the lead duo and attempted to pass them in the final lap, but van Aert and van der Poel both found another gear and as Sweeck’s earlier effort told they once again left him behind.
For Belgian favourite van Aert it looked as though the win would be his, but his Dutch rival kicked through on the tarmac finishing straight and the final victory of the day went to van der Poel.
Thinking about trying ‘cross?
Superprestige Zonhoven: podiums
1. Thomas Pidcock (GBr) Paul Milnes/Oldfield ERT, 40-37
2. Thymen Arensman (Ned) Craft, at 13s
3. Jelle Camps (Bel) Acrog Accountancy, at 26s
1. Quinten Hermans (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions, 50-58
2. Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned) Rabobank Development Team, at 46s
3. Yannick Peeters (Bel) Crelan-Vastgoedservice, at 1-11
1. Sanne Cant (Bel) Enertherm-Bkcp, 45-58
2. Jolien Verschueren (Bel) Young Telenet Fidea Cycling, at 21s
3. Nikki Brammeier (GBr) Boels Dolmans Cycling Team, at 38s
1. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Beobank-Corendon, 1-01-15
2. Wout Van Aert (Bel) Crelan-Vastgoedservice, same time
3. Laurens Sweeck (Bel) Era Real Estate-Circus, at 28s