Next big thing: Tom Pidcock talks to RCUK
After a stunning season in cyclo-cross and on the road, we caught up with prodigious junior talent Tom Pidcock
It's easy to forget Tom Pidcock only turned 18 at the end of July, given everything the Yorkshireman has packed into the 2017 season.
Not content with becoming national, European and world cyclo-cross champion in the winter, Pidcock carried his form into the road season, winning the Paris-Roubaix Juniors race, claiming a victory in Durham at the Tour Series and then being crowned national criterium champion.
With a penchant for exuberant celebrations, Pidcock's all-round ability has already drawn comparisons with two-time world road race champion Peter Sagan and earned him a contract with cyclo-cross legend Sven Nys' cyclo-cross team for next year.
And all before he could legally buy a pint.
It's fair to say Pidcock is one of the most talented junior riders to emerge out of the British scene. In the latest installment of our Q&A series with the stars of the future, we caught up with Pidcock to get the inside track on his rise to the top.[series]
RoadCyclingUK: You've had a sensational year so far, you must be feeling pretty good right now. Does one of your wins stand out in particular?
Tom Pidcock: I always feel good after any race that I win. In terms of the biggest prize and prestige, that was probably Roubaix - but the worlds is still a huge race to win.
Did you go into the year targeting a specific race?
With every race that I've won - the worlds, Roubaix, Durham and the national crit - I've always then looked ahead to the next one. After each race, I've had another one I wanted to do well in, so that's kept me motivated throughout the year.
You've made your name so far by earning success both on the road and in cyclo-cross, but is there one discipline where you feel stronger? Where do see your future?
That's something I think I'll just find out over time. At the moment I'm happy doing both. I've signed for Telenet in 'cross but I'm hoping to sign for a road team soon as well, so I'll have the chance to continue racing in both. Hopefully it will be confirmed soon but I can't say who the road team is at the moment.
Looking back to the 'cross worlds, the top three were all British riders, with Dan Tulett second and Ben Turner third. Is there a reason why there's such strength in depth at the moment?
Success breads success. I think my success gave both Ben and Dan confidence. We look out for each other as well, especially after the news about Charlie [Craig, the under-16 National Trophy Cyclo-Cross Series winner, who tragically died in the week leading up to the worlds]. We all wore black tape on our arms to remember Charlie and we were all thinking about him in the race. When I heard with three laps to go that it was a British 1-2-3 I knew that if anything went wrong for me, a British rider will still win the race, so it was a special feeling to know you've got team-mates around you.
You've signed a two-year contract with Telenet-Fidea Lions, have you set yourself any goals with the team?
The World Championships will be the big one. I want to become under-23 world champion and elite world champion in the second year, but obviously that's only been done once by Mathieu van der Poel so it's ambitious, but that's the aim.
"I want to become under-23 world champion and elite world champion in the second year with Telenet"
With [two-time world champion and six-time World Cup champion] Sven Nys as manager of Telenet-Fidea Lions, how big an influence was that in joining the team?
That's one of the main reasons I joined Telenet. He's the best 'cross rider in the world and I'll be able to learn from that. The fact that he's put his confidence in me to ride for the team also puts a bit of pressure on him to make me into a good rider, so it really works both ways.
Leading on from that, who were your cycling inspirations? Who are the established pro riders you really look up to?
It changes year on year. For me, it's about the stand-out rider at the top of the sport. At the moment that's Peter Sagan but in the past it's been the likes of Cav and Wiggins.
You mentioned Sagan there. You've been dubbed a mini-Sagan by some people, how does that make you feel, to be compared to a rider like that? And what do you think has led to that comparison?
It's pretty cool, to be compared to the best rider in the world. I think it's more to do with my personality. I don't take it too seriously - I like to have fun above everything else and that's something that's come across in some of my race celebrations. I plan them a lot of the time and I just like doing something a bit different. It helps with my profile, too - and it's good for Instagram.
How important has the support of British Cycling been in your development as a junior rider?
Without them I wouldn't be where I am, to be honest. The support you get, especially in the junior Academy, that's pretty special. With the support you get, if you weren't on the programme, you'd be missing out.
Is there a particular person who's had a big impact on your career so far?
Obviously my mum and my dad. They've supported me from the start. More recently, it's been Seth Smith, my 'cross team manager. He came with me to nearly every race last year and the only race he didn't come to I lost. He's coming with me again this winter. Neil Hendry, he's my road team manager and has been at all our races this summer.
How did you get into cycling in the first place?
My dad was a cyclist and represented Great Britain in Moscow so it was natural for me to get into cycling. He's educated me as I've progressed and has supported me. I think my first club was Aire Valley Cycles.
Do you still go out with a club?
I go out on the Leeds chain gang. In either Rio or London [at the Olympic Games], I think it would have been in the top ten of the medal table at one point, something like that. You get the likes of the Brownlee brothers and Scott Thwaites. Lizzie Armitstead has been out on it a few times, though not that often.
That's a strong group of Yorkshiremen and women! Is that something that means a lot to you, coming from Yorkshire and having that calibre of riders around you?
Yeah, definitely. Coming from Yorkshire, you've got that pride of coming from Yorkshire. Especially since the Tour de France and now with the Tour de Yorkshire. I think it's only going to get stronger.
"Riding in Yorkshire is different to anywhere else in the world. When you get the good days and the sun is shining, it's a very nice place to ride a bike"
Yorkshire will host the UCI Road World Championships in 2019, is that an event you can really look forward to now?
Yeah, I want to ride that race. That's one of my targets, to ride that race in front of everyone at home. Riding in Yorkshire is different to anywhere else in the world. The climbs are short but steep and the roads are grippy. I think whatever course they come up with, it's not going to be easy.
Do you think that's one of the reasons Yorkshire has produced so many strong cyclists - both mentally and physically - because the riding is so tough?
I think so - the roads are difficult and that's a big factor. It can be cold, too, but when you get the good days and the sun is shining, it's a very nice place to ride a bike.
If you were to look ahead to five years time, where do you see yourself?
It's hard to say at the moment because there's a lot of different paths I could take. I could still be in 'cross or I could be WorldTour [on the road], or I could be doing both still.
If there was one race you could win - either on the road or in cyclo-cross - what would it be?
It would probably be Paris-Roubaix. It's such an iconic race. The racing style is unpredictable and exciting, the way you go about the race - it's about man and machine. You can lose Roubaix by being unlucky but you don't win it by being lucky. The strongest rider wins. It's the biggest one-day race in cycling, apart from maybe the World Championships, arguably.