Slow and steady wins the race shouldn’t be a proverb that applies to bike racing, but for Tom Pidcock, it’s what has worked so far.
The 21-year-old may be stepping up to the WorldTour with Ineos next year, and about to ride his first-ever elite men’s road race at the World Championships, but the latter wasn’t by design.
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With no u23 competitions at the Imola 2020 Worlds, Pidcock’s only chance to ride was to get a taste for what the peloton will be like next year. He’s focused on just enjoying the experience for now, but if he’d had the chance to race the u23 category, he’d have been looking to take the rainbow bands.
“If it was the under 23 race it would be perfect,” Pidcock said. “It’s just the distance, but I’m not afraid of the distance or anything, it’s nice going to race with no pressure and to just have fun.
“I think what I want to get out of it is I want to be there at the end,” he continued. “[To be there] when the big guys start racing, to not necessarily be able to race with them but to experience it and sort of undergo the race at that point. That’s going to be the most valuable thing I think.”
Pidcock will be the protected rider in the young GB squad, which he says is a “privilege”, and new team-mate Luke Rowe has given assurances he’ll look after the young talent.
“I’ve got the best guy in the world in front of me at that job,” Pidcock said of Rowe. “So there’s certainly going to be no excuses. I’m just going to try and race and do my best and I’ll be happy with that.”
There’s also no going back now, Pidcock saying he’d be “taking the piss a bit” if he returned to the u23 race next year, and so will likely have a while to wait before being able to contend for the rainbows bands in the road race. He is, however, still rueing the crash that saw him only take third at Yorkshire 2019. “I feel like it was the year that I should have won,” he explained, “if I’d not crashed.”
Pidcock discovered he was in contention to lead Great Britain in Imola only when he was competing at the baby Giro, “if you back it up, then we’ll see” Pidcock says he was told by management, “and then I won, now I’m here.”
Things can be that matter of fact for a talent such as Pidcock, but he’s wary of making the transition from intriguing prospect to household name due to WorldTour exploits too quickly.
“It’s…it’s difficult,” Pidcock says of seeing peers such as Egan Bernal and Tadej Pogačar achieve so much so young, and the new spotlight it’s put on the prowess of youth. “Like, Bernal this year kind of wasn’t where he was last year, and I don’t know the exact details, but he started doing the Tour de France very young, so has Pogačar.
“They performed very well but whether that will have an impact long term, whether they can win however many Grand Tours Chris Froome has won, is another question.
“Pogačar is now 22 and he’s already won the Tour de France…he’s got another 10 years at least you know? So where’s he gonna go? I think there’s no rush. I’ve got another 10 years…I think it’s about building gradually.
“I’m certainly going to continue mountain biking, cyclo-cross, and think I’m going to focus on races like Strade Bianche, Tour de Yorkshire, Tour of Britain, Paris-Nice, races like that, first of all.
“I’m not going to try and jump in the deep end and say ‘I wanna ride the Tour de France next year’.”
Pidcock is honest and doesn’t seem like someone in the market for shirking a question.
“There was nothing in the WorldTour that I didn’t have already so I didn’t need to be riding in WorldTour kit,” Pidcock explains of waiting to step up to the top level of cycling. “It wasn’t necessarily patience, but just not having the need for anything else.”
While he does his best to keep the genie in the bottle with regards to expectations of what he may one day be able to achieve on a bike, it’s clear that having signed for Ineos Pidcock has decided this is now the time to start exploring his need for something else.