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Tom Pidcock on Mathieu van der Poel: ‘He won’t be anything but his best’ for Olympics mountain bike race

Tom Pidcock has been training in a tent in the spare room of his apartment to prepare for the heat of Tokyo in his bid for Olympic glory.

Tom Pidcock has been riding in a tent in his spare room to prepare for the Olympic Games.

With temperatures expected to hit close to 90 degrees, heat will play a big role in Monday’s cross country mountain bike event.

In order to acclimatize himself to the conditions ahead of traveling to Japan, the British rider has been finishing his training sessions with a ride in the spare room of his apartment.

Also read: Off-road to Tokyo — the Olympic mountain bike course

“Basically, at the end of training, I just jump in a heat chamber for half an hour to 45 minutes and stay in a really hot box, pedaling very slowly because it’s so hot. My spare room has got a tent in it and the heater keeps tripping the electricity,” Pidcock told a small media group from the Great Britain hotel in Tokyo.

“I’m happy to tell everybody now but before I wouldn’t advertise it, just in case someone downplays heat. But I think everyone is has been doing a lot of preparation for the heat because it’s going to be hot and they know it’s going to play a big role. It’s 31 degrees (88 degrees Fahrenheit) and pretty humid so it’s going be warm.”

Riding in his first season as a professional, Pidcock has been splitting his time between the road and mountain bike over the first half of the year. Having nurtured his passion for racing on mountain bikes, Pidcock switched back over to the discipline with relative ease, winning the cross-country event at the Nové Město world cup round and in Leukerbad.

Pidcock’s results this year will mean he is one of the favorites, alongside Mathias Fluckiger, Nino Schurter, Victor Koretzky, and fellow multi-discipline star Mathieu van der Poel. Unlike most of the mountain bike contingent, who raced in Les Gets earlier this month, van der Poel headed to the Tour de France as his final competition before the Olympic Games.

Despite the unusual build-up, Pidcock is sure that the Dutchman will be in formidable form Monday.

“It was sponsor obligation, so he didn’t have any choice, but he showed that is not ideal with the fact that he pulled out after one week,” said Pidcock. “He had a really good Tour. Yeah, for sure. He’s going to be 100 percent going to go into this, I expect. This is a big target of his, so he is not going to be anything but his best.”

Broken collarbones and big dreams

Bedroom tents aside, Pidcock’s Olympic preparation has been less than ideal after he was hit by a car driver in June while out training. The 21-year-old had to undergo surgery for a broken collarbone, though he managed to escape any more significant injuries.

Though Pidcock was able to get back to training within a week, it was his first-ever broken bone and the injury had a longer lasting impact than he had expected.

Also read: Tom Pidcock ‘lucky’ after being hit by car driver in training

“I only had less than a week off the bike but then I still couldn’t train like I usually did for two or three weeks. I could still feel the effects of it. For sure it had a bigger impact than just the obvious things,” Pidcock said.

“I operation two days after and then I pretty quickly got quite a lot of movement and strength in my shoulder. I was able to go on the road five days after my operation and started riding again, but the biggest thing I found was the energy it took while the bone healing process happened. That was a big learning point for me because I’ve never broken a bone. It was a new thing and I learned about myself, and the effort it takes to mend.”

Nearly two months on from the crash, Pidcock has a few niggles but not when he’s racing.

“I don’t really feel it at all now, apart from in the airport when I have my rucksack up on the skin it is a bit irritating,” he said. “It wasn’t ideal preparation, but I’ve done the best I can in my rehab and training to come back from it. I think I’m in pretty good shape now.”

With tight COVID-19 restrictions meaning that athletes at the Olympic Games have very little to do, Pidcock has had plenty of time to ponder on all sort, including his future. While he might have a major competition coming up in just a few days, he’s already thinking about his targets for the next Olympic Games in Paris.

He wants to continue his multi-disciplined approach to racing and contest three events in 2024.

“For next year, I want to win mountain bike worlds so certainly that’s going to be a target,” he said. “Cross I think will always kind of be there, but maybe just a few races. Over the next few years I’d want to focus on a grand tour to some extent, maybe not fully. Then at the next Olympics in Paris, I was thinking of it today, I want to go to the road racing, the mountain bike, and then the time trial as well if they want me.”