Road

Tom Pidcock leads classics renaissance at Ineos Grenadiers

Tom Pidcock could be the flame needed to reignite the team's stuttering showing in the classics.

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Don’t adjust your television sets. You did see Ineos Grenadiers animating the action at the spring classics this weekend, and it wasn’t Michał Kwiatkowski making the moves.

Tom Pidcock and Jhonatan Narvaéz lit up the “opening weekend,” bringing Ineos boss Dave Brailsford’s vision of a new-style, attacking team from the mountains of the grand tours to the stones and street furniture of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.

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Narvaéz matched Mathieu van der Poel’s motor in a long-range raid in Kuurne before Pidcock took third place in the bunch sprint. Just 24 hours earlier, the 21-year-old Pidcock had thrown caution to the wind in his very first one-day race in the WorldTour, clattering his way through Omloop with a series of attacks and counters that proved he’s intimidated by nothing and no one.

The young duo’s swashbuckling antics this past weekend could mark a turning point for Ineos Grenadiers and its long one-dimensional classics challenge.

Ever since Kwiatkowski struck gold in 2017 with victory at both Milano-Sanremo and Strade Bianche, Team Sky/Ineos-Grenadiers has relied almost solely on the Polish puncheur for representation through the spring. And now all of a sudden it has Pidcock, Narvaéz, and more – and they’re all aged 24 or less.

Narvaez had the legs – and the guts – to go the distance with van der Poel in Kuurne. Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

Pidcock has the promise and panache to go stellar.

Narvaéz, 23, last year showed his chops in the most gritty of races, gutting out a breakaway victory in one of the hardest days of the rain-soaked Giro d’Italia.

The 24-year-old Filippo Ganna could be the new Fabian Cancellara and is set for a role at the center of his team’s cobblestone campaigns for years to come. Ethan Hayter, 22, packs a powerful sprint that has already seen him muscle alongside one-day hitters such as Jasper Stuyven, Alexander Kristoff, and Sonny Colbrelli in fast finishes through his short pro career.

Throw 26-year-old Gianni Moscon into the mix, and Ineos all of a sudden has a classics unit of some heft, with key players Pidcock and Ganna both tied to long-term deals.

The arrival of Pidcock could prove the flame required to ignite the team’s existing yet stagnant potential on the roads of northern Europe.

The bolshie Brit has big one-day ambitions, and he wants to achieve them, now. Previously, Narvaéz, Ganna, and Moscon all had an eye on the team’s number one goal in the grand tours. With three years on his contract — and the legs to match the likes of Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel — Pidcock has the savvy and the confidence to drag the squad back into the center of the spring classics, whether Brailsford is ready or not.

The young Grenadier is set to continue his one-day campaign at Strade Bianche on Saturday, and he will likely be making moves at the front with the likes of van Aert, van der Poel and Julian Alaphilippe. He could be the all-terrain vehicle that truly takes the team to new territory.