As Junior National, European and World Cyclocross Champion, winner of Junior Paris-roubaix and now Elite Circuit Race Champion, 18-year-old Tom Pidcock is the future of British bike racing. Cyclist catches him skiving off school…
Cyclist: It’s Monday, Tom. Why aren’t you at school?
Tom Pidcock: Because I’m doing this. I’ve only got one lesson today, anyway. On some days I don’t have school until 11 so I go out training in the morning. Then I go to school, come home, eat, watch the telly and do the chaingang in the evening. Or in the morning I’ll just sleep in, then clean my bike, then do the chaingang. Cycling’s the priority now.
Cyc: Do you feel you miss out on other things that people your age get up to because you’re out on your bike?
TP: Yeah, probably. But I’m not the sort of person who likes going out drinking and stuff like that. I just do what I want to do – and I want to ride my bike.
Cyc: Which are you most passionate about, road or cyclocross?
TP: I think cyclocross. As a junior there’s more attention there: you go round a course and there are crowds all the way round, but in a road race you might be riding for two hours and only see 10 people. Cross feels a bit bigger at the moment. Obviously riding at the Tour de France would be different, but at my level…
Cyc: Do you think choosing cyclocross is influenced by the fact that you’ve had the most success in cross?
TP: Yes, because I never train on my cross bike. I think I’m just more talented at cross. Last year I was doing road and track, and then I’d just go to a cross race, jump on my bike and win. It probably explains my success at Junior ParisRoubaix. Cyclocross and Paris-roubaix are both about being able to get the power out while on difficult surfaces, and that’s what I’m good at. Also, since the Worlds it’s been a lot easier to think about tactics in races. I’m not nervous of anything any more. Cyc: You’ve won Junior Paris-roubaix, so can you win the senior race within the next 10 years?
TP: Ten years? Yeah, probably. That’s probably when you peak isn’t it?
Cyc: Who were your cycling heroes when you were growing up?
TP: Mark Cavendish. I looked up to him. My dad was a sprinter too, and I thought I was going to be a sprinter, but I’m probably worse at sprinting than anything else. When I was younger I didn’t like Peter Sagan because he just won everything. I thought he was amazing, but at the same time I didn’t like him. But now, well, he’s just pretty cool, isn’t he?
Cyc: Which rider in the current Worldtour peloton do you think you’re most similar to?
TP: Michal Kwiatkowski or someone like that. Maybe Greg Van Avermaet. P
Or perhaps Zdenek Stybar. Yeah Stybar – that makes sense.
Cyc: Have you had any good advice from older riders for racing or training?
TP: I remember at a crit race there were loads of corners, really tight, and me and my dad were both riding the support race. One of the Downing brothers came over and said, ‘Ride low pressures, ride 60psi, it’s not about straight lines, it’s all about the corners.’ It made a massive difference. Ever since I was little I’d ride with a lot of pressure in my tyres, because I just thought more pressure meant less rolling resistance. Now I ride less pressure because there’s more grip and it’s comfier.
Cyc: You’re at the start of your cycling career. If you could write your own story between the ages of 18 and 36, how would you want it to go?
TP: Elite Cyclocross World Champion, Paris-roubaix, ride the Tour de France and win a stage, wear the yellow jersey, Elite Road World Champion.
‘I don’t know whether I’ll be a climber or not. Right now I’d say I’m probably more of a oneday rider. Three weeks is a long time to keep your head switched on. Bit stressful, that’
Cyc: Is the Tour de France a goal for you in terms of winning it, or do you think it will be more about stages and a team role?
TP: I reckon I’ve still got to develop, but I don’t know whether I’ll be a climber or not. Right now I’d say I’m probably more of a one-day rider. Three weeks is a long time to keep your head switched on. Bit stressful, that.
Cyc: How are you coping with having more and more expectation placed on you?
TP: I just don’t really feel pressure any more. By the time I got to the Worlds it was all pretty normal. You just get used to it. You have to. Cyc: There was the moment in the Worlds where you slid out and stopped. Did you think you’d lost it in that instant?
TP: My wheel slid out, but I was pushing down on my hood to keep myself upright, so my hood slid down and it tightened my brake up. I tried to undo it but wasn’t able to. Actually I was pretty calm then – I wasn’t under any pressure there – but it’s not always like that. This weekend I punctured while I was in the winning break. I panicked, stopped, didn’t even put it in the biggest gear and took my wheel out. The neutral service guy was rubbish – the peloton was 50 seconds behind us and when I got back on my bike I was off the back and had to chase back on.
Cyc: You’re currently in the BC Academy, and British Cycling has had something of a troubled year. Has any of that trickled down to you?
TP: No, not really. We sometimes talk about how badly it appears to have been handled, with the stories of what they did or didn’t do. I don’t even really know about it. As far as I’m concerned, Wiggins hasn’t taken anything that wasn’t within the rules, but the whole thing has reflected pretty badly on British Cycling. It doesn’t really affect us, though.
Cyc: Have you noticed any changes to BC rules or practices since they came under fire for sexism and bullying?
TP: No, nothing like that. Cyc: You’ve signed for Belgian squad Telenet Fidea Lions. Do you think you’ll move out of Yorkshire and go and base yourself in Belgium?
TP: I’ve got my first races with them this October, at either Zonhoven or Polders Cross in the Under-23s. But I don’t think I’ll move out there in the first year. Definitely not to Belgium – it’s a pretty hard place to live when it’s grey! I might actually go to Girona with Rob Scott who rides for Wiggins. A lot of cyclists are in Girona.
Cyc: Have you ridden there before? TP: No! ]
Tom Pidcock doesn’t lack confidence, and he’s very clear on his hopes for the future: ‘Elite Cyclocross World Champion, ParisRoubaix, ride the Tour de France and win a stage, wear the yellow jersey, Elite Road World Champion’