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Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Tom Pidcock plays down his chances ahead of classics opener

'It doesn’t really work if you have one leader for these races,' says teammate Ethan Hayter.

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Tom Pidcock and Ethan Hayter will lead the line for Ineos Grenadiers at ‘opening weekend,’ starting with Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Pidcock, who won a cyclocross world title at the start of the year, began his road season at the Volta ao Algarve last week. He put in several notable performances but his season takes on a fresh dynamic on Saturday as he heads onto the cobbles.

“It’s my first one-day race of the year and I thought that my shape in Algarve was pretty good, honestly,” he told VeloNews on Friday evening.

“I think that I’ll be alright. I’m definitely not in top shape but I should be in the mix. I don’t expect to win but we’ll still race to try.”

Pidcock turned heads last spring with a breakout campaign on the cobbles. He’s aware of the fact that his rivals will pay him closer attention this time around, but he added that being marked in major road races was nothing new since his was crowned a world champion.

“I already experienced that in Algarve, with everyone racing against me in the break. So, I think people will look at me a bit different. Especially after my world title. There are more eyes on guys like Wout van Aert.”

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“Ethan and I, we’re both strong and we’ve got a really strong team in general. It’s a young team but it will be good to race with fresh faces,” he said. “It’s a good team and we’ve started growing.”

Hayter also impressed during the Volta ao Algarve and he narrowly missed out on a podium place, having slipped in the overall standings on the final day of the race. He had COVID earlier in the year but showed signs of returning to his top level in Portugal. Momentum is clearly with him, but like Pidcock, his best form might still be a few weeks away.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Hayter told VeloNews.

“I’m not really sure how I’m feeling to be honest. It was getting better in the last couple of Algarve with my form and I’ve been enjoying it. I’m looking forward to it.”

Ineos’ approach to having multiple leaders is nothing new when it comes to the team’s classics game plan. However, with Pidcock, Hayter and even debutant Magnus Sheffield, the team certainly has options.

“It doesn’t really work if you have one leader for these races,” Hayter said. “You need multiple options to use as cards in the different scenarios. We’ve got seven great riders for tomorrow. You can plan a lot of things, but you can never know exactly what’s going to happen. But you can get close.”

Ineos Grenadiers for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Tom Pidcock, Ethan Hayter, Cameron Wurf, Jhonatan Narvaez, Ben Turner, Magnus Sheffield, and Ben Swift