Tour de France stage winner Tom Pidcock has tipped fellow Brit Sam Watson for great success when he makes the jump to the Groupama-FDJ WorldTour team in 2023.
The 20-year-old from Leeds is part of a group of seven riders that Groupama-FDJ announced this afternoon will make the step up from their Conti team to the WorldTour squad.
Watson has already had a remarkable season, and this contract will be the icing on the cake for the young British rider. In June, he was crowned under-23 British national road champion as part of a string of impressive results in 2022.
He said: “Turning professional is something I’ve dreamed about since I was a kid. I’ve always been attracted to anything with wheels, I rode my bike to school and then I discovered cycling through the Pidcock family. All I knew was that I wanted to do it for a living.
“I particularly enjoyed this year at the Conti and I’m happy to continue with Groupama-FDJ. It’s the perfect place. This season, I learnt how to protect the sprinters and climbers so that they could express themselves as well as possible, which was new for me. Personally, I am more of a puncheur and I hope to become a Classics rider.”
Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), along with his brother Joe who currently rides for Groupama-FDJ's development squad with Watson, is a childhood friend of Watson. When asked about Watson by Cycling Weekly during the Tour de France, Pidcock joked that his friend from Leeds always had a talent for spotting the best deals on kit and bikes.
Pidcock said: “He was always on eBay, finding good deals. He’d get a decent bike and kit…I remember he would come along with us to races and he was always able to look and learn from people and never need to be told anything…much better than my brother!”
Pidcock added: “With the talent he [Watson] has, it’s not a surprise he’s so successful now. I was actually really proud to see him perform well at the Nationals, it was really nice to see. He’s going to win some big bike races, he’s switched on and knows what he’s doing.”
In March this year, Watson took an impressive win at the under-23 edition of Gent-Wevelgem. The Leeds-born rider then would challenge at the sharp end of the road race at the British National Championships.
Watson told Cycling Weekly that racing against the likes of Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), was a surreal experience, although one he wished wasn’t unfolding when he ended up in a sprint with the Manxman for the overall title in Scotland.
He said: “You look up to guys like Cavendish and wish you could race against them but then I ended up with him with just a few kilometres to go and I was just wishing he wasn’t there to be honest.
"I tried a few times to get away from him but he’s obviously a tough bike racer. He won that day fair and square.”
The other riders turning professional with Watson are Lorenzo Germani, Romain Gregoire, Lenny Martinez, Enzo Paleni, Laurence Pithie and Reuben Thompson.
Marc Madiot, general manager of the Groupama-FDJ team explained that recruiting the riders to the professional ranks was a "logical choice".
He said: "The Conti model, which we implemented in 2018, has proven itself. The young athletes train and live together, have access to quality performance facilities and can switch to the WorldTour team in certain races.
“When we recruit them to the WorldTour team, we know they are ready and they know what they are getting into. They already have the DNA of our team and they want to evolve with us.
"Next year, I think we will break records in terms of average age. We were at a crossroads for the team, there was an opportunity in front of us, we had to take it.”
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