British Cycling Junior Academy rider Tom Pidcock became the junior European cyclocross champion on Sunday, after his rivals could do nothing about his attack off the front after two laps of the eight lap race.
Pidcock eventually won the race by 14 seconds over Nicolas Guillemin (France), with Timo Kielich (Belgium) a further eight seconds back. Fellow British rider Ben Turner came over the line in seventh.
Talking about being European champion, Pidcock says “it doesn’t feel like how I imagined it to feel.”
Hinting at his ambition and justifiable belief in his own ability, the junior rider adds: “it’s just a stepping stone to the World Champs.”
Despite a prolific cyclocross season, which includes victory in the sandpit of Zonhoven a fortnight ago, the Paul Milnes/Oldfield ERT rider is leaving his future options open when it comes to a professional career. At 17-years-old, time is very much on his side.
It’s not impossible for riders to combine both road and cyclocross at the top level, as Dutch rider Lars van der Haar shows. Although to excel in both would be a challenge.
The Giant-Alpecin rider raced 29 days on the road this year before starting his CX season, but recorded a number of DNFs along the way.
Discussing his own future, Pidock says: “I’m still deciding; I’ve got to get into the road season and see how I do in road next year before I make any decisions.”
The toughest job ahead of Pidcock now is finalising the design of his new European champion’s kit, before he races again in a couple of weeks.
“My team’s just sent me a design,” he tells Cycling Weekly on his way back from the Euros, before adding: “I’ve got to decide black or white shorts.”
It’ll be interesting to see which he goes for. “I’m thinking black, but people are telling me I’ve got to have white; but they’ll just get dirty!”
Pidcock’s new kit will get its first outing at the Hetton National Trophy event near Sunderland on November 13.
That home country race will be followed by outings at Hasselt and Koksijde back in Belgium where he will face a similar field to the one he defeated at the Euros in France.
This will likely be the same line-up that will take the start at the World Championships at the end of January in Luxembourg.
As well as a good pair of legs, Pidcock clearly has a racer’s brain too. Talking about how he won the European Championships, he discusses his tactics like a rider with many more years’ experience at the top level.
“I was holding this gap to the group behind, but it was still over ten riders,” he recalls of the race.
“I knew at any point that they could get their act together and bring me back; so I had to save some matches – if you like – so I didn’t go full gas just in case that happened.
“I just held the gap.” He makes it sound easy, but the measured effort was clearly a well thought out approach.
With two laps to go Pidcock was able to increase his advantage, and he knew that, barring disaster, the title was his.
Thinking about getting into ‘cross?
Getting better and better the more he races, the 17-year-old should find himself lining up as favourite when the Cyclocross World Championships do come around.
That said, all of his rivals will be watching him meaning he’ll need to bring his best legs and best tactics to the rest of the season to continue his success.
But for now, he just needs to decide which colour shorts will look best below the stars of the European champion’s jersey.