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Tom Pidcock on van der Poel, van Aert: ‘I can become as strong as them’

'I don't want to be third every time:' Rising Brit looks to level up with the two bosses of 'cross as he sets long-view on Fayetteville worlds.

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Tom Pidcock won’t be racing for third behind Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert this cyclocross season.

The young Brit has made it his mission to level-up to and go better than the two bosses of ‘cross this winter.

“I’m really looking forward to the races against Wout and Mathieu. In recent years they have been even better than me, but it’s no secret that I want to reach their level this year,” Pidcock told Het Nieuwsblad on Friday.

Pidcock has been left way out of the frame in his two clashes with van Aert so far this season, finishing seventh on debut in Boom and sliding his way to third at the snowy Val di Sole World Cup last weekend.

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After a long off-season spent rehabing knee niggles, Pidcock isn’t worried by a slow start  – for now.

Pidcock hopes to hit full form in time for a challenge at the Fayetteville worlds January 30 in his quest to become champion in all three disciplines.

“At the moment Wout is performing at a higher level, but that was also expected. My peak is only expected around the world championships. However, in the race against Wout and Mathieu I don’t want to be third every time. Beating them is the big goal of this cyclocross season,” he said.

“Being mentioned at the same time as Wout and Mathieu gives a lot of confidence. ‘Cross is the most difficult of the three disciplines for me, but I believe I can become as strong as them.”

This coming weekend will see Pidcock take top billing in a World Cup double-header at Rucphen and Namur that will be missing both van Aert and van der Poel. The world champion has delayed his season-start due to a training injury, while van Aert is sunning himself on the roads of Spain with Jumbo-Visma.

The climb-heavy, wooded circuit of Namur sees Olympic MTB champ Pidcock in with good odds of claiming his first elite World Cup victory Sunday. It would set him up nicely for his highly anticipated showdown with Van der Poel and van Aert when they first cross paths in Dendermonde on December 26.

“My level is better than I expected at the moment. Before the race in Boom I had not yet ridden the cross bike, but I still finished seventh. A year ago I finished 17th in Tabor on my season debut,” he said.

“Third place in Val di Sole is also encouraging. Snow is a bit like sand to me; it will never be my favorite surface. There are certainly chances for a first win in Namur, but there are still many guys who will compete for first place on Sunday.”