Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) has played down any expectations for his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta a España, after taking time to celebrate his mountain bike gold medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games and revealing his Tour de France debut will not happen until 2023.
Pidcock is only 10 months younger than double Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) but has a different career trajectory. He dominated the Under-23 Giro d’Italia 2020 but has also won the Junior and U23 editions of Paris-Roubaix, and like Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) he enjoys racing mountain bikes and cyclo-cross.
“No. I’m not riding it next year,” Pidock said with a silent pause, when asked if he would ride the 2022 Tour de France.
“Maybe I’ll ride it in 2023,” he added, indicating he will continue to mix his racing disciplines, perhaps targeting the Classics and the mountain bike World Championships in 2022, with the Giro d’Italia a possibility as a key block of stage racing.
“For the moment, the goal is the Classics but I certainly do want to transition to riding GC at some point,” he said, wise beyond his years.
“It takes more time and energy and is a much more high-pressure environment. There’s no rush to go that way soon.”
This year’s road race World Championships in Belgium and the subsequent Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, October 3, are more immediate goals. The Vuelta will serve as a foundation for the final goals of his first season at World Tour level with Ineos Grenadiers.
Pidcock finished fifth at Strade Bianche in March, then won De Brabantse Pijl and finished second to Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) at the Amstel Gold Race. He won gold in Tokyo in the men’s cross-country mountain bike race just a few weeks after fracturing his collarbone and undergoing surgery after being hit by a car in training.
“It’s about refocusing towards the Worlds in September, hopefully gaining experience and also strength.” Pidcock said about riding the Vuelta a España and Paris-Roubaix.
“For sure I’ve won the Junior and U23 versions (of Paris-Roubaix), so there’s only one more to go… For sure it’s a goal, it’s also one of my favourite races. I don’t know if I’ll ride this year but for sure I want to try and win it sometime.”
I’ve just kept enough fitness so that I can race for three weeks
Ineos Grenadiers will start the Vuelta a España with three team leaders: Giro d’Italia winner Egan Bernal, Olympic road race champion and Tour de France podium finisher Richard Carapaz and also Adam Yates, who has been specifically focusing on the Vuelta all season.
Pidcock could be an extra arrow in the British super team’s bow but carefully kept his expectations low, admitting he had purposefully celebrated his Olympic success at length, leaving him lacking total motivation for a mountainous three-week ride around Spain.
“It’s my first Grand Tour and I’m looking forward to it. But I have no expectations for anything. I’ve been celebrating the Olympics, so I’m here for the experience, there are no expectations for results or anything,” he said, trying to deflect pressure off his young shoulders.
“I probably won’t be great in the first week and people should perhaps forget about me riding the race. I’ll just roll along. Take it day by day. I guess plans can change pretty quickly and maybe I’ll start feeling good and motivated but there’s no plan.
“I look forward to helping Egan [Bernal] and Ritchie [Carapaz] and Adam [Yates]. I think that’s a nice thing to do too, with no pressure.
“People advised me to celebrate properly before I move on, so that’s what I’ve been doing since the Olympics. I’ve been enjoying every minute. The Olympics is something that some people work their whole careers towards. I’ve done it already at my first try and at 21. I think it’s a massive achievement and I’ve let that sink in.
“I’ve just kept enough fitness so that I can race for three weeks. I’m not in top shape and fully motivated but I’m certainly going to enjoy it. Egan has won two Grand Tours, so there’s a lot to learn from him. I look forward to helping him in this race.”